Caveat emptor, quantified

January 2, 2015

Wednesday’s Data Dive made a glancing reference to an interesting, if not entirely unsurprising, pair of statistics from investment-tracking app SigFig. An analysis of over 300,000 everyday, individual investors who used to track their holdings found that just 16 percent did as well or better than the S&P 500 for a one year period ending November 14, but in a survey of 400 randomly-selected investors, 91 percent thought they would do as well or better than the market in 2015.

Consumer confidence at pre-Obama highs

December 31, 2014

As we stand at the threshold of a new year, American consumers are feeling pretty good about themselves. Powered by optimistic outlooks for both jobs and business conditions, as well as plummeting gas prices, consumer confidence bubbled to highs not seen since February of 2008.

Lithuania hopes euro zone membership will be worth the wait

December 30, 2014

With the dawn of the new year on Thursday, Lithuania will become part of the euro zone, joining fellow Baltic nations Estonia and Latvia. All European Union countries except Denmark and the United Kingdom are required to adopt the euro as their national currency, and Lithuania, which joined the EU in 2004, is the only country to have been rejected for Euro membership, when in 2006 concerns about its high inflation rate kept Vilnius on the outside looking in.

Flight data recorders should help in the search for answers

December 29, 2014

The grim mission of finding AirAsia flight QZ8501 continues off the Indonesian coast today as the officials now fear that the plane is at the bottom of the Java Sea. The crew lost contact early Sunday morning and exactly what happened remains a mystery, but Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan believes that the plane may be in the waters off Sumatra, which at 50 to 100 meters  (165 to 330 feet) deep would allow for ships to search around the clock for the 162 mostly Indonesians aboard and presumed dead. 

Four year-end lists of the best data visualizations of 2014

December 26, 2014

In the spirit of insufferable year-end lists, for this weekend’s Data Dive we’ve compiled a delightfully meta collection of other publications’ choices for the best data visualizations of 2014.

OPEC’s comedy routine

December 26, 2014

This week United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei said something funny about oil’s plummeting prices. Speaking from Abu Dhabi on Sunday, Mazrouei said, “Irresponsible production from outside OPEC is behind the fall in prices. We call on all other producers to stop the increase.” This was a transparent swipe at U.S. production, which is at its highest level in decades, adding to—if not directly prompting—the glut that has caused prices to almost halve since June.

In the wake of the Sony hack, cyber-intrigue continues

December 23, 2014

The fallout from the extensive hack of Sony Pictures continues to play out as a virtual game of cat and mouse. U.S. officials have blamed North Korea for the hack, and President Obama has vowed a response, though nature and timing of the reaction remain unclear. There has been no new action from the hackers, as they seem satisfied that their demand that “The Interview,” a comedy about the assassination of North Korean despot Kim Jong-un, has been shelved, at least for now.

On fuel, airlines gambled and you lost

December 22, 2014

With Christmas a few days away, we are in the heart of the holiday traveling season, and most people have already decided their mode of transportation after weighing expense versus convenience. On the topic of expense, earlier this month, Senator Charles Schumer called for a federal investigation into airfare prices, asking why tickets remain so expensive when gas has become so (relatively) cheap. Since fuel prices account for half of airlines’ costs and gas prices have been steadily falling, travelers should be seeing trickle-down savings, he reasoned.

Fun and games for philanthropy and learning

December 19, 2014

The concepts of gamification and newsgames have been around for a few years, and while piling up badges and check-ins can be seen as pointless or even vain, some implementations serve a higher good. In the weekend’s Data Dive, we take a look at some games that promote giving and learning.

The good news in ‘Afghanistan’s Marshall Plan’

December 19, 2014

As the U.S. continues its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, it’s worth taking a look at how much the nation has spent on aid–and how effective it has (or hasn’t) been.