More than Just Statistics
There was a time when citing the Internet as a source for information was considered ridiculous. Only a few years ago people would have scoffed at data mined from the web; now blogs have in many cases supplanted mainstream news agencies as sources of cutting-edge reporting. Universally, traditional newspaper publishers have online editions that reach many more people than their printed ones. Where the hell am I supposed to find a copy of the Lebanon Daily Star? But the virtual edition is only a click away. Issues of physical distance have been all but banished in the new digital age.
One of my favorite websites, NationMaster.com, is an invaluable tool in the new age of online information sourcing; it’s a site no curious person should be unfamiliar with. Their slogan, “Where stats come alive,” hits the nail squarely on the head. It’s an immense reference tool where vetted statistics and international information from legitimate sources are presented together in one easy-to-use website.
For example, not only can you find a rundown of the most murderous nations, but also definitions, criteria for scores, the source cited, and correlations with other statistics as well. The information about murder, by the way, is part of the site’s “top stats” section—as usual, people are magnetically attracted to carnage. A casual glance at the list reveals a few surprises: I never would have thought that Jamaica would be #3 per capita in murders. A slightly closer look at this list shows that Colombia is #1 with a bullet, pun intended. They slaughter the competition (sorry, couldn’t resist). Colombia’s rate of .62 homicides per 1,000 people (rounding for the sake of brevity) is triple the rate of #5 Russia’s .2 per 1,000 and six times that of #10 Belarus. Using the correlation tool, there’s an oddly strong link between murderousness and bean exports to the United States—a mystery someone definitely ought to look into.
Each country listed is hyperlinked to other statistics concerning that nation. For example, perusing the list of poorest countries, I was shocked to see that a European nation, Moldova, was #3, coming in lower than such renowned hellholes as Haiti and Angola. Formerly part of the USSR, Moldova is sandwiched into an unfashionable section of the world between Romania and Ukraine. I wondered why it was so incredibly poor; delving into its NationMaster.com section, I discovered that it is “triple screwed”: landlocked, mineral poor, and energy destitute. However, while poor, the Moldovans aren’t particularly murderous, coming in at a mere #15 on that chart, a rate nearly eight times less than that of Colombia. In addition to the statistics and basic information about Moldova, I found seven different maps, including the country’s ethnic breakdown and the locations of major defense-related industrial centers. What might have taken me four hours at a good reference library took me all of three minutes on NationMaster.
The list of most populous nations shows just how big China and India really are. For example, if you add up the populations of countries #3 (U.S.A.) through #10 (Japan), it comes to just about 1.4 billion persons, while China alone is conservatively placed at 1.3 billion. Lop off roughly the population of Brazil from that of China and you get India’s approximately 1.1 billion.
Many economists think that water will become the next big crisis, and a quick look at the statistics shows that the two most populous nations are piss-poor when it comes to fresh water. In terms of fresh water per capita, China (#89) and India (#93) seem destined for massive problems, considering the fact that they are both creating immense pollution problems for themselves with massive industrial development and irresponsible agricultural practices.
The information above is just a drop in the bucket concerning what NationMaster.com has to offer. Give this website a shot and I guarantee that you will indeed think about something from a new angle.
Copyright 2006, Joe Martinez
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