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Newspapers - Read Your Sources!

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Update - Apologies for the bad proofreading job in the original blog post. Before writing this, I had spent the entire day writing a book proposal for a technical publisher. I was a bit burned-out.

It's an exciting time for the United States. In the forthcoming days (possibly tomorrow), the Supreme Court of the United States will issue a ruling on whether all or part of the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. Surrounding the hype is an attempt by the media to figure out--that is, predict--the court's ruling before it's released this week. One factoid passed around is that a group of former Supreme Court law clerks and attorneys surveyed after arguments a few months ago suggest that the law will be overturned.

In an article by Business Insider, author Brett LoGiurato writes:

Most former Supreme Court attorneys and clerks believe that the individual mandate to buy health insurance — the signature provision of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act — will soon be struck down as unconstitutional by the high court.

That's according to a joint poll by the American Action Forum, Center Forward and Purple Strategies. An astounding 57 percent of clerks and attorneys polled now think that the mandate will be ruled unconstitutional. That's up from just 35 percent in March, before the court held oral arguments on the case.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/obamacare-unconstitutional-supreme-court-barack-obama-health-care-2012-6#ixzz1yko2eVxa

The pic below appears in the actual Business Insider article and is a snapshot from the actual survey.


I'm not sure how Business Insider misunderstood the study, especially because a picture of it (the very same picture above) appears in their article. Clearly the survey does not say that 57 percent of clerks and attorneys think the mandate will be ruled unconstitutional. Rather, it says the average probability given by all the respondents is 57 percent. But can we say that "most" of the survey respondents believe that the mandate will likely be struck down? No, that's wrong, too. We really don't have enough information to draw that conclusion. More on that point in a minute.

This article, by the Washington Post, gets it wrong too:

new poll of 56 former Supreme Court clerks finds that 57 percent think the individual mandate will be overturned. That’s a 22-point jump from the last time the same group of clerks was surveyed, right before oral arguments. Back then, 35 percent thought the court would toss out the required purchase of health insurance.

Ezra Klien (who loves charts) gets it wrong.

Here, the Wall Street Journal's Joseph Rago, too.

Did anyone get it right? Yes. Laura Green, of the Palm Beach Post, writes:

A poll of former Supreme Court clerks and lawyers who have argued before the justices found that many switched their initial prediction that the court would uphold the sweeping law. The oral argument performance led them to now speculate that there is a 57 percent chance the court will strike down the heart of the law, which requires virtually every American to buy insurance.

Read more: http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/national/health-care-act-studies-of-oral-arguments-predict-court-will-rule-against-reform-this-week#ixzz1yksclk3m

What can we say about the survey's results?

Not a ton. I question the usefulness of engaging folks on the probability that a dependent, nonrandom event will occur. When the poll's respondents came up with their "probabilities," they were really giving a score to how confident they are in their belief that the Supreme Court will strike down the mandate. Calling this a "probability" is misleading.

The average is above 50%--can't we say that most believe the mandate will be struck down? 

Not really. Consider this scenario. Of the 56 respondents, nine said the probability of the Supreme Court overturning the mandate was 100%; that's a rather slim, if certain, margin. Now consider that the rest -- 47 respondents -- giving the probability of the court overturning the mandate a 49%. In other words, the 47 feel the likelihood is slightly less certain than flipping a coin. Do the math; you'll see that it averages to about 57%. Do those nine respondents in this example constitute a "most believe"?

Survey Source:
Affordable Care Act Survey, June 2012
Sponsored by: American Action Forum, Center Forward, and Purple Strategies



Interactive Periodic Table of Elements in Excel

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I've been on a real rollover kick lately. I'm really trying to figure out if it can be useful. Earlier today I started making a Periodic Table of Elements using Excel. I employed the rollover technique to allow the user to gain information about an element simply by rolling over a cell. Well, for some reason, I couldn't stop there. So what was meant to be a small project ballooned into something larger. Unfortunately, my sticking to good coding practice didn't keep up with craving to do more. So what I present to you below isn't really a polished product. If you poke through the named ranges and the rollover indexes, you'll probably see that I add and subtract one to them somewhat randomly (a cheap trick - this is  due to my trying to reconcile the table copied from Wikipedia with my indices).

As you can see below, you can not only gain information about an element but you can also toggle on and off different element groupings.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

If you want to "crack" the file, the first thing you'll need to do is reset the ScrollArea (Click on a cell. Go to the Developer tab, click Properties. Delete the reference in the ScrollArea box.). Then just unhide everything.

Good luck.
Periodic Table.xlsm

Update -
Reader Dario found an error in the spreadsheet (see the comments) - this is the result of some carelessness and cheap tricks on my part. An updated version will be released tonight. In the meantime however, you can still poke around the file :).

Another Update -
I've since fixed the bug described in the reader comments. If you find anything else, let me know!

How to: highlighting cells using the rollover technique in Excel

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In my last post I used my patented rollover technique to create an effect similar to the one shown below:

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Neat, huh? When you place your mouse over a cell, it changes color to show that you are selecting it. It's a true "rollover": no mouse-clicks required. In my last post, I show how that might be useful.

Wondering how I did it? Checkout this file:
Rollover Surprise.xlsm

Rollovers for Gantt Charts

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Before we start, you might have noticed some renovations on this blog. Yeah, it was time for a change. I'm working this template out, so sorry if some of the formats seem off. Also, I have started a new facebook page. I'll be keeping it updated with stories from my favorite blogs. Also, you can post questions and stuff for me (or others) to take a crack at. Plus, you'll see that I'm just a normal average guy. So if you have a facebook, you should join. You really don't have a good excuse why not! :)

DOOOOOOOOOOOOO IT!
Option Explicit VBA | Promote Your Page Too


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In early last year, this humble blog had very little traffic. All of that changed in April of last year when I posted an exciting discovery: the Rollover technique. This technique was written about by the wonderful Purna of Chandoo.org. At the time, I was super excited about all of the possibilities of this technique. Now, just about a year later, I'm unsure whether anyone (besides me) has really ever used it. I even tried to incorporate it into my last project, but I found my clients were all too used to clicking on a cell rather than rolling over one. In the end I removed the rollover and replaced it with a click. Perhaps the rollover technique is destined to be a cool gimmick and not much more.

But I'm not giving up. Reader Bert van Zandbergen has been sending me many fine spreadsheets featuring this technique. His enthusiasm is encouraging. So I give you a rollover you can use for your Gantt Charts!
Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Download the fun, here:
Gantt Chart Surprise.xlsm

To see my intermediate table, scroll to the right of the dashboard. Sometime in the short future, I'll post a how to make the highlighted cell stand out with a border. In the mean time, remember to go to Facebook and like this page. Seriously, what are you waiting for?