Monday, September 28, 2015

Venn Diagrams are used (yeah) but abused (boo)

In a prior blog entry I speculated about which math phrases will enter the English Language and will they be used correctly.  I thought Prisoner's Dilemma would enter and be used correctly, but Turing Test and Venn Diagram would not enter.

Since then I've seen Turing Test used, but only because of the movie The Imitation Game. I don't think it will enter the human language until a computer actually passes it for real, which might not be for a while. See this excellent post by Scott Aaronson about a recent bogus claim that a machine passed the Turing Test.

Venn Diagrams seem to be used more (Yeah!) but incorrectly (Boo!)

1) In this article (which inspired this post), about who might replace John Boehner as speaker of the house, there is the following passage:

Option 3: An acceptable and respected conservative like Jeb Hensarling or
Tom Price emerges as speaker. Why these two? First, Paul Ryan doesn’t seem
to want the gig, so that leaves us with only a few options for someone who
fits in the Venn diagram of being enough of an outsider, well liked, and
sufficiently conservative

Is this correct use? They really mean  the intersection of oustider, well-liked,
and suff conservative. One can picture it and it sort of makes sense, but its not
quite correct mathematically.

2)  In this ad for Venn Beer (in celebration of John Venn's 180th birthday!) they really mean union, not intersection.

3) This Venn Diagram about Vladmir Putin's and your Aunt's record collection doesn't really make sense but I know what they mean and its funny.

4) This Venn Diagram about how to woo women is incorrect, not funny, not mathematically meaningful.

5) This Venn Diagram involved Doctors, Prostitutes, and TSA agents. At first it is funny and seems to make sense. But then you realize that the intersection of Doctors and Prostitutes  is NOT People who make more per hours than you make all day, its actually prostitutes with medical degrees. Its still funny and I see what they are getting at.

6)  This Venn Diagram (it's later in the article) of Republican Candidates for the 2016 nomination for Prez is correct for the math and informative, though one may disagree with some of it (Is Trump really Tea-Party or should he be in his own category of Trumpness?)


  1. Venn diagram of Greek, Latin and Cyryllic alphabets:

  2. I guess the beer one could be correct if each circle were "Things that contain _____"

    This maybe isn't a correct usage either, but defines geeks, nerds, dweebs, and dorks:

    And not really correct, but amusing:

  3. The beer example has four "sets" represented by four circles. No diagram made of four circles can include all 16 possibilities, and thus shouldn't really be called a Venn diagram, although you can create such a diagram using other shapes. When I searched for a proof of this, here is the top hit that came up:

  4. Here is a correct use from the pop culture, in the song "Portugal" by the band "Walk the Moon":

    I know everyone you know
    You know everyone I know
    Our Venn diagrams are one circle