The Saddest Plot in the World

By Julianne Dalcanton | October 10, 2008 12:34 am

Did you know that there are other ways to educate students about science than planetaria? They’re called classrooms! With teachers in them! And those teachers need your help. They’re asking for your help directly, with no earmarks involved! For the 9,950 of you that stopped by yesterday but didn’t donate to Donors Choose, consider making the plot below just a little bit happier.

A sad sad plot.  Don't you feel sad?  I do.  Donate, and you'll feel better.

  • Clammy

    I love you guys, but I don’t see why my meagre grad school income should be supplementing another country’s schools – scratch that, I don’t see why I should be supplementing the schools of the richest country in the world. Hopefully after you’ve elected a government that doesn’t *literally* lose tonnes of money in the aftermaths of invasions, you’ll have enough money to buy paper for your children.

    Damn, the world is a depressing depressing place right now…

  • Sean

    Clammy, I know what you mean. “I prefer to donate to a more local or otherwise deserving charity” is a perfectly sensible stance; we can’t donate to all of the worthy causes in the world. But “meagre grad school income” is not a good excuse, especially when we are talking about people living in poverty. The world doesn’t divide into people who have too much money and should give a large part of it away, vs. people who don’t have enough money and should keep all of it. Most people can afford to give a tiny amount to charity, and the amount can grow as your income does. It’s not that hard to give five or ten bucks, and it brings more happiness to you (not to mention poverty-stricken classrooms) than many other ways to spend that five bucks.

    We are not trying to guilt anyone into parting with their money; just providing an easy way to give to a very deserving cause, and reminding people how very easy it is. If you don’t feel like donating, that’s fine.

  • TheSeeker

    Will you provide an RSS feed of your blog? It would make following it a lot easier.

  • Maarten

    I would love to donate, however, I have no credit card, and as I do not live in the US I can’t send a check. If Donors Choose were to accept PayPal, or iDeal, I would certainly send some hard currency your way.

  • Lab Lemming

    I was going to suggest that maybe everyone was donating at the cool science blogs. But then I realized that adding together the top five sciborg blogs would only double your sliver…

  • CosmicVarianceFan

    I did donate (via your link), but your totals did not change. So my intention was good, but my execution was a misfire.

  • Bob

    I just tried to donate, but I failed to clear the bar. The last page offered to me said that I wasn’t done yet, that I still had to confirm my payment. However, there was no ‘Confirm’ button to be found. Instead, all I was offered were buttons to edit one thing or another. Now, somewhere out there in cyberland is my credit card information. The account that I supposedly created doesn’t appear to exist. Why do I have a nice warm cozy feeling right now?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Why don’t you put together a donation carnival to buy an “overhead projector” for Adler Planetarium?

  • Matt

    I’m going to be uncomfortably honest here. I went the first day, intending to donate, but then couldn’t make a decision on which project to support. I know you’ve narrowed them down for us, but, man, when I see them all lined up like that, subconsciously I feel like instead of helping one class, I’m dissing 12.

    This wasn’t conscious, mind you. By articulating this, I’ve gotten over it, and I’m donating forthwith. Anyway, consider this a psychographic data point to use when framing your next pitch.

  • Magnus

    I’m in Norway and I want to donate, but I can’t find an option for Europe when registering my card. Did I do something wrong or am I not allowed to make a contribution?

  • Sean

    We do have an RSS feed:

    I don’t know about European donations, or about missing “confirm” buttons — sorry about that!

    Don’t worry if the donation doesn’t show up immediately in the totals — it takes a while to process, but it will eventually be counted.

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    Sean, “The world doesn’t divide into people who have too much money and should give a large part of it away, vs. people who don’t have enough money and should keep all of it.

    Maybe I misunderstand you, but the hard facts are that a very small portion of the world’s population is spending the most part of the money. EU and U.S. are leading this league by far.

    Take a look at this picture of the world as you’ve maybe never seen it before.

    Territory size shows the proportion of all people living on less than or equal to US$1 in purchasing power parity a day.

  • Freiddie

    @Speedy Gonzalez: Wow, now that’s one distorted map. How come Antarctica isn’t empty?

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    Freiddie, because there is one scientist there living on ice!

    No, can’t explain that but it must have something to do with “expanding space” and the problems of metrics… I think… 😉

    More info here.

  • mandeep gill

    Darn you Julianne and Sean- you *have* guilted me into giving!! (despite your professing not to above, Sean!). that’s ok, it is a very worthy cause, and as you say Sean, if we each give a little, it adds up. so i did indeed only throw in a few $, because i do feel that it is our *collective* responsibility, for one, and two: it *is* the govt’s (nat’l and state and local) basic responsibility to provide well for education — and thus, i do work (and donate) to elect that kind of govt that will value education and fund it properly, vs. e.g. funding the DOD to the tune of 1/2 trillion $ per year or so, and trying to rob other countries of their oil wealth to pick a random example out of the air.

    It reminds me a little of the lottery to fund education — education-funding should *never* be dependent on peoples’ good will and the economy’s vagaries, it should be at fundamental priority of our society, funded at a rock-solid level.

    Also, being short on time and not really able to read all the good causes on the page (i just picked the very first one, about distant galaxies, which i liked) i am sympathetic to Matt’s comment above — i think just having a button that says give this amount and it will be divvied up as e.g. the CV writers vote to see fit would’ve made it a little faster.. and maybe motivated more people to donate (e.g. ActBlue does this kind of thing).

    Anyway — i hope your sad-looking pie chart will indeed get a little bluer with this post of yours, Julianne!


  • joe

    I’d be a little bit more comfortable donating if I knew my donation weren’t eaten up by transaction costs. For example, if I donated $5, I don’t want $3 to go towards some sort of transfer fee/bureaucratic costs. Credit card companies already take out 2-3% as a transaction fee. Does anyone know how much money actually gets to the intended recipients?

  • Haelfix

    Joe thats always the nasty thing with charities. You really have to do your homework on them to find the ones with the best bang for your buck.

    Usually smaller means potentially better efficiency ratings, but they carry additional risk. Kind of like stocks =)

    As far as science in the classroom. I’ve been a part of too many outreach programs to inner city schools to not be truly jaded with the prospects. Curing the fever won’t kill the virus, and its part of a much more complicated, messier problem.

  • Clammy

    I totally agree Sean, that’s why I give to either to poor in my own country, or to those in poor countries. Once I have spare piles of money, I will cheerfully buy you as many overhead projectors as you need (erm, *actual* overhead projectors).

  • CosmicVarianceFan

    My donation went to the “The Tastes and Smells of Rocks” project. I can just see the faces of those eight-year old kids light up now.

  • changcho

    ok, bad plot it’s shamed me to donate…!

  • Daniel de França MTd2

    I can’t see donations to any schools in my country, which are in a much wrse condition than yours. Sorry, I refuse to donate.

  • Thor

    That map is interesting. India looks bloated there, so does China – and India’s going to the moon this month!

  • matt

    I just gave $20 to the project “Shoot For the Stars: An Analysis of Far Away Galaxies.” That isn’t much, I know, but I feel this is a collective effort.

    There are many worthy causes on site, but “Shoot For the Stars: An Analysis of Far Away Galaxies” caught my attention because it addresses a subtle but key concept in physics: atomic spectroscopy. The project funds the purchase of spectrometers and gas tube lamps so that students can learn about emission/absorption lines with a hands-on lab. Atomic spectral lines are connected to many branches of physics:
    1) It teaches about electromagnetic radiation (wavelength, refraction, photons).
    2) It raises questions about atomic structure.
    3) It hints at quantum mechanics.
    4) It leads to the discovery of redshift in astronomy.

    There are probably many more concept related to spectroscopy that I can’t think of right now. I’d even say that atomic spectroscopy is one of the gateways to modern, twentieth-century physics.

    I also feel that spectroscopy is one of those topics that doesn’t just stare you in the face. It’s not like blocks, inclines, pendulums, magnets, friction, pulleys, etc. You have to look for it. You have to be careful and observant. And then it reveals a world of physics to you.

  • Shannon

    Joe, if you click on a specific proposal then look under the box to donate (on the right of the screen) there is a PDF link next to the total cost. That PDF breaks down exactly how the money is distributed for that proposal, including resources, shipping, processing, etc.

  • One third

    I gave at the office

  • Sili

    Damn. That is a very very effective plot.

    Good thing I’m such a procrastinator …

  • One third


    Of course on optimist would say that its nice that so many people live where the cost of living is so low

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    Yeah of course, these poor guys should be very happy that they don’t have these Darn Overhead Projectors that costs $3 million! 😉

    Seriously, we can comfort ourselves with “bloated Moon missions” or anything you like, the raw numbers is still there: 12% of the world population is using 44% of the goodies and 17% of the world population lives on the equivalent of US$1 a day.

  • Barb

    If you are having trouble making a donation, email For those who choose not to contribute because there is no project in your country or lesser developed countries then find a different charity to donate your money to. There’s no need to be nasty to people trying to do their bit to make the world a little better however they can.

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    Barb, very very true and if I offended anyone I’m truly sorry. It was stupid of me to start a discussion about the “whole problem” in this post. Sorry.

    And to the guys at Cosmic Variance – I admire you and you are doing a great voluntary job.

  • Mark

    I’ve deleted some extremely off topic comments.

  • Lab Lemming

    Is it possible that most of your blog readers are made of dark matter?

  • Yuval

    I’m a little disappointed that such a blatant logical fallacy is being posted on a blog dedicated to mathematical science. I’ll point out that has a lot of casual readers (like myself) who surf in if something interesting is said and then surf out. The ratio of donators to visitors is meaningless unless you have a reasonable conception of who your donators are. Why should someone like me donate? I come here to read news. I appreciate that people ask for donations from time to time, but I find the guilt trip a bit insulting. Your begging is a little choosy for my tastes.

  • Barb

    I admit that I am part of the bad part of your plot. I am doing my donating at Tomato Nation because I have to see a woman in a Tomato Costume at the White House.

    @Yuval: it’s a contest to see who can raise the most money to fund projects that help kids learn. Most of the projects come from underfunded schools. Perhaps a little guilt that teachers are begging to get resources like markers and pencils is not a bad thing.

  • Ian

    I understand one reason why your donations are low. I tried to donate. I do not want the school to have my email address, but there is no option to give anonymously. Secondly I can’t use Paypal and I am not putting my credit card out there. Unfortunately you cannot be too careful out there these days. Get DonorsChoose to be better website and you might get more. Sorry.

  • Barb

    @Ian – the school does not get your email, nor do you get theirs. All communciation is handled through Donors Choose. I’m pretty sure that you can donate anonymously and I think that you can use PayPal. email and he’ll help you with any issues. Honestly, he’s a really great guy who helped me with a donation issue.

  • Susan

    Wow! I can’t believe the negative comments posted by some people on this site. Whatever happened to “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all?”
    Additionally, I would assume most of you are professionals with an education. How could you mock donating $5 for education?
    @Yuval- No one can MAKE you feel guilty.If you feel guilty for not giving…..?
    @Ian- If your reason for not giving is not wanting to give your e-mail address, why don’t you create a hotmail address for free? But Donors doesn’t give your information to anyone and I am sure the school would NOT e-mail you.

  • Barb

    There’s nothing that will make you feel better than the thank you package you get for a donation of over $100. Photos of the kids doing the project, letters and notes from the kids… you feel like a freaking superhero. Even just the thank you emails from the teachers are amazing.


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