R fixed its default histogram bin width!

I remember hist() in R as having horrible defaults, with the histogram bars way too wide. (See this discussion:

A key benefit of a histogram is that, as a plot of raw data, it contains the seeds of its own error assessment. Or, to put it another way, the jaggedness of a slightly undersmoothed histogram performs a useful service by visually indicating sampling variability. That’s why, if you look at the histograms in my books and published articles, I just about always use lots of bins.

But somewhere along the way someone fixed it. R’s histogram function now has a reasonable default, with lots of bins. (Just go into R and type hist(rnorm(100)) and you’ll see.)

I’m so happy!

P.S. When searching for my old post on histograms, I found this remark, characterizing the following bar graph:

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 4.17.21 PM

This graph isn’t horrible—with care, you can pull the numbers off it—but it’s not set up to allow much discovery, either. This kind of graph is a little bit like a car without an engine: you can push it along and it will go where you want, but it won’t take you anywhere on its own.