Posts Tagged ‘infographics’
* John Adams
As we choose up sides, we might recall that it was in this date in 1914 that Franz Ferdinand, 51 year old heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo, then the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovnia, where he was visiting to inspect the Empire’s troops. A member of the Black Hand nationalist group, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed both the Crown Prince and his wife as they were being driven through the city. The assassination– triggering, as it did, competing accusations and the “calling” of interlocking alliances– ignited World War I, which broke out one month later.
Ever since I found out about the Statistical Atlas of the United States, historically produced by the Census Bureau, it annoyed me that there wasn’t one in the works for the 2010 Census due to cuts in funding. The last one was for 2000. Actually, the 2000 edition was called the Census Atlas, but whatever. With more data than ever, it seems like there should be one.
Maybe that’s why there’s isn’t one. Too much data, too much of an undertaking, and too many bureaucratic decisions to make.
The first Atlas, by Francis A. Walker, was published in 1874 using the data from the prior 1870 Census. Counting cover, credits, and all that, it was 56 pages.
I got to thinking, hey, I could do that. And if I did, I wouldn’t have to be annoyed anymore. So I recreated the original Statistical Atlas of the United States with current data. I used similar styling, and had one main rule for myself. All the data had to be publicly available and come from government sites…
See the stunning– and stunningly useful– results (with larger versions of each chart) at “Reviving the Statistical Atlas of the United States with New Data.”
* “I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed that computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s?” – Hal Varian, The McKinsey Quarterly, January 2009
As we discriminate between the median and the mean, we might spare a thought for Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson; he died on this date in 1948. A classics scholar who was also an accomplished biologist and mathematician, Thompson is best remembered for On Growth and Form (1917, new ed. 1942), a profound consideration of the shapes of living things, starting from the simple premise that “everything is the way it is because it got that way.” Thus one must study not only finished forms, but also the forces that molded them: “the form of an object is a ‘diagram of forces’, in this sense, at least, that from it we can judge of or deduce the forces that are acting or have acted upon it.”
The book paved the way for the scientific explanation of morphogenesis, the process by which patterns are formed in plants and animals. Thompson’s description of the mathematical beauty of nature inspired thinkers as diverse as Alan Turing and Claude Levi-Strauss, and artists including Henry Moore, Salvador Dali, and Jackson Pollock. Peter Medawar, the 1960 Nobel Laureate in Medicine, called On Growth and Form “the finest work of literature in all the annals of science that have been recorded in the English tongue.”
Cartographer Daniel Huffman has created a series of maps in which American river systems are visualized as subway maps (specifically, in the manner of Harry Beck’s 1930s London Tube maps), with nodes representing connections between streams and tributaries.
Huffman strikes a particular chord in the map-lover’s heart. On an Internet brimming with sleek, sharp geo-visualizations, Huffman’s maps offer a sweetly idiosyncratic view of the world. The signatures of historic figures turn into street vectors. Oregon’s wine country gets the ‘90s computer-game treatment. A simple bike path becomes a work of calligraphy.
“What it really probably comes down to is a desire to do things differently than others,” he says in an email. “I crave variety, and so it often leads me to thinking of weird ideas and saying, ‘I wonder if I can do X[.]’”
Lately, a trend has emerged out of Huffman’s impulses towards novelty—an idea he calls “Modern Naturalism,” in which his maps present natural features in the type of “highly-abstracted, geometrically precise visual language that we often apply to the constructed world on maps,” according to his website…
More on Huffman and his marvelous maps at “When Rivers Look Like Subway Systems.”
* Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
As we hop onto our rafts, we might send healing birthday greetings to Florence Nightingale, born on this date in 1820. Famed for her work as a nurse in the Crimean War, she went on to found training facilities and nursing homes– pioneering both medical training for women and what is now known as Social Entrepreneuring. Less well-known are Nightingale’s contributions to epidemiology, statistics, and the visual communication of data in the field of public health. Always good at math, she pioneered the use of the polar area chart (the equivalent to a modern circular histogram or rose diagram) and popularized the pie chart (which had been developed in 1801 by William Playfair). Nightingale was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society, and later became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.
“If you want to use television to teach somebody, you must first teach them how to use television”*…
Graph TV is a visualization tool which graphs tv show ratings by episode. Each season is assigned a different color and linear regressions are calculated for each season as well as for the entire series. Each point on the graph displays the episode title, rating, and other data. The data points are clickable and will open its IMDb entry. The graphs are also exportable for offline use…
* Umberto Eco
Before we begin to binge, we might spare a thought for comic genius Harold Clayton Lloyd, Sr.; he died on this date in 1971. While your correspondent marginally prefers the extraordinary Buster Keaton, Lloyd has some real claim to being the finest physical comedian of the silent film era (even as his career extended to talkies and radio). Like Keaton, Lloyd did his own stunts– many of them, breathtakingly dangerous. Indeed, after 1919, he appears wearing a prosthetic glove, masking the loss of a thumb and index finger in a bomb explosion at Roach Studios.
Everything has a limit – or does it?…
Some maximums will never be surpassed, but as the author Arthur C Clarke once said, “the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”
See a larger version of the graphic above at “Ultimate limits of nature and humanity.”
* Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
As we bump up against boundaries, we might send compressed birthday greetings to Aaron “Bunny” Lapin; he was born on this date in 1914. In 1948, Lapin invented Reddi-Wip, the pioneering whipped cream dessert topping dispensed from a spray can. First sold by milkmen in St. Louis, the product rode the post-World War Two convenience craze to national success; in 1998, it was named by Time one of the century’s “100 great consumer items”– along with the pop-top can and Spam. Lapin became known as the Whipped Cream King; but his legacy is broader: in 1955, he patented a special valve to control the flow of Reddi-Wip from the can, and formed The Clayton Corporation to manufacture it. Reddi-Wip is now a Con-Agra brand; but Clayton goes strong, now making industrial valves, closures, caulk, adhesives and foamed plastic products (like insulation and cushioning materials).
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”*…
Benedikt Groß (designer of a cool typeface made up of satellite imagery, among many other nifty things) has created Population.io, a new site (still in Beta) that visualizes a user’s place in the world’s population in a series of elegant tables and charts… including one that estimates the time of the users death (at least loosely– that is, based on average life expectancy where he/she lives).
* Mark Twain
As we settle into the global village, we might send speculative birthday greetings to Philip Kindred Dick; he was born on this date in 1928. A novelist, short story writer, essayist and philosopher, Dick published 44 novels and 121 short stories, nearly all in the Science Fiction genre. While he was recognized only within his field in his lifetime, and lived near poverty for much of his adult life, eleven popular films have been based on his work since his death in 1982 (including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, The Adjustment Bureau, and Impostor). In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923; and in 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.
It’s tempting to consider information visualization a relatively new field that rose in response to the demands of the Internet generation. “But,” argues Manual Lima in The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge, “as with any domain of knowledge, visualizing is built on a prolonged succession of efforts and events.”
While it’s tempting to look at the recent work, it’s critical we understand the long history. Lima’s stunning book helps, covering the fascinating 800-year history of the seemingly simple tree diagram.
Trees are some of the oldest living things in the world. The sequoias in Northern California, for example, can reach a height of nearly 400 feet, with a trunk diameter of 26 feet and live to more than 3,500 years. “These grandiose, mesmerizing lifeforms are a remarkable example of longevity and stability and, ultimately, are the crowning embodiment of the powerful qualities humans have always associated with trees.”
Such an important part of natural life on earth, tree metaphors have become deeply embedded in the English language, as in the “root” of the problem or “branches” of knowledge. In the Renaissance, the philosophers Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes, for example, used tree diagrams to describe dense classification arrangements. As we shall see, trees really became popular as a method of communicating and changing minds with Charles Darwin…
More on the highly-recommended Farnum Street blog.
* Rodney Dangerfield
As we look to our roots, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that Capitol Records released what it claimed to be (and what surely was) the shortest “song” ever recorded. Earlier in the year, Les Paul and Mary Ford has released a single, “Magic Melody,” that concluded with the well-known “shave and a hair cut” musical phrase– sans the traditional “two bits” sting. Disc jockeys around the country complained that the track ended too abruptly, that it left the listener hanging. So Les Paul went back into the studio to record “Magic Melody- Part 2″– which consisted solely of the two “missing” notes. It ran for about one second.