(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘UTC

“Torture the data, and it will confess to anything”*…

Source: @piechartpirate

Add movement to a bar chart, and you’ve got yourself an audience-pleaser. These so-called “bar chart races” are not popular with data visualization experts– but what do experts know?…

I’m not a betting man. But I do enjoy a good bar chart race — a popular way to visually display and compare changing data over time. Bars lengthen and shorten as time ticks away; contenders accordingly hop over each other to switch places in the ranking. Will your favorite keep their lead? Look at that surprise challenger rush to the front! Meanwhile, furious battles are waged for the middle and even the lower spots on the list.

Bar chart races are a spectacular way to animate certain types of information, but the so-called dataviz community is skeptical. Many data visualization specialists complain that bar chart races are like a sugar rush: a lot of entertainment, but very little analysis. Big on grabbing attention, small on conveying causality. Instead of good seats at the data ballet, you get standing room only at the information dog track.

Well, all that may be true. But when is the last time you’ve been glued to a statistic about global coffee production? Bar chart races are fun to watch, not least because you can pick a favorite early on and get to see them win — or lose. In other words, you’re emotionally invested in the animation in a way that’s lacking from static stats.

Bar chart races are used for just about any dataset that can be quantified over time: best-selling game consoles, most trusted brands, highest grossing movies…

Any dataset that can be quantified over time can be turned into a contest that is both exciting and (a little bit) enlightening: from @VeryStrangeMaps, 10 examples of “Bar chart races: short on analysis, but fun to watch,” for example…

Ronald Coase


As we ruminate on representation, we might check our watches: it was on this date in 1918 that the Standard Time Act (AKA, the Calder Act) became effective. Passed by Congress earlier in the year, it implemented across the U.S. both Standard time (the creation of time zones anchored in UTC, the successor to GMT) and Daylight Saving Time.

U.S. Time Zones (somewhat revised from the original division)


“Creativity is that marvelous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition”*…


Artist Bill Domonkos:

I view my work as a collision and recombination of ideas. My process unfolds gradually and spontaneously—using found materials such as archive film footage, photographs, and the internet. I experiment by combining, altering, editing and reassembling using digital technology, special effects and animation to create a new kind of experience. I am interested in the absurd, as well as moments of sublime beauty—to renew and transform materials, experiences and ideas. The extraordinary thing about cinema is its ability to suggest the ineffable—something that cannot or should not be expressed in words, only hinted at through sounds and images. It is this elusive, dreamlike quality that informs my work.


Check out more of the work that The Boston Globe‘s Michael Hardy calls “Spooky. Hypnotic. Lush. Witty. Sublime.” at his site, and on his Tumblr, devoted to GIFs like those above.

* Max Ernst


As we amuse ourselves with animation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that the first leap second was added to a day.  The modern definition of a “second” was settled in 1874 by European scientists working from Muslim scholars’ improvement on Ptolemy’s Second Century calculations.  But in the early 1960’s astronomers realized that the rotation of the earth is irregular– fundamentally, it is slowing.  Coordinated Universal Time (CUT), calculated with an atomic clock, was systematically slowed each year, for a decade, to compensate…. But that meant that CUT and UTC (the time standard used by broadcasters, transportation providers, and other commercial and military users, a standard still fixed on the original definition of the “second”) were diverging.  To true them up, the leap second was added to the UTC.  Since 1972, a total of 25 seconds have been added– that’s to say, the Earth has slowed down 25 seconds compared to atomic time since then.  (But this does not mean that days are 25 seconds longer nowadays: only the days on which the leap seconds are inserted have 86,401 instead of the usual 86,400 seconds.)




Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 30, 2014 at 1:01 am

Hands up, Mother Nature!…

From The Firearm Blog:

Celebrated science fiction author Philip K. Dick published Project Plowshare as a serial between November 1965 and January 1966. The story, later expanded into the novel Zap Gun, is set in a world where seemingly deadly new weapons are “plowshared” into consumer products. It is ironic that just a few years after that novel was set, a defense giant is quite literally turning a new weapon system into an agricultural tool.

Defense giant Raytheon is well known for putting the “ray” into raygun. They developed the infamous Active Denial System that is designed to zap rioters with a non-lethal millimeter “pain ray”.

Active Denial System at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.

Raytheon realized that technology which can heat human skin at a distance can also be used to heat crops that are vulnerable to frost. One crop that is very sensitive to frost is grapes. In 2005 Ontario’s overall yield of processed grapes fell by 54% due to injuries sustained by the grapes during winter. In 2007 California experienced $800 million in crop losses due to freezing temperatures with navel oranges being the hardest hit.

Existing methods of frost prevention include heaters, wind machines, sprinklers and helicopters in emergencies. These methods all have significant downsides. They are either noisy, costly, inefficient or are only effective under certain environmental conditions.

Two moths ago Raytheon deployed a prototype of their newly developed Tempwave system to an Ontario vineyard. Tempwave sits atop a 25 feet pole and is powered by the grid. When its sensors detect weather conditions that may result in frost, its low-level microwave delivers energy directly to the crop without wasting energy on heating the intervening air. As long as the Tempwave system has enough power delivered to it, frost protection is guaranteed.

Tempwave proof of concept in a California orchard

Read the whole story– and the Raytheon press release– here.

As we read by the glow of our handguns, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972, the first “leap second day,” that one second was added to the world’s time in order to keep atomic clocks in sync with the Earth’s rotation. Since the adoption of this system in 1972, due firstly to the initial choice of the value of the second (1/86400 mean solar day of the year 1900) and secondly to the general slowing down of the Earth’s rotation (despite “the ice-skater effect”), it has been necessary to add over 20 seconds to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

The U.S. Naval Observatory Master Clock

CLOCK, n. A machine of great moral value to man, allaying his concern for the future by reminding him what a lot of time remains to him.
–Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911

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