• Lord of the Rings visualized

    October 24, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Decline of the longevity of men

    Driven by his love for Lord of the Rings, Emil Johansson explores the many facets of the world in charts and graphs. For example, the above chart is the declining lifespan of man.

    It is explicitly stated by Tolkien that the longevity of Men once granted to the Númenóreans decreased over the years. In Letter 156 Tolkien writes that "a good Númenórean died of free will when he felt it be the time to do so". With the Shadow and the Downfall of Númenor this grace was taken away from them and they died involuntarily with a decreasing lifespan.

    The decreasing life span is seen clearly in the graph. The most dramatic change is shortly before the Downfall of Númenor. The rulers are shown in order. Their number should not be confused with how many generations from Elros Aragorn is since there were more than one line of rulers.

    There's also a geographic map of where characters traveled, a family tree, a timeline, and even an Android app. I think Johansson might be a superfan. A hunch.

  • Presidential campaign finance explorer

    September 26, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Presidential campaign finance explorer

    Hey, I think it's election season, and you know what that means. It's time to dig into campaign finance data from the Federal Election Commission. The Washington Post gives you a view into the amount of money raised and spent in both camps, where it's coming from and where it's going. They start with the high-level aggregates, and as you scroll down, you get the time series, followed by the breakdowns for money raised.

    The spending categories at the bottom are the most interesting bit. They cover advertising and mail, down to consulting and events. Payroll was a lot higher than I would've thought.

  • Color names plotted against gender

    September 20, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    His and Hers Colors by Stephen Von Worley

    A couple of years ago, xkcd ran a survey that asked people to name colors. Stephen Von Worley plotted that data by gender in an interactive.

    That's a dot for each of the 2,000 most commonly-used color names as harvested from the 5,000,000-plus-sample results of XKCD's color survey, sized by relative usage and positioned side-to-side by average hue and vertically by gender preference. Women tend to use color names nearer the top, men towards the bottom, and the dashed line represents the 50-50 split (equal usage by both sexes).

    While his original version was static, the interactive version lets you sort by hue, saturation, brightness, popularity, and name length. Most importantly, you can see the color names now when you mouse over. I like the vertical spectrum of purple, where women use names like bright lilac, orchid, and heather, and men tend to label similar shades as purplish, lightish purple, and oh yes, very light purple. [Thanks, Stephen]

  • Animated political contributions

    September 14, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    The Forest of Advocacy is a series of animations that explores the political contribution patterns among eight organizations, such as Bain Capital, Goldman Sachs, and Harvard Business School.

    These visualizations provide a dynamic look at the partisan tilt of giving within organizations. For each organization, individuals are characterized as points sketching out a line over time. The X axis is time, and the Y axis represents the net partisan tilt of contributions over the preceding 6 months. Over the decades, one sees lines sketched out, reflecting the partisanship of individuals over time. For each organization, we also provide the net contributions of the entire organization, and the names of biggest Democratic, Republican, and "bipartisan" contributors (the individual with the highest product of Democratic and Republican contributions).

    At the core, each animation is a time series chart, but the aesthetic and animation, which is narrated, provides for a more organic feel. In particular, the movements of people, represented by squares shifting straight across or up and down, makes it easy to see consistent and not so consistent contributions. [Thanks, Mauro]

  • History of tax breaks

    September 11, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Tax breaks

    Kat Downs, Laura Stanton and Karen Yourish of The Washington Post look at the tax breaks from the 1970s to 2011 in an interactive.

    The U.S. government gives away more than $1 trillion a year in tax breaks — subsidies for individuals and companies that are often substitutes for direct government spending.
    Once written into the tax code, they tend to stick around.

    Each stripe represents a tax break, and height represents the value of the break in 2011. Interaction is key here, which lets you select categories such as education and health and mouse over breaks for more information. The chart above is also linked with a time series, which provides an alternative view to the same data.

  • Wikipedia is dominated by male editors

    September 11, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Wikipedia Gender

    After he saw a New York Times article on the gender gap among Wikipedia contributors (The contributor base is only 13 percent women), Santiago Ortiz plotted articles by number of men versus number of women who edited. It's interactive, so you can mouse over dots to see what article each represents, and you can zoom in for closer look in the bottom left.

    At first glance, the difference doesn't look that big, but notice the values of the axes. The axis for men on the horizontal is from 0 to 200, the axis for women is 0 to 20, and the equal ratio line is the purple one that's nearly vertical. So the only article with more women contributors is on cloth menstrual pads.

    See also: what the chart looks like with equally-spaced increments. The results are clear.

  • Who pays for healthcare, 1960 to 2010

    August 27, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Health care spending

    Josh Cothran looked at who's paid for healthcare over the past five decades, with an animated Marimekko chart.

    In 1960, almost 100% of the spending on prescription drugs came out of the consumer's pocket; by 2010, out-of-pocket spending was down to 20%. Over the past 50 years, there have been major shifts in the way hospital care, physician services, long-term care, prescription drugs, and other services and products are paid for. This interactive graphic uses data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to show national spending trends from 1960 to 2010 for health care by payer.

    In case you're unfamiliar with the layout, there are two visual dimensions to the Marimekko. On the vertical is percentage for the main categories: hospital care, physicians and clinical services, etc. On the horizontal is a breakdown of the main categories: private insurance, Medicare, etc. The animation brings time as a third dimension for which the overall size of the chart is constant, so pay attention to the changing relative percentages.

  • Twitter Political Index measures feelings towards candidates

    August 1, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Obama vs Romney

    In partnership with social analytics service Topsy, Twitter launched a Political Index that measures sentiment towards Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

    Each day, the Index evaluates and weighs the sentiment of Tweets mentioning Obama or Romney relative to the more than 400 million Tweets sent on all other topics. For example, a score of 73 for a candidate indicates that Tweets containing their name or account name are on average more positive than 73 percent of all Tweets.

    The key is the comparison against all tweets for a sense of scale. As seen from the chart below, the index fluctuates closely with Gallup estimates.

  • Comparing Romney’s tax returns to presidential returns

    July 27, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Romney taxes

    Lee Drutman, a Senior Fellow at the Sunlight Foundation, compared the tax returns of previous presidents against that of Mitt Romney.

    This scatter plot highlights two things: First, the two highest income years we observe are Romney 2011 ($21.6 million) and Romney 2010 ($20.9 million). Nobody else comes close. The next closest are Obama 2009 ($5.5 million) and Obama 2007 ($4.1 million).

    Second, the two lowest effective tax rates we observe also belong to Romney. The 2012 Republican candidate paid an effective tax rate of 13.9% in 2010 and 15.4% in 2011. Next lowest is George H.W. Bush, who paid a 15.5% rate in 1991. By contrast, in Obama’s two highest earning years, he paid a rate of 32.6% (2009) and 33.7% (2007).

    Of course the difference is there because most of Romney's income comes from investments, but wow, what a contrast.

    [Thanks, Chris]

  • Tracking the spread of AIDS

    July 26, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Spread of AIDS

    Adam Cole and Nelson Hsu for NPR plotted the percentage of people, ages 15 to 49, living with HIV from 1990 to 2009.

    By 1990, the world had a pandemic on its hands. In 1997, the peak of the epidemic, more than 3 million people became newly infected with HIV.

    Then science struck back. Drugs approved for HIV treatment in the mid-1990s proved profoundly effective, transforming AIDS from a death sentence to a chronic illness. Those treatments, combined with an international commitment to manage the disease by providing access to free drug therapy, led to a steep drop in new HIV infections.

    The countries in middle, eastern, and southern Africa stand out in the chart, like Swaziland with a whopping 25.9%, but most areas cluster well below five percent. Although the drop-down filters help some with country selection, the data probably would've benefitted from a chart that had a self-updating vertical axis.

  • Olympian age distributions compared

    July 13, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Olympic age boxplots

    Last week, the Washington Post compared the ages of Olympians, but it only focused on range, so you couldn't see the variation in between. For example, Dara Torres was 41 at her last Olympics so the bar was stretched to the right even though there were no other swimmers near that age. Plus the Post piece was US-only. So Gregory Matthews took the statistician's route and box plotted the age of all olympians from all countries.

    This barebones layout of course sacrifices the relatability of the first, but it's easier to see the distributions of each sport and to spot the outliers. Apparently there was an 11-year-old swimmer Yip Tsz Wa at the 2004 games in Athens. Wha?

  • Where you measure up against Olympians

    July 11, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Athletes like you

    I think the theme of this year's Olympic graphics is how you relate to athletes. In this interactive by the BBC (in Spanish), height and weight of medal winners from the last Olympics in Beijing are plotted against each other. The more red, the more athletes with that weight-height combination, and you can click on a square to see the corresponding athlete(s). The twist is that you can enter your own height and weight to see where you are in the mix.

    Combine this with the recent age piece from the Washington Post, and you've got a more complete picture. Why stop there though? I want country, gender, and hair color breakdowns. [Thanks, Ben]

  • Age range of US Olympic athletes, by sport

    July 5, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    The Washington Post has a fun piece that compares your age to that of Olympic athletes over the past three years.

    In the past three Summer Olympics, 64 of the U.S. team’s 1,707 athletes have been age 40 and older — and they won 23 medals. As we watch 16-year olds compete in the gymnastics events, even the 20-somethings among us look back regretfully and wonder if our glory days have passed. Here, we take a look at which sports skew young and which allow for more longevity. In which events might you still have a chance this summer?

    Enter your gender and age, and the chart updates with a slider that shows the events that you still have hope for. I don't know about you, but I'm going for shooting.

    The initial view shows both male and female ranges in an overlapping bar chart (Is there a formal name for it?), which has been showing up a little more lately, instead of a clustered bar chart. It's a more compact view, which can be useful when there are a lot of categories.

  • A graphical summary of Euro 2012 on Twitter

    July 2, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Euro2012 on Twitter

    Nicolas Belmonte, a data visualization scientist at Twitter, visualized the change in tweet volume during Euro 2012. It starts with a streamgraph for an overall view, and when you click on a team you get a time series for each of that team's matches. The selected team appears on top, and the team they are against is on the bottom. Goals are also marked adding context to the spikes.

    I didn't watch any of the championship and know next to nothing about soccer, but Belmonte's piece is useful and fun to use. Would come again.

  • Side-by-side comparisons for Australian Census

    June 28, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Australia Census explorer

    Last week, Australia released data for their 2011 Census. Small Multiples, in collaboration with Special Broadcasting Service, put the data to use and built an interactive that compares demographics based on primary language or location. Choose a language from the dropdown menu on both the left and right, and your selections are presented side-by-side. The graphics themselves are fairly straightforward, showing estimates of things like gender and household income, but the key is in the comparison, which provides a sense of scale to what would otherwise be a bunch of percentages.

  • Chart Chooser helps you choose charts

    June 25, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Chart Chooser

    There are a lot of charts to choose from, and if you pick the wrong one you'll end up communicating the wrong message or make it hard for others to read your data. Luckily, Juice Analytics has you covered with an interactive Chart Chooser, based on Andrew Abela's flowchart from a few years ago.

    There are toggle buttons on the top that let you filter based on what you're looking for, such as a trend or relationship. For example, if you select comparison, distribution, and composition, you're left with a bar chart. Don't care about distribution? You can also try a stacked bar chart.

    There is a second set of buttons that let you choose between Powerpoint or Excel. Once you find the appropriate chart type, you can download the template for the software you selected. Of course, if you're not an Office user, you can always just use it for the choice making.

  • Evolution of movie poster colors

    June 13, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Movie poster colors, the evolution

    We've seen a number of looks at movie poster cliches, but this is the first time I've seen how the color of movie posters have changed over time. Vijay Pandurangan downloaded 35,000 poster thumbnails from a movie site, counted the color pixels in each image, and then grouped them by year and sorted by hue.

    Some thoughts from Pandurangan's designer friend Cheryle Cranbourne:

    The movies whose posters I analysed "cover a good range of genres. Perhaps the colors say less about how movie posters' colors as a whole and color trends, than they do about how genres of movies have evolved. For example, there are more action/thriller/sci-fi [films] than there were 50-70 years ago, which might have something to do with the increase in darker, more 'masculine' shades.”

    There's no mention of the blanked out 1924. That must've been a sad year. Oh wait, there were movies during that year, so there was either a massive ink shortage or it's just missing data.

    [via @DataPointed]

  • When the world sleeps, based on Twitter activity

    June 11, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization

    Sleeping and Twitter

    Twitter engineers Miguel Rios and Jimmy Lin explored tweet volumes in different cities and found some interesting tidbits about how people use the service.

    We see different patterns of activity between the four cities. For example, waking/sleeping times are relatively constant throughout the year in Tokyo, but the other cities exhibit seasonal variations. We see that Japanese users' activities are concentrated in the evening, whereas in the other cities there is more usage during the day. In Istanbul, nights get shorter during August; Sao Paulo shows a time interval during the afternoon when Tweet volume goes down, and also longer nights during the entire year compared to the other three cities.

    Notice the break during Ramadan in Istanbul?

  • Even simple charts can tell a story

    May 26, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization  |  Kim Rees


    Regardless of your politics, this chart is a great example of how data can tell a story. It's a very simple graph by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life showing the changing attitudes about same-sex marriage. It shows that in the past couple of years, people have begun to be in favor of same-sex marriage.
    Continue Reading

  • The U.K. energy consumption guide

    May 21, 2012  |  Statistical Visualization  |  Kim Rees

    UK Energy

    I'm a sucker for anything cute and bubbly, and the U.K. Energy Consumption Guide created by Epiphany is no exception. It combines a vertical scrolling site with a lot of data visualization about different types of fuel and how they've been used historically. Most of the charts are solid and the interaction adds an even higher level of clarity and understanding.

    While I like this circle packing chart, I'm sure there will be doubters. It's very similar to McCandless' natural gas visualization that received a lot of flack. But generally speaking, anything that is engaging and welcoming garners a little extra time from the visitor to make sense of it.

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