• Brief history of data visualization

    Shawn Allen of Stamen Design provides a brief history of data visualization, starting with William Playfair's charts in the late 1700s and William Smith's map sketch of Britain, up to the more recent works from The New York Times, Martin Wattenberg, and Ben Fry.

    This leads into a description of what data is, from a practical point of view, as the writeup is actually an introduction for Allen's visualisation course at the School of Visual Arts. Totally looks like a course I wish I could've taken in grad school.

  • Afghanistan war logs revealed and mapped

    This past Sunday, well-known whistle-blower site Wikileaks released over 91,000 secret US military reports, covering the war in Afghanistan. Each report contains the time, geographic location, and details of an event the US military thought was important enough to put on paper.
    Continue Reading

  • Where all the BP oil could end up

    Now that the oil flow has finally stopped, for now, the attention has shifted to the effects all that oil will have on wildlife and the ecosystem. Chris Wilson for Slate reports on where all of that BP oil could end up during the next 130 days, based on modeling data from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. These models are based on how water flows in different areas of the Gulf.

    Three scenarios are presented. All end up with oil leaving the Gulf.

    Of course, these are all approximations, and the models can't possibly account for all the factors that play into oil drift (e.g. biological degradation of the oil), but it's an educated guess, so take it at that. Wherever all the oil ends up, one thing is for sure. There's still a lot of cleanup left to do.

  • Military budget contextualized with CGI tanks

    It's no secret. The US military gets a lot of funding for manpower, weapons, equipment, security, so and so forth. Do you know how much money they'll have received come end of this year? I could tell you how many billions of dollars they get, or go the other way, and contextualize it by telling you what you could buy with that money - like the number of mosquito nets or pounds of food for the homeless.

    Moustache, a design and direction studio, goes with the context option in their short CGI video Softwar. Thousands of tanks are piled on top of each other to show just how much the military budget can buy.
    Continue Reading

  • Sorting algorithms visualized

    This will be lost on many of you, but to the programmers this will make perfect sense. Basically, when programming, there are a lot of times when you have a long list of numbers or words that you'll want sorted greatest to least or alphabetically. The way this is done will vary by what algorithm you use. Aldo Cortesi visualizes these sorting algorithms, showing just how each one works.

    If you're confused but still interested, here's a simple example.

    Let's say you have a list of numbers from one to five listed as such: 4, 20, 6, 12, 100. We want to organize these systematically least to greatest. The easiest way would be to setup five "spots" and then go through each number, starting at the beginning, and decide if the number is bigger or smaller than the number we already looked at. That's not the most efficient way to do it though, and when you have millions of numbers to sort, instead of just five, then efficiency matters.

    [Thanks, Marlena]

  • Exploration of our aging world

    From Ben Fry's newly established Fathom Information Design, is a visualization for GE on our aging world:

    According to the United Nations, the elderly population of the world is growing at its fastest rate ever. By 2050, there will be more than 2 billion people aged 60 or over. The age of a country's population can reveal insights about that country's history, and can provide a glimpse towards the economic and healthcare trends that will challenge their societies in the future.

    The piece is a simple but elegant interactive that lets you compare age distributions between countries, over time. Select one country on the top, and select another on the bottom. For each country, you get a pair of stacked bars (for men and women). Age moves left to right, so the left-most bars represent the youngest, and the right most represent the oldest.

    Use the slider on the bottom to navigate through time, and the distributions shift further right (i.e. people live longer) in a wave-like motion, as the population of each respective country increases.

    Finally, watch a composite of all eight selected countries in the bottom right.

    The one thing missing for me is the percentages for each age/gender group as you roll over each bar. But I'm just being picky. Really good stuff. The interactive leaves it up to you to see what's going on in the data.

    How does your country compare to others?

  • Field guide to typographic moustaches

    Sure, why not, let's make it a hairy Friday. From Tor Weeks: a series of moustaches styled by their typographic counterpart, aka typestaches. The big and bold typefaces like Federal and Wide Latin get thick and burly moustaches, while the more delicate typefaces, get thin and curvy.

    If only facial hair were as easy to select as fonts. I'd get myself a 24pt Mr. Century Ultra.

    Grab a print for yourself here.

    [via kottke]

  • History of The Beatles as told by their hair

    The Beatles were famously known for their mop-top haircuts in the early 1960s, but their styles evolved over time. DeviantArt user mozzarellapoppy has a look at the hair, moustache, and spectacle changes over an eight-year span. Watch as they slowly morph into The Bee Gees.

    [via Alison]

  • 7 Basic Rules for Making Charts and Graphs

    July 22 2010  |  Design  |  Tags:

    Charts and graphs have found their way into news, presentations, and comics, with users from art to design to statistics. The design principles for these data graphics will vary depending on what you're using it for. Making something for a presentation? You'll want to keep it extremely simple and avoid using a lot of text. Designing a graphic for a newspaper? You'll have to deal with size constraints and try to explain the important parts of your graphic.

    However, whatever you're making your charts and graphs for, whether it be for a report, an infographic online, or a piece of data art, there are a few basic rules that you should follow.

    There's wiggle room with all of them, and you should think of what follows as more of a framework than a hard set of rules, but this is a good place to start for those just getting into data graphics.
    Continue Reading

  • Tardiness solves statistics theorems

    Yeah, you read that right. Tardiness makes the world go 'round:

    One day in 1939, Berkeley doctoral candidate George Dantzig arrived late for a statistics class taught by Jerzy Neyman. He copied down the two problems on the blackboard and turned them in a few days later, apologizing for the delay — he’d found them unusually difficult. Distracted, Neyman told him to leave his homework on the desk.

    On a Sunday morning six weeks later, Neyman banged on Dantzig’s door. The problems that Dantzig had assumed were homework were actually unproved statistical theorems that Neyman had been discussing with the class — and Dantzig had proved both of them. Both were eventually published, with Dantzig as coauthor.

    Other benefits include more hours of sleep, exercise while power-walking to your destination, and all-around warm, fuzzy feelings knowing that you live by nobody's schedule. You might also supposedly inspire films like Good Will Hunting.

    Who knew?

    [via Bobulate]

  • Global forest heights mapped in detail by NASA

    NASA has mapped the world's forest heights, based on satellite data, for a first-of-its-kind global view. While there are plenty of maps that show forest height regionally and locally, this is the first time it's been mapped globally with a single, uniform method.

    The new map shows the world’s tallest forests clustered in the Pacific Northwest of North America and portions of Southeast Asia, while shorter forests are found in broad swaths across northern Canada and Eurasia. The map depicts average height over 5 square kilometers (1.9 square miles) regions), not the maximum heights that any one tree or small patch of trees might attain.

    These heights range from 0 to 70 meters. The darker the green the higher the tree canopies.

    NASA believes the new map could help scientists with a new perspective on how much carbon forests store and more insight on carbon cycles within ecosystems.

    Click through to NASA for the high-res version.

    [via Boing Boing]

  • Investigation of top secret America

    In response to the the 9/11 attacks, the United States government created a highly secretive set of organizations with zero transparency and very little oversight. How much money do these secret programs cost? How many people do they employ? The Washington Post reports on Top Secret America:

    These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

    The series of articles, video, and graphics, allow readers to explore the information themselves.

    Of main interest: a network diagram shows organizations and their top secret activities and a map shows the geographic distribution of government organizations and companies within Top Secret America.

    Click on a specific organization for within group breakdowns. At this point it gets a little confusing with drill-down pie charts, especially if you're just browsing, and a spiral view is also offerred which feels extraneous. The overall story and heavy research, however, makes it worth clicking through the clunky at times set of interactives.

    [Thanks, Erika]

  • Citizen’s guide to fancy pants coffee drinks

    In the same spirit of the original coffee drink infographic from a few years ago, Plaid Creative describes the perfect pour, or as I like to call it, the citizen's guide to fancy pants coffee drinks. At its root, its a series of pie charts where each wedge represents the percentage of ingredient in a given fancy pants drink. But the subtle stylings make it look so much more delicious, from the pattern fills out to the mug-like border.

    [via thisisnthappiness]

  • Periodic table of swearing

    I know you secretly love all information in periodic tables. It's okay, you can laugh. I won't tell anyone. In the latest to the ever-growing list of non-element tables, Modern Toss has a look at all the lovely four-letter words and expressive phrases at your disposal.

    [via Boing Boing]

  • Maps that changed the world

    Peter Barber, head of Map Collections at the British Library reports for the The Daily Mail ten of the greatest maps that changed the world. The number one listed (above) is Be On Guard! from 1921:

    The infant USSR was threatened with invasion, famine and social unrest. To counter this, brilliant designers such as Dimitri Moor were employed to create pro-Bolshevik propaganda.

    Using a map of European Russia and its neighbours, Moor's image of a heroic Bolshevik guard defeating the invading 'Whites' helped define the Soviet Union in the Russian popular imagination.

    Others include Google Earth, Charles Booth's map of London poverty, and the earliest known Chinese terrestrial globe from 1623.

    [via @krees]

  • Path to happiness gets complicated and confusing

    Just when you thought the path to lifelong happiness was uber simple and you had it all figured out, someone slaps you in the face and complicates things. The nerve. [Thanks, Dustin]

  • Federal CTO on government and data

    Tim O'Reilly and Aneesh Chopra, Federal Chief Technology Officer sit down for a chat on the US government's goals on open data and information accessibility. Disregard the infomercial feel to it. There's some interesting tidbits in there, albeit pretty broad.

    Uses for data

    Chopra brings up two examples on how the government is getting involved, and what's interesting about them is that it's not what most have in mind. It's not about money matters or policy-making.
    Continue Reading

  • Gapminder makes its way to the desktop

    You've seen the presentation. You've seen the motion graph tool. But up until now, the data exploration tool, Trendalyzer, has always been in the browser. Now you can download the desktop version, and keep everything on your own computer with Gapminder Desktop:

    Gapminder Desktop is particularly useful for presentations as it allows you to prepare your graphs in advance and you won’t need an Internet connection at your lecture or presentation.

    In the "list of graphs" you will get at preset list of graphs on the left side, but you can also very easily create your own favorite examples. Simply arrange the graph the way you want it and click “bookmark this graph”. Your example will the appear in your own list of favorite graphs. Perfect when you want to prepare a lecture or presentation.

    Basically, it's the exact same thing as the online version as an Adobe Air application, which is handy for all you motion graph fans out there.
    Continue Reading

  • How data travels from phone to computer

    Time Warner Cable explains how a picture travels from Jeff's phone to Vijay's laptop. Obviously it is a bit simplified. I spent a full semester on step four alone back in my electrical engineering days, and still don't know what the heck happens there. That was a rough semester.

  • Best of FlowingData – June 2010

    Thanks again, everyone for your retweets, likes, and stumbles. Every little bit helps FlowingData reach a wider audience. I still have some stickers left, in case you want to flaunt your data love. Those who already ordered should have gotten or will be getting your stickers soon. I have one batch left to mail out tomorrow.

    In case you missed them, here are the most popular posts from June.

    1. Glasses: the ultimate image changer
    2. Do Movie Sequels Live Up to Their Originals?
    3. Imported World Cup players
    4. Evolution of the World Cup ball
    5. Meet iPad's competition
    6. How to beat Mario Brothers 3 in 11 minutes
    7. History of the United States in a circle
    8. Interactive World Cup schedule
    9. Context to underwater depths
    10. Where Americans are moving

    From the Forums

    Like I said, I'm in the dissertation city right now, so if you've got a visualization question, I highly suggest post it to the FlowingData forums over emailing me, for the next few months. It's where all the cool people hang out. Here are some goodies from the past month.