• Looking For the Closest Casino

    Posted to Data Underload  |  Tags: ,

    The New York Times covered casinos in the Northeast and noted that more than half of the population is within 25 miles of a casino. Naturally, I wondered what it is like in other parts of the country, so I sampled uniformly across the United States looking for the nearest casino. The results are shown in the map above.

    Using the Google Places API, I took about 7,500 samples in twenty-mile increments, east to west and north to south. Of those samples, 36 percent of them are 25 miles or less from a casino.

    This is significantly lower than the Northeast's 50 percent mark, but keep in mind that the sample also includes uninhabited areas. Lots of deserts and mountains. So the national percentage for population is likely higher. After all, some 80 percent of the country's population lives in urban areas.

    However, it's tough to say what the actual percentage is based on this data. Google classifies places as casinos based on their own criteria, and not everything is an actual casino by a legal definition. For example, there's one Utah casino location in my sample, but gambling is illegal in the state, and there are no Indian reservation casinos. This particular place is a poker party business.

    So think estimate rather than concrete count.

    But, speaking of reservations, also of note: how this map coincides with Indian reservations, especially in the west.

    Indian reservations

    In any case, if you're in the mood to lose money, alongside a three-dollar prime rib dinner, it's likely you're not too far off.

  • Vector maps on the web with Mapbox GL

    Posted to Software  |  Tags: ,

    Online mapping just got an upgrade:

    Announcing Mapbox GL JS — a fast and powerful new system for web maps. Mapbox GL JS is a client-side renderer, so it uses JavaScript and WebGL to dynamically draw data with the speed and smoothness of a video game. Instead of fixing styles and zoom levels at the server level, Mapbox GL puts power in JavaScript, allowing for dynamic styling and freeform interactivity.

    For the non-developers: Online maps are typically stored pre-made on a server, in the form of a bunch of image files that are stitched together when you zoom in and out of a map. So developers have to periodically update the image files if they want their base maps to change. It's a hassle, which is why base maps often look similar. With Mapbox GL, making changes is easier because the development pipeline is shorter.

    More details on the JavaScript library here.

  • Mapping the spread of drought, nationally

    Posted to Mapping  |  Tags: ,

    Although California has perhaps had it the worst, drought also affects other states, mainly the southwestern ones. Mike Bostock and Kevin Quealy for the New York Times have been updating an animated map weekly. It shows the spread of drought severity, across the United States. But, be sure to scroll down to also see drought levels over time, shown as stacked area chart.

    See also: NPR drought tracking from a couple of years ago.

  • California drought in small multiples

    Posted to Visualization  |  Tags: , ,

    To show the increased levels of drought throughout the state of California, Kyle Kim and Thomas Suh Lauder for the LA Times showed weekly change in drought levels with 188 color-coded California maps. There's also an animated version, but why do that when you can scrollllll?

    A couple of years ago, the New York Times did something similar, but with a two-category color scale and on a national scale.

  • Geography.

    Posted to Mistaken Data  |  Tags: ,

    By way of David Kennerr, something in this CNN frame seems off.

  • Markov Chains explained visually

    Adding on to their series of graphics to explain statistical concepts, Victor Powell and Lewis Lehe use a set of interactives to describe Markov Chains. Even if you already know what Markov Chains are or use them regularly, you can use the full-screen version to enter your own set of transition probabilities. Then let the simulation run.

    Nice. Should be especially useful for educators.

  • Where People Work and How Much They Make

    Posted to Data Underload  |  Tags: , , , ,

    One of the things that drew me into Statistics is that you can apply it to a variety of fields, and in recent years, more industries hire in-house statisticians (or other varietals of data scientist and analyst). You can work in different industries with the same educational background.

    However, the salaries can vary a lot between industries, which made me curious. How does salary vary across industries for other occupations? Here is an interactive to help you see, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for jobs in 2013. Search for your own occupation or browse random ones to see the changes and differences.
     Continue Reading 

  • Accessible Web visuals and code with p5.js

    Posted to Coding  |  Tags: ,

    Visualization on the Web can be tricky for those unfamiliar with code. The new JavaScript library p5.js, developed by Lauren McCarthy and collaborators, aims to make your first steps easier and less painful.

    Using the original metaphor of a software sketchbook, p5.js has a full set of drawing functionality. However, you're not limited to your drawing canvas, you can think of your whole browser page as your sketch! For this, p5.js has addon libraries that make it easy to interact with other HTML5 objects, including text, input, video, webcam, and sound.

    The library follows some of the same philosophy as Processing — that is, straightforward to get up and running — and reimagines the implementation and approach for recent web technology. Even if you're not into programming, it's worth visiting if just to watch, listen, and interact with Dan Shiffman as he enthusiastically talks about the library.

  • Wi-Fi strength revealed in physical space

    Posted to Data Art  |  Tags:

    Digital Ethereal is a project that explores wireless, making what's typically invisible visible and tangible. In the piece above, a handheld sensor is used to detect the strength of Wi-Fi signal from a personal hotspot. A person waves the sensor around the area, and long-exposure photography captures the patterns.

    Reminds me of the Immaterials project from a while back, which used a light stick to represent signal strength rather than a signal light.

  • Visual Microphone estimates sound from vibrations in objects

    Posted to Statistics  |  Tags: ,

    A group of researchers from MIT, Microsoft Research, and Adobe Research are experimenting with seemingly inanimate objects as a proxy for sound in the vicinity. They call it the Visual Microphone.

    When sound hits an object, it causes small vibrations of the object's surface. We show how, using only high-speed video of the object, we can extract those minute vibrations and partially recover the sound that produced them, allowing us to turn everyday objects—a glass of water, a potted plant, a box of tissues, or a bag of chips—into visual microphones.

    See the demo in the video above. It's impressive. It's also great that there's another use for high speed video other than watching water balloons pop and guns fire on the Discovery Channel.

    Find more details on the project here.

  • Google Doodle Venn diagram

    Posted to Visualization  |  Tags: , ,

    In celebration of John Venn's 180th birthday, today's Google Doodle produces a Venn diagram with the two O's in Google's name. Click the play button for a little bit of entertainment.

    For more Venn fun, see also Muppet name etymology, the Venn pie-agram, and what makes a platypus playing a keytar.

  • Cultural history via where notable people died

    Posted to Mapping  |  Tags: , ,

    A group of researchers used where "notable individuals" were born and place of death, based on data from Freebase, as a lens into culture history. The video explainer below shows some results:

    From Nature:

    The team used those data to create a movie that starts in 600 bc and ends in 2012. Each person's birth place appears on a map of the world as a blue dot and their death as a red dot. The result is a way to visualize cultural history — as a city becomes more important, more notable people die there.

    Before you jump to too many conclusions, keep in mind where the data comes from. Freebase is kind of like Wikipedia for data, so you get cultural bias towards the United States and Europe. There are fewer data points just about everywhere else.

    Therefore, avoid the inclination to think that such and such city or country looks unimportant, focus on the data that's there and compare to what else is in the vicinity. From this angle, this is interesting stuff. [Science via Nature | Thanks, Mauro]

  • Mathematically correct bagel

    Posted to Miscellaneous  |  Tags:

    I don't know about you, but I like my bagel as two roughly cut, congruent linked halves. I usually use a fork, aluminum foil, and some duct tape. No more. George Hart demonstrates a better way to do it. It's a good thing too, because I was running low on duct tape.

  • This is Statistics

    Posted to Statistics  |  Tags: ,

    Statistics has an image problem. To the general public, it's old, out of touch, and boring. It's a problem because we place stock in a younger generation who we (1) want to be more data literate and (2) eventually lead the way, or at least participate, in all data-related realms. It's beneficial for everyone.

    This is Statistics is a new push by the American Statistical Association to provide a new perspective that doesn't dwell on sheets of equations.

    From the about:

    We want students and parents to have a better understanding of a field that is often unknown or misunderstood. Statistics is not just a collection of numbers or formulas. It's not just lines, bars or points on a graph. It's not just computing. Statistics is so much more. It's an exciting—even fun—way of looking at the world and gaining insights through a scientific approach that rewards creative thinking.

    In brief: Statistics is not lame.

    If you're reading this, you already know the benefits of learning statistics, but for those who question, at least you have somewhere to send them.

    When I told my parents that I wanted to go to graduate school for statistics, they were concerned. They never pushed me in any direction career-wise, just as long as I tried my best and enjoyed what I did. But, this was the one time they sat me down for a talk.

    Was I sure about this statistics thing? What do people do after? Was I pursuing statistics for the right reasons? It's so much easier to answer those questions now than it was ten years ago. I mean, careers in data are in the news all the time now. I'm glad the ASA is working on making the statistics portion of the data push more obvious.

  • Network visualization game to understand how a disease spreads

    Posted to Network Visualization  |  Tags: ,

    Vax, a game by Ellsworth Campbell and Isaac Bromley, explores how a disease spreads through a network, starting with just one infected person. It's a simple concept that works well.

    When you start the game, you have a network of uninfected people. The more connected a person is, the more chances that person can infect others upon his or her own infection. Your goal is to strategically administer a limited supply of vaccinations and to quarantine people to prevent as many infections as you can.

    Fun and educational. Woo.

  • Explorations of People Movements

    Posted to Mapping  |  Tags: , , ,

    In 2010, I surveyed visual explorations of traffic, and it was all about how cars, planes, trains, and ships moved about their respective landscapes. It was implied that the moving things had people in them, but the focus was mostly on the things themselves. Location data was a byproduct of the need of vehicles to get from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible.

    Airplanes floated across the sky. Cabs left ghostly trails in the city. The visualization projects were, and still are, impressive.

    However, around the same time, it was growing more common for people to carry phones with GPS capability and these days, it's commonplace in areas where most people use smartphones. This new data source gave rise to similar but different visualization projects that were more granular.

    We see people. Movements.
     Continue Reading 

  • Civilian casualties in Gaza

    Posted to Infographics  |  Tags: , , ,

    Lazaro Gamio and Richard Johnson for the Washington Post cover civilian deaths in the recent Gaza conflict, namely child civilians. Red icons represent children.

    Similar to a previous piece on the death penalty in the United States, the icons provide more focus on individuals while maintaining a zoomed out view of the situation. However, this piece brings an interactive component that shows deaths over time and more information in tooltips on the mouseover.

  • How well we don’t understand probability

    Posted to Statistics  |  Tags: ,

    All Things Considered on NPR ran a fine series on how we interpret probability and uncertainty. It came in five bits (plus one follow-up), each five to ten minutes long. They explore explanations of risk in different areas such as national security, health, and the daily weather and how people interpret the numbers and words.

    A recurring theme was experts who use alternative descriptions for the seemingly concrete numbers.

    Doctors, including Leigh Simmons, typically prefer words. Simmons is an internist and part of a group practice that provides primary care at Mass General. "As doctors we tend to often use words like, 'very small risk,' 'very unlikely,' 'very rare,' 'very likely,' 'high risk,' " she says.

    Not that words always makes understanding numeric probability easier. From the social scientist for the National Weather Service:

    And it's not just a numbers game — words used to describe weather can be just as confusing. Take "watch" and "warning," for example.

    "'Watch' means that conditions are ripe for something to happen. 'Warning' means that it is happening — it is imminent," Brown says. "It's easy to get them confused."

    Both the doctor and the social scientist agree that a combination of numbers, words, and a visual explanation could be the best route.

    Some people think we should forgo trying to explain uncertainty to a general public that doesn't understand, but the rejectors themselves don't recognize the importance. Just because you don't understand something doesn't mean you should ignore it.

    Listen to the full series. [via Dart-Throwing Chimp]

  • Too many numbers

    Posted to Miscellaneous  |  Tags:

    Numbers is a short film by Robert Hloz where some people see numbers appear above others' heads. What the numbers are varies by the person with the ability, and it turns out knowing can be a blessing and a curse. Worth your nine and a half minutes of undivided attention:

  • A decade of Yelp review trends

    Posted to Statistical Visualization  |  Tags: ,

    Yelp released an amusing tool that lets you see how the use of word in reviews has changed over the site's decade of existence.

    From food trends to popular slang to short-lived beauty fads (Brazilian blowout anyone?), Yelp Trends searches through words used in Yelp reviews to show you what's hot and reveals the trend-setting cities that kicked it all off. Our massive wealth of data and the high quality reviews contributed by the Yelp community are what allow us to surface consumer trends and behavior based on ten years of experiences shared by locals around the world.

    Just type in keywords, select your city, business category, and click the search button to see the changes. For the less used words, the data looks mostly like noise, but there are also some clear trends like in craft beer and chicken and waffles.