• 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.

  • Senator John Walsh plagiarism, color-coded

    Posted to Infographics  |  Tags: ,

    John Walsh, the U.S. Senator from Montana, is in the news lately for plagiarizing a large portion of his final paper towards his master's degree. The New York Times highlighted the portions that Walsh copied without attribution (red) and the portions he copied with improper attribution (yellow). About a third of the paper was just straight up lifted from others' works, including the final recommendations and conclusion, which is basically the grand finale.

    See also: Visualizing Plagiarism by Gregor Aisch, which shows the plagiarized PhD thesis of Germany's former Minister of Defense.

  • A more visual world data portal

    Posted to Data Sources  |  Tags: , ,

    One of the most annoying parts of downloading data from large portals is that you never quite know what you're gonna get. It's a box of chocolates. It's government data sites. It's lists of datasets with vague or unhelpful titles with links to download. Of course, I'd rather have a hodgepodge than nothing at all, but as with most things, there's room for improvement.

    The OECD, which maintains and provides data on the country level, takes steps towards a more helpful portal that makes data grabs less of a headache. With the help of Raureif, 9elements, and Moritz Stefaner, the new portal is still in beta, but there's plenty to like.
     Continue Reading 

  • How to Make an Interactive Treemap

    Posted to Tutorials  |  Tags: ,

    Treemaps are useful to view and explore hierarchical data. Interaction can help you look at the data in greater detail.
     Continue Reading 

  • Large-ish data packages in R

    Posted to Data Sources  |  Tags: ,

    If you've played around with R enough, there comes a time when you just need some data to mess around with. Maybe it's to learn a new method or to make one of your own. R offers some small-ish, clean datasets to poke at, but sometimes you need bigger, messier data. Hadley Wickham from RStudio released four popular large-ish datasets in package form to help you with that.

    I've released four new data packages to CRAN: babynames, fueleconomy, nasaweather and nycflights13. The goal of these packages is to provide some interesting, and relatively large, datasets to demonstrate various data analysis challenges in R. The package source code (on github, linked above) is fully reproducible so that you can see some data tidying in action, or make your own modifications to the data.

    Good.

  • Editing photos as if they were audio files

    Posted to Data Art  |  Tags: ,

    Masuma Ahuja and Denise Lu for the Washington Post applied a technique called databending to a bunch of photos. The idea is that computer files — even though they represent different things like documents, images, and audio — encode data in one form or another. It's just that sound files encode beats, notes, and rhythms, whereas image files encode hue, saturation, and brightness. So when you treat image files as if they were audio, you get some interesting results.

    See Jamie Boulton's post from a couple of years ago for a detailed description on how to do this yourself with Audacity Effects.

  • Voter approval rates as butt plugs

    Posted to Data Art  |  Tags: ,

    From a couple of years ago, but still relevant, I think. Matthew Epler took candidate approval ratings (again, this is from a little while ago), tossed them in a 3-D program, made the molds to match, and poured in some silicon. Boom. Butt plugs that represent data. It's called Grand Old Party.

    Epler describes his project best:

    Grand Old Party demonstrates that as a people united, our opinion has real volume. When we approve of a candidate, they swell with power. When we deem them unworthy, they are diminished and left hanging in the wind. We guard the gate! It opens and closes at our will. How wide is up to us.

    So true.

  • Misery index based on perceived temperature

    Posted to Mapping  |  Tags: , ,

    Late last year, Cameron Beccario made a wind map for earth, inspired by an earlier work by Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg. Beccario has been slowly adding overlays to the piece to show more dimensions of weather data around the world. The most recent overlay is what he calls a Misery Index, which is based on perceived air temperature.

    If you've seen the interactive globe already, it's worth revisiting. Click on the earth label on the bottom left to see the new stuff.

  • You get a personal data site, and you get one, and you too

    Posted to Self-surveillance  |  Tags:

    Personal data collection keeps getting easier and more efficient. Much of what was manual or clunky a few years ago is now automatic, done via the phone we carry every day anyway. More recently, personal data is finding a way out of the closed networks and applications and on to our own computers and servers.

    Anand Sharma's personal site is the newest example of what an individual can do with his or her own data. On a whim a few months ago, Sharma downloaded the Moves app, which tracks your location, and was hooked. Then with some design inspiration from Tony Stark, Sharma put a site together to show a feed a several aspects of his life, mostly tracked with his phone.
     Continue Reading 

  • Flights around Ukraine

    Posted to Mapping  |  Tags: ,

    The New York Times is covering Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with a series of maps. The ones above show a sample of recent flights in the area. Some airlines, such as British Airways and Air France show a clear path around Ukraine, whereas others take a more direct route.