• June 8, 2022

    There are thousands of satellites that orbit Earth, with about half of them launched in the past three years. Financial Times shows why that’s a problem in a scrolling piece through space debris:

    In 1978, Nasa astrophysicist Donald J Kessler outlined a theory of what would happen if space traffic continues to grow and collisions occur. The debris created by those collisions would skitter off into the paths of other satellites, creating yet more debris.

    Over time, Kessler argued, a chain reaction of cascading collisions could one day make low Earth orbit hard to access and even prevent manned spaceflight from leaving Earth: a phenomenon since labelled the “Kessler syndrome”.

  • June 8, 2022

    Karim Douïeb, in collaboration with Possible, mapped noise in Paris, New York, and London. The color on each map represents noise level, and if you have your sound on, you can mouse over areas to hear what noise might be like. The project, Noisy Cities, is an adaptation of Douïeb’s previous map of Brussels.

    You get a good idea of what noise pollution is like geographically. All it needs now is a machine to blow varying levels of smog in your face.

    Also something new I learned: the Department of Transportation has a transportation noise map that shows modeled noise levels nationally.

  • Commonness of Divorce in America

    I wondered how common it is for someone to get a divorce. While I’ve touched on the topic before, I’ve never calculated it directly, so I gave it a go.

  • June 6, 2022

    Eli Holder shows how he split his freelance time across various projects and categories. With visualization work, a lot of your time is spent doing non-visualization things:

    As expected, at 16 percent, data wrangling and analysis takes a significant chunk of total time. This includes data prep, which I’ve categorized as fairly mindless data engineering or spreadsheet maneuvering (nine percent) or data pulls (three percent). More interesting data work was more fragmented: ~two percent of the time was exploratory analysis (e.g., for storytelling), ~one percent of the time was spent designing metrics (e.g., exploring different calculations that might best tell a given story) and another one percent was creating mock datasets (e.g., to compensate for data security constraints or clients who are slow to provide real data).

    I don’t track my time with FlowingData, but if I were to guess, I spend at least half my time on analysis and wrangling. If you consider the many potential visualization projects that I scrapped because nothing panned out in analysis, that analysis/wrangling percentage goes up a lot more.

    Sometimes you gotta dig a lot before you find anything worth showing.

  • June 6, 2022

    Hannah Fry works with statistics and risk, but her perspective changed when she was diagnosed with cancer. Fry documented the experience and it’s available on BBC:

    Hannah Fry, a professor of maths, is used to investigating the world around her through numbers. When she’s diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 36, she starts to interrogate the way we diagnose and treat cancer by digging into the statistics to ask whether we are making the right choices in how we treat this disease. Are we sometimes too quick to screen and treat cancer? Do doctors always speak to us honestly about the subject? It may seem like a dangerous question to ask, but are we at risk of overmedicalising cancer?

    At the same time, Hannah records her own cancer journey in raw and emotional personal footage, where the realities of life after a cancer diagnosis are laid bare.

    You can only watch the film in the UK for now, but she spoke about the topic on the Numberphile podcast. Worth a listen.

  • June 3, 2022

    With gas prices a lot higher than usual, Júlia Ledur, Leslie Shapiro, and N. Kirkpatrick, for The Washington Post, provide a calculator to see how much more your road trip will cost in the United States. Just put in your starting point, destination, and the type of car you drive.

    Going the other direction, they also show how far you could go today on a 2019 budget with a handful of popular road trips. You’d kind of get stuck in the middle of nowhere.

    I don’t drive much these days, but driving down Interstate 5 in California this past weekend had me feeling thankful that I didn’t buy that SUV in 2016.

  • Members Only
    June 2, 2022


    The Process  / 

    Answer the questions. Produce more focused and useful charts.

  • June 2, 2022

    Vox, in collaboration with The Pudding, looked at what happens when a song goes viral on TikTok. It heads down the TikTok-to-Spotify pipeline, which signals money to be made and draws labels to take advantage.

  • June 2, 2022

    Matthew Crump, a psychology professor who discovered high volume cheating in his class via WhatsApp, outlines the saga in five parts. Bonus points for use of R to analyze the evidence:

    I do a lot of teaching on using computational tools for reproducible data analysis. I can input some data and run it through a script for analysis. When the data changes I can run it through the same script and get the new analysis. The chat archive had changed and this time it was easier to do the analysis all over again. I redid all the counts of academic integrity violations and rewrote the forms spelling out sanctions for each student. So many forms, I died a little inside once for every form.

  • There are baby formula shortages in the United States. A criticism from some who don’t know what they’re talking about are for parents to “just” breastfeed. Alyssa Rosenberg for Washington Post Opinion discusses the challenges behind that from a time perspective:

    Even in the best-case scenario, breastfeeding isn’t free. It costs money for the supplies that keep a nursing mother comfortable and healthy enough to keep producing milk. And it costs time. I can show you exactly how much time, because I used an app to track every minute I spent nursing and pumping over the first six months of my son’s life.

    She then translates the many hours spent into dollars, based on your salary.

  • May 31, 2022


    Maps  /  , , ,

    To estimate public interest in the many political issues across the United States, Axios used Google Trends data to map issues by congressional district. Switch between the many topics, and you see a choropleth map (that can change to a cartogram), along with a barcode chart to show the distribution of interest among all districts.

    I’m not sure if it’s that beneficial to see the overall geographic distributions for most topics, but it’s useful as a point of reference to look at specific districts. For me, the barcode chart is the most interesting with the distributions shifting quite a bit from topic to topic.

  • May 30, 2022

    In election reporting, there’s a gap between real-time results and final results, so news orgs use statistical models to show where results appear to be headed. For The Washington Post, Adrian Blanco and Artur Galocha explain the basic concepts behind their model, using a fictional state called Voteland.

  • May 27, 2022

    RJ Andrews digs up the PC archives of charting software. Scrolling through the thread, you can see the roots of Excel in the software that pre-dates the 1987 Windows release, along with what was considered nice back in the day. In many ways, such as in the interface, features, and chart types, things haven’t changed that much over the past few decades.

  • Members Only
    May 26, 2022


    The Process  / 

    Here’s the good stuff for May.

  • Deaths by Firearm, Compared Against Injury-Related Deaths

    Among 1- to 19-year-olds, regulations decreased motor vehicle deaths, but deaths by firearms increased and became the leading mechanism in 2018.

  • May 25, 2022

    This chart from The New York Times, based on estimates from Our World In Data and World Bank, shows GDP per capita against gun homicide rates. The United States stands alone. Why.

  • The Washington Post maintains a database of school shootings (which is sad in itself that such a thing has to exist) to keep record of tragedy that the U.S. government does not track. They calculated the number of kids since Columbine who were exposed to such terrible events:

    The Washington Post spent a year determining how many children have been affected by school shootings, beyond just those killed or injured. To do that, reporters attempted to identify every act of gunfire at a primary or secondary school during school hours since the Columbine High massacre on April 20, 1999. Using Nexis, news articles, open-source databases, law enforcement reports, information from school websites and calls to schools and police departments, The Post reviewed more than 1,000 alleged incidents but counted only those that happened on campuses immediately before, during or just after classes.

    The events are terrible when they happen, and they go on to affect thousands of others for a lifetime — kids who were just going on with their daily activities.

  • May 25, 2022

    Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer, for NYT Opinion, approached the one-million mark for Covid deaths with text messages. The piece starts on February 29, 2020, when the first person died because of Covid. The count to 1 million begins, and a recurring ticker reminds you of the increase over time. Thirteen text message threads between someone who died and a person who cared remind you that the numbers are real.

  • May 24, 2022


    Maps  /  , ,

    The war in Ukraine continues, but the scale and objects appear to have changed over time. Josh Holder, Marco Hernandez, and Jon Huang for The New York Times mapped the shrinking scope as Russia loses more soldiers and resources.

  • May 24, 2022

    Cindermedusae by Marcin Ignac is “a generative encyclopedia of imaginary sea creatures.” I’m into the aesthetic.