The Connected States of America
Are our borders really the edges of our communities? The “internet guy” in me says “of course not” but that doesn’t really take into account how much of our day-to-day interaction takes place in geographical meatspace. But on the other hand, many of America’s state borders are very arbitrary delineations of latitude or since-bridged rivers, so how meaningful are they in 2013, really?
What would our borders and communities look like if we looked at other data, like phone calls? At Krulwich Wonders…, Robert Krulwich has taken a look at a couple of alternate “neighborhoods”.
The photo above was assembled from anonymous mobile phone data by MIT’s Xiaoji Chen, and it which regions call each other the most often. Anyone who’s been to my neck of the woods in Austin knows that Texans don’t call people in Oklahoma much (or College Station, for that matter), and the NorCal/SoCal split shows that the differences there go beyond suntans and dotcoms. And people in the Plains apparently just want to call anyone they can that doesn’t live in the Plains.
“What’s it like out there? Just grass here.”
Check out the rest of Robert’s post for more phone fun, plus a little look at how (not) far our money travels (and what that says about us).
After analyzing data on the diversity of notes and timbres in music from the 1960’s to today (part of the Million Song Dataset), Spanish scientists show that music has gotten more homogenous in the past few decades.
So, maybe not better, but same-er.
The Olympics bring us together, all nations equal on the stage of athletics.
But after the torch is extinguished, inequalities return. Here they are visualized by the Olympic rings, by Oceaniaeuropeamericaasiaafrica.
You go about your business, checking your bank balance, buying Farmville tokens (or whatever it is that people buy in Farmville, maybe hay?), maybe you buy a shirt on Threadless, some new artisan cocktail bitters on Fab (I just got some), and that book from your wish list on Amazon that you probably won’t have time to read but at least now it’s on your bookshelf. All the while putting sensitive, possibly damaging information in the hands of a little security icon in the corner of your browser. Encryption.
So how tough would it be for someone to intercept your data, encrypted with today’s SSL algorithms? Well, the newest 2048-bit “keys” are so complex, that a normal desktop computer would need to work for 6.4 quadrillion years in order to crack the code.
In other words, almost 500,000 times longer than the age of the universe. Of course, that says nothing about getting your password stolen from the inside, like the fiasco that recently happened with Yahoo, but it sounds like the transmitted data itself will be safe until Earth is a cold block of ice consumed by a dead star.
Into infographics? They got one of those here. There’s a full explanation of the math behind the encryption at the link up top for you data geeks.
When you use an app with location services enabled, you are adding a very valuable layer of data onto your already very valuable social network/targeted advertising profile. When location checkins on Facebook are crossed with the political affiliation of the user, what we get is a blue/red map of stunningly fine resolution. I bet you could go down to the county or below just using Tweets and Facebook activity.
I don’t think people should necessarily be afraid of what they are sharing, but always keep in mind that when you check in you aren’t merely telling a few friends where you’re eating tacos. You’re feeding the data machine delicious tidbits about everything that you’re made of.
In this new video from RSA Animate, Microsoft’s Manuel Lima talks about our human desire for order, simplification and organization. How does this desire fit into our modern, hugely complex world?
The tree will no longer do as a model. THe animation has some neat ideas on what could take its place.
After you watch that, check out the rest of this Big Think article, where they offer the idea that certain fractals could be a sort of “universal pattern” for organization. But maybe that’s just what our brains are wired to think.
Dutch design firm CLEVER˚FRANKE puts together a weather visualization annually. This year, they looked at how people’s feelings about the weather on social networks compared to the weather itself.
The result is this amazingly intricate weather wheel (full PDF report here, with more data). Dutch people are mostly negative about their weather, and sunshine correlates with positive feelings, unsurprisingly.
FatFonts: A Font To Present Numerical Data in Typographical Scale
The characters we use for numbers are pretty arbitrary when you think about it. If 1 is so much smaller than 7, then why do they take up almost the same area?
FatFonts (download here) is a concept to remedy that. Each number has been drawn to occupy an area proportional to its value. In other words, the area of 4 is half the area of 8, and so on.
More complex numbers are nested within each other at the same ratios. It should be a pretty cool tool for data visualizations, like this converted topographical map of Sicily (zoom in here):