I'm Drew Breunig and I obsess about technology, media, language, and culture. I live in New York, studied anthropology, and lead strategy at PlaceIQ.

These are reactions to things I feel are important.


Posts tagged visualization

The 2nd most controversial English Wikipedia page is “Anarchism.” (Via The Economist)

The above timeline of American atomic bomb tests, from a 1975 Scientific American article written by Herbert York and annotated by Alex Wellerstein, excellently communicates the huge difference in destructive power between fission and fusion bombs. Compare Mike, the first fusion bomb, to the hybrid approaches Item and George, which were stellar yields for their day.

Expressing the destructive power of a fusion bomb is a hard task. The average audience has no benchmark experiences with which to compare the yield of a bomb. Additionally, the challenge in telling the story of the fusion bomb is not only to show its hugeness, but to express the unprecedented nature of its size. Mike was an explosion without compare that shocked all involved.

Scientific American’s visualization is good, but my favorite entrant is the following passage from John McPhee’s examination of our nuclear history The Curve of Binding Energy in which he describes the Mike test:

Mike was placed in a building with metal siding which had been constructed for the purpose on an island called Elugelab, in the northern sector of the atoll. After Mike exploded, nothing whatever remained where the island had been but seawater. The island had disappeared from the earth. The yield of the Hiroshima bomb had been thirteen kilotons. The theoretical expectation for Mike was a few thousand kilotons—a few megatons. The fireball spread so far and fast that it terrified observers who had seen many tests before. The explosion, in the words of Ted Taylor, who was not there, “was so huge, so brutal—as if things had gone too far. When the heat reached the observers, it stayed and stayed, not for seconds but for minutes.” The yield of the bomb was ten megatons. It so unnerved Norris Bradbury, the Los Alamos director, that for a brief time he wondered if the people at Eniwetok should somehow try to conceal from their colleagues back in New Mexico the magnitude of what happened.

The scene of weathered nuclear observers, used to a few seconds of heat, holding the breath as the heat washed over them for minutes has always haunted me. At what point do you think they wondered if it would ever stop?

I’m not posting this chart to make a comment about the iPad’s dominance, but rather to applaud Chitika’s visualization tactic. Rather than include iPad figures as a giant bar, dwarfing all the others into a indistinguishable scale, Chitika chose to absorb the iPad’s performance into the Y axis.

I think this allows the chart to pull more weight: we can both understand how other tablets stack up against each other with some nuance and get that oh damn the iPad is dominating moment when we realize it’s factored into the scale itself. Including a dominating bar would only give you the oh damn, while omitting the bar entirely would only give you the also-ran nuance.

In summation: if you have a chart with an overwhelmingly strong signal, make the dominant datapoint the scale against which all others are measured. (Via GigaOm)

Ben Goldacre reminds us that the primary goal of data visualization is to effectively communicate a message. Being a pretty poster is a nice-to-have.

Green party politician Malte Spitz sued to have German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom hand over six months of his phone data that he then made available to ZEIT ONLINE. We combined this geolocation data with information relating to his life as a politician, such as Twitter feeds, blog entries and websites, all of which is all freely available on the internet. By pushing the play button, you will set off on a trip through Malte Spitz’s life.

A German politician becomes his own Big Brother to demonstrate the importance of data piracy. (Via Flowing Data)

My LinkedIn network, visualized.

For those of you using LinkedIn, is is pretty cool. And it’s not lazy either: the groups are pretty cleanly generated.

Harry Kao’s Commute Map visualizer is fascinating. Check it out.

Time waster of the day: whatdoyousuggest.net. Google search suggestions visualized. Above: chicken.

(It’s a little disheartening how often Rachel Ray makes an appearance here…)

Traffic to the NYTimes.com on the day Michael Jackson died:

Just watching these maps glow can be a mesmerizing experience, but there’s another fascinating piece of data within this particular day. At about 1 minutes 10 seconds into the video, at 5:20 p.m., you can see a huge pulse of readers coming to the Web site, both from mobile devices and personal computers. This huge traffic bump happened after TMZ.com broke the news of Mr. Jackson’s death. As the news started to filter across the Internet, traffic continued to ebb and flow throughout the evening.

It’s also intriguing to see the heartbeat of reader visits throughout any particular day. You can see more mobile traffic in the mornings and afternoons, as readers commute to and from work, and a large pulse of readers coming to the site around lunchtime.

(Via NYTimes.com)