Category: InfoGraphics

Visual displays of Facebook metadata

FB-WordCloudMore than a million people have used Stephen Wolfram’s Personal Analytics for Facebook, a web app that generates a fascinating visual report of your Facebook profile: age, gender, relationship status, and location of your FB friends; the number of your friends’ friends and the number of their friends in common with you; your friends’ most common first and last names; your most ‘liked’ post; your FB use by day of the week and time of day; and a word cloud of your posts (like mine, at right).

Wolfram, best known as inventor of the computer program Mathematica and the search engine Wolfram Alpha, recently invited users of his FB Analytics app to participate in a “Data Donor” program, by contributing detailed data about their FB use for Wolfram’s research purposes. 

This week he released a detailed analysis of this data, as usual complete with arresting data visualizations. The whole piece is worth reading, but here’s just a taste:

How many friends do people have on Facebook have, and how does this vary with age?


What do men and women talk about on Facebook:


How far away is Mars? (a visualization)

If the earth were only 100 pixels wide (instead of 12,756 kms.), what would the distance to Mars look like? Two British designers, Jesse Williams and David Paliwoda, have devised a neat interactive animation to show you the answer, along with how far it is to a GPS satellite and the moon. .

How far is Mars

Don’t stop here. Click on the image (or here) to see the animation for yourself.

Hint:  Even at an impossible 3x the speed of light, it’s a long way off. (“And we put a piece of equipment on it,” my friend Jeff P. observed in wonderment.)

H/T:  Flowing Data


An interactive catalog of Chris Hadfield’s photos of Earth

Last week, I posted a photo of Contrarian’s home turf that Chris Hadfield, 35th Commander of the International Space Station, had taken from 370 kilometres overhead. An avid photographer, Hadfield has produced scores of images depicting locations all over the earth, including at least 10 of Nova Scotia sites.*

You may already know what I managed to miss: that geographer David MacLean and his students at the College of Geographic Sciences in Lawrencetown, NS, have created a database of Hadfield’s images (and some by fellow astronaut Thomas H. Marshburn) that you can access through a wonderful, interactive map.

MacLean has been kind enough to let me embed the map here on Contrarian:

Zero in on your favorite part of the globe, then click any thumbnails that interest you to bring up a remarkably detailed image of the corresponding location. To play with MacLean’s larger version of the map, click here.

John Metcalfe has a nice piece in the Atlantic about MacLean’s efforts; the Chronicle-Herald, Ottawa Citizen, and Annapolis County Spectator have also run stories.

The dramatic growth of mapping, and the development of geographical tools accessible to everyday users, is one of the great technological stories of our time. Nova Scotia is incredibly fortunately to have, in the College of Geographical Sciences,** a stellar post-secondary institution devoted to this field.

H/T: Richard Stephenson.

*  Check out this view of the coastline from White Point through Dingwall, Money Point, Bay St. Lawrence, Meat Cove, Pollett’s Cove, Red River, Pleasant Bay, and Fishing Cove.

** Now officially called the Nova Scotia Community College Annapolis Valley Campus. Discerning readers will note that I am resisting this unfortunate change.

How many Americans have guns killed since Sandy Hook?

100? 500? 1,000? The correct answer is much higher: more than 22 fatal shootings per day in the first 98 days since the horrific elementary school massacre.

Huffpo has an interactive chart: (Please don’t just look at the graphic. Click on the link and then on “next.”)

gundeaths since sandy hook


An interactive history of drone strikes in Pakistan

How often has the US attacked targets in Pakistan with unmanned drones, and how many of those killed have been children, civilians, putative insurgents, or “high-value” military targets?

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has prepared an interactive graphic to help answer these questions, which you can try for yourself by clicking the screenshot below.

Drone Strikes


Definitely worth a look. The bureau summarizes the results:

The justification for using drones to take out enemy targets is appealing because it removes the risk of losing American military, it’s much cheaper than deploying soldiers, it’s politically much easier to maneuver (i.e. flying a drone within Pakistan vs. sending troops) and it keeps the world in the dark about what is actually happening. It takes the conflict out of sight, out of mind. The success rate is extremely low and the cost on civilian lives and the general well-being of the population is very high.

The interactive graphic has two views. The Attack View pictured above shows each attack chronologically; the Victim View focuses on the people killed in each strike.

The category of victims we call “OTHER” is classified differently depending on the source. The Obama administration classifies any able-bodied male a military combatant unless evidence is brought forward to prove otherwise. This is a very grey area for us. These could be neighbors of a target killed. They may all be militants and a threat. What we do know for sure is that they are targeted without being given any representation or voice to defend themselves.

With increasingly sophisticated drones become ever more widely available, how long before the US regrets opening this particular Pandora’s box?

The world as 100 people

If our world had 100 people…

Now you see it, now you don’t

asteroid_2012_da14s_near_miss-1409005.2-hpLast Friday, in one of its periodic displays of  nerdy humor, Google displaced its usual search page logo with an animated gif celebrating Earth’s non-collision with Asteroid 2012 DA14, a 50-meter-wide rock that passed within 28,000 meters of our planet—closer than a geostationary communications satellite.

Trouble is, another, much smaller meteor chose the same day to collide with Earth, exploding over the Siberian town of Chelyabinsk Oblast with the force of a half megaton nuclear weapon, and injuring 1,500 people below, mostly from flying glass. Google quickly yanked the animation.

“Out of respect for those injured in the extraordinary meteor shower in Russia earlier today, we have removed today’s doodle from the Google home page,” a spokesperson told ABC News.

Contrarian believes sympathy for the injured can co-exist peacefully with amusement at the doodle.

(To see the animation again, refresh your browser page.)

A virtual heart built from10,000 parallel processors

If you’re anything like me, your conception of the human heart comes from text book line drawings and plastic models in doctors’ offices.

To create a more useful, virtual model, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center used 10,000 parallel processors. The beating heart turns out to be a phenomenally complex electromechanical apparatus—wondrous, and almost spooky, to behold.

The center recently released a video simulation, although based on a rabbit’s heart rather than a human’s.

From Emily Underwood via Alexis Madrigal.

Journal articles:


From NASA: 131 years of rising global temperatures in 26 Seconds

“Nine of the 10 warmest years since 1880 have occurred since the year 2000,” reports NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The first years of the new millennium experienced “sustained higher temperatures than in any decade during the 20th century.”

Goddard, which monitors global surface temperatures, compiled the findings into an animation showing global temperature trends since 1885.



The animated map charts differences from the average temperature recorded during a baseline period of 1951-1980. Dark Red zones are two degrees Celsius warmer than the baseline; dark blue are two degrees colder. You can download a copy of the animation here.

The average incremental change is not great — less than a Celsius degree in total — but the upward trend is, shall we say, hard to deny:


Download a much larger version here.


Any idea what this is:

Or this?

How about this?

It’s an interactive map (sadly not embeddable), produced by the Bombsight Project, showing every documented bomb strike in the London blitz between October 7, 1940, and June 6, 1941. The project is a joint effort by the University of Portsmouth, the UK National Archhives, and a charity called JISC. On the actual map (but not the screenshots above), viewers can zoom in on a particular dot, then right click for the details:

Now let’s see the map for Dresden.

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