Monday, January 11, 2010

Design concept: glass house

Do you really like the Apple store on New York's 5th Avenue? I mean, like really... Like you want to live there.

Well, today is the day your dreams come true. Enter simplicity, the design concept by Italian architecture studio Santambrogiomilano. Yes indeed, it is a glass house.

Okay, so caveat the obvious privacy, insulation and stone throwing limitations -- it's still a pretty cool concept. And the views must be gorgeous. Plus imagine the stargazing opportunities.

Via Apartment Therapy, which also has a bunch of pretty pictures of the building.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Naughts illustrated

Happy new year, and happy new decade! That is, if you're one of those people who start counting at zero. But considering that we already ushered in the new millennium one year too early, and that the past ten years (the Naughts, is that what we're calling them?) have been pretty dismal overall, I think we're all ready to start afresh.

The millennium is growing up, hitting puberty, soon to be an awkward and unruly teenager. Who knows what we can expect?

In the meantime, enjoy the New York Times' pictorial recap of 2000-2009 in matrix form. See where we're been, and how far we've come: from IM-ing to crowd-sourcing, from Enron to stimulus packages, from Pokemon to Lady Gaga.

See the full image here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Atheists visualized

I stumbled across this interesting graphic today, depicting four of our most prominent atheist (secular humanist) thinkers: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens.

The image groups them based on various (slightly arbitrary, but still very interesting) categories, highlighting some of their differences and commonalities. It certainly conveys a lot of information efficiently and elegantly.

Click here for a larger image, or check out the author's Flickr photostream.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The breathing earth

This is really fascinating -- and sobering. A real-time simulation of CO2 emissions by country called The Breathing Earth. And yes, the picture it paints is pretty dire.

Worth checking out!
The Breathing Earth

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Augmented reality: The future of maps?

I have no sense of direction. Seriously, I once walked around a circular plaza one and a half times before realizing that I was retracing my steps. I always imagine that functional humans have a sort of navigator in their head that allows them to orient themselves constantly and keep track of where they are now relative to where they were before. I'm not like that. I still get lost in my office building.

Which is why I love love love augmented reality, especially as it applies to mapping services.

Map/Territory from timo on Vimeo.

This would save my life!

Via Flowing Data.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Visualizing your online persona

Ever been curious about your online identity? Or, more specifically, how a computer algorithm with all its inherent limitations might perceive your online identity?

Enter Personas, a project by the Social Media Group from the MIT Media Lab:
"[Personas] uses sophisticated natural language processing and the Internet to create a data portrait of one's aggregated online identity. In short, Personas shows you how the Internet sees you.

"Enter your name, and Personas scours the web for information and attempts to characterize the person - to fit them to a predetermined set of categories that an algorithmic process created from a massive corpus of data. The computational process is visualized with each stage of the analysis, finally resulting in the presentation of a seemingly authoritative personal profile."

Okay, so this doesn't work for me because I am a virtual unknown with no online identity to speak of. I am an Internet Nobody, sad but true.

But I tested this out instead with one of my favorite Internet Somebodies: Richard Feynman (full disclosure: he was my longest lasting imaginary crush through high school). The results are quite funny...

Click the image to enlarge (sorry for the low res).

I have to say, I would never guess this was the online persona for a Nobel Prize winning physicist... The big sports component (yellow on the left) is to me most amusing. Run the algorithm and you'll see that it's due to a misinterpretation of the words "series" (in this case "lecture series" not sports series) and "player" (from the oft-reported fact that Feynman was a "bongo player" - really).

Of course, the smart kids at MIT were aware of this all along:
"Personas demonstrates the computer's uncanny insights and its inadvertent errors, such as the mischaracterizations caused by the inability to separate data from multiple owners of the same name. It is meant for the viewer to reflect on our current and future world, where digital histories are as important if not more important than oral histories, and computational methods of condensing our digital traces are opaque and socially ignorant."

Nifty stuff.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rorschach paintings: From ink to art

Vesna Jovanovic is perhaps not your typical artist, and her works are most certainly not typical. Once an arts and chemistry double-major, she now draws inspiration for her paintings from nature, science and psychology.

Her most recent works? A series called "Pareidolia," in which she starts with a random ink spill, and then fills in the silhouette with meticulous drawings ranging from the organic to the mechanical: veins and neurons interlaced with glass-work and electronic wiring.

The title itself is genius:
"I eventually titled the series Pareidolia, a term used to describe the psychological phenomenon of recognizing specific, identifiable forms in otherwise random stimuli. Common examples of pareidolia are the recognition of animals in clouds or faces in wood grain, and it is the basis of the Rorschach test, the series of inkblots used by psychologists to gain insight into a patient’s mental state."

Indeed, the creative process itself works like an applied Rorschach test, turning an inkblot and its connotations for the artist into a work art.

Check out Jovanovic's portfolio here.
Via Seed Magazine.

Monday, August 17, 2009

EveryBlock: News visualization goes local

So... back to one of my favorite topics: visualizing news.

As I've mentioned a few times before, innovations so far in the space have been quite lacking. Often big and flashy, but of scant use to someone actually out looking to catch up on some news.

So here's a welcome change: EveryBlock is a hyper-local news site with a simple layout and visualization tools that look like they might actually come in handy.

It offers neighborhood-specific news feeds, a simple news map, and city stats such as police calls, liquor license status changes, and restaurant inspections. It's also available as an iPhone app, which I'll be sure to check out.

It's definitely a good start and I like that their focus is clearly on utility.

Not surprising therefore that it was recently sold to MSNBC, which is at least trying to come up with some creative solutions to revitalize the online news space. Check out their Spectra Visual Newsreader while you're at it. I still think it falls into the category of More Flashy Than Useful, but at least it's a step in a different direction.

Curious to see how EveryBlock will fit in.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Order in randomness

Random Walk asks a curious question: What does randomness look like?

Through a collection of beautiful visualizations, it reveals the strange interplay between chaos and order within seemingly random phenomena, like rice grains falling, or the digits in the number Pi.

The latter in particular I find really interesting. Plotted as a random walk, where the value of each decimal determines the direction of a fixed-length step, Pi traces a path evocative of a fractal.

Definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


"As mathematicians, we play and dream but we don't cheat. You can't cheat in mathematics. Truth is so important. To solve a problem with a proof is exciting and rewarding because it is true forever." ~Marie-France Vigneras

I miss that about my days studying math... Nothing to spin.

Via Seed Magazine.
Their whole slide show on photographs of mathematicians is worth checking out.