Virulent Word of Mouse

October 21, 2011

US Broadband in Maps, Graphs, and some Bars

Filed under: Broadband,Internet economics and communications policy,Maps — Shane Greenstein @ 10:34 am

To be sure, most of us do not use government statistical reports as anything more than bedtime reading for inducing soporific reactions. It is cheaper than a sleeping pill.

But those expectations would be too harsh for the most recent broadband report from the FCC. It contains a great deal of data, and it is really quite informative. I would go even further. It is a useful vehicle for learning about the basic economics of broadband. For that purpose, however, it has one drawback: it is a wee bit too long, as in 88 pages.

This post will save you some time. Much of the key insights can be summarized in three pictures — a map, a graph and some bars. The post  will start with the map, then go to the graph, then end with the bars. (For those keeping score at home these pictures are taken from pages 62, 78 and 79 of the report.)


January 10, 2011

Global economic growth in four minutes

Filed under: Amusing diversions,Economic growth,Maps — Shane Greenstein @ 3:31 pm

In the video below (link provided) Hans Rosling puts on an amazing show discussing — of all topics! — the statistics of global economic growth. He does it in four minutes. Below is a link to this video. Watch the video. Be entertained and amazed.

I love this topic as much as the next economist, but I would never have expected it to become such an impressive piece of entertainment. It is only polite to bring up this topic in a dinner table conversation among relatives if they need a sleeping aid. <warning: sarcasm alert> The statistics of global economic growth is a certifiable snoozer. Try the topic on the nieces and nephews sometime. It will motivate them to write their college research thesis on something other than economics. <end of alert>

Look, I am just saying. Not everybody loves the central statistical topic of each profession.

More to the point, this topic would not seem to lend itself to showmanship. Yet, Rosling makes it entertaining. Neh, he does it while discussing — of all things! — the statistics for two hundred years of economic growth for two hundred countries. In less than four minutes. It has to be seen to be believed.

How does Rosling manage to be so entertaining with statistics? Hey, he is a good speaker, so give the guy some credit. However, star power still needs substance to stick. Rosling does something subtle to his substance. To pull off this presentation Rosling uses a number of statistical tricks. Rosling does not hide these tricks, and he is upfront about a few of them, but they are also easy to miss. That is the point of this post: to point out some of the consequences from these tricks, especially the ones that massage the main message.


January 6, 2011

Illustrating air transportation in motion

Filed under: Amusing diversions,Maps,Short observations — Shane Greenstein @ 11:24 pm

This post contains two short movies of the air transportation networks in the globe and the US, respectively. Both movies have been circulating on the Internet for a while, so you may have seen them. If not, you should watch.

The first movie displays everything, namely, all the planes in flight on the planet over the course of a day. That sounds mundane, but the movie takes a perspective rarely seen, putting together satellite images. The viewer can see all the planes flying at one time, as if from 30K up. Your jaw will drop the first time you view it.

We see all planes over the course of a day — everywhere and at once, while some places sleep and others scramble during their waking hours.

It is about a minute long. It is a very elegant way to display the globe’s air transportation network. Each little dot represents a plane. The dots move. It is hard for the human eye to follow any particular dot, but the sum-total of them provides a special fireworks.

Here are some details to notice. For example, pay attention to the change from light to dark as the planet rotates over the course of the day. It is near summer in the north, so the north pole experiences quite a long day.

The composer flattens the earth. This has advantages in this context, but it exaggerates the relative size of the north and south poles. Because there is so few plane flights traveling to or from those regions, so it fades into the background, and does not distract.

Enough words from me. The movie itself is astounding to watch, and that says it all. Enjoy!

Now look at this one. This minute-long video shows only the US. About halfway through the country goes to sleep, and virtually all the plane traffic stops. Then it wakes up again, with airports in Chicago leading the way. Take a look:

I do not know about you, but I can watch these over and over.

Last observation: I am struck by the myriad technologies that came together to make these possible. Each plane is identified by radar. Some clever computing splicing puts multiple radar images together. Another set of clever splicing speeds it up (or samples once every minute to make a frame), and translates it into a short viewable video. Yet another technology makes it available to any viewer, and yet another set of technologies embedded in infrastructure delivers it to your screen. This takes advantage of an amazing leap in mainstream networking technology.


June 29, 2010

A Modest Moment for Mobile Maps in Midtown Manhattan

Filed under: Amusing diversions,Computer and Internet Humor,Maps — Shane Greenstein @ 10:25 am

Let me start by getting one thing out of the way. I am not just another doofus guy who has trouble asking for directions. If anything, I ask too much.

Nonetheless, I do have a tendency to get lost. Nothing unusual made me lose my way on a beautiful evening in early June in Midtown Manhattan. I was late for dinner because I could not find the restaurant.

The plot of this story is simple. I was lost, but the map program in my iPhone helped me find the restaurant. It is just a little vignette, a modest and self-deprecating story that illustrates the wondrous capability of mobile maps.

The point is also simple. There is nothing particularly special about the use of the technology. Using mobile maps has become routine, almost mundane.

If you stop and think about it, however, this mundane and routine event represents a big change, especially in comparison to a decade ago. It builds on a remarkable combination of  technologies. These all must work together rather seamlessly to make that routine moment possible. That is the deeper point behind this post.

Two warnings before starting the story. First, this story is a shaggy dog. I will try to deliver it with a sense of the absurd and a touch of dry humor, but if you do not have five minutes to read a lot of trivial detail, then do not read this post.

Second, this story ends up sounding like a walking commercial for Google Maps. Honest, that was not my intent. All of it actually happened. (more…)

September 18, 2009

Picturing global connectivity

Filed under: Amusing diversions,Broadband,Maps,Short observations — Shane Greenstein @ 5:17 pm

Sometimes visual displays show more than any data. The BBC News has a nice on-line display of the Global Growth in Broadband.Very cool stuff. Make sure you find the little play button on the bottom of the page. Let ’em rip!

If you have an appetite for more I also recommend this one. Enjoy!BBC_broadband

July 21, 2009

The growing Internet in one Slide

Filed under: Maps,Short observations — Shane Greenstein @ 3:21 pm

Here is a challenge: visually represent the world wide growth of the Internet in the last decade in only one picture.  From my friend Robert Cannon, comes this recommendation, and I agree. This composite picture from the online publication, the New Scientist, does it as well as any I have seen.  The US and Europe and Japan started the decade with the largest number of users, and, hence, generated the most traffic. Now China and India and Brazil are growing into users/generators of equal magnitude. If you want the longer version of the same lesson, take a look at the slide show. Pretty cool.

Click here to see larger image:

June 21, 2009

Ancient maps meet the romance of modern IT

Filed under: Amusing diversions,Maps,Short observations — Shane Greenstein @ 11:47 am

Modern IT helps many people figure out the location of old places, peeling back the cloud of lost history. Even if you do not care about history, this stuff is cool. If you do nothing else, go look at these maps. This cool program is called “Schtetlseeker.

There is a story that goes with this. It is sort of romantic, but only at the very end.


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