Setosa blog


"Emails show [Chris Cristie]'s aides did plan bridge gridlock," says Salon. To a transportation engineer, the aides are innocent: bridges can't have gridlock. While we often say "gridlock" to mean "bad traffic," it has a technical meaning.

I'm sure most by now are familiar with the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. It's a very exciting technology that provides by far the most realistic experience of any other virtual reality device. But what makes it interesting to me is its untapped potential application in data visualization.

There's a lot of things about WebGL that excite me. It seems there's so much potential for creating the types of visualizations that were, until recently, only possible in monolithic C++ or Java applications. It feels something akin to the early days of the web.

With data visualization we have a tendency to ask "what value does this add?" But we shouldn't forget a data visualization that offers us no new insight or knowledge can still offer value. It can be elegant or thought-provoking. Just as there is art for art's sake, maybe there can be data visualization for its own sake, too.

CSV Fingerprints

03 Aug 2014 »

CSV is a simple and common format for tabular data that uses commas to separate rows and columns. Nearly every spreadsheet and database program lets users import from and export to CSV. But until recently, these programs varied in how they treated special cases, like when the data itself has a comma in it.

Markov Chains

26 Jul 2014 »

Markov chains, named after Andrey Markov, are mathematical systems that hop from one "state" (a situation or set of values) to another. For example, if you made a Markov chain model of a baby's behavior, you might include "playing," "eating", "sleeping," and "crying" as states, which together with other behaviors could form a 'state space': a list of all possible states. In addition, on top of the state space, a Markov chain tells you the probabilitiy of hopping, or "transitioning," from one state to any other state---e.g., the chance that a baby currently playing will fall asleep in the next five minutes without crying first.

Lenticular Lenses

07 Jul 2014 »

When most people think of a hologram, they're probably thinking of what's called a lenticular lens print. Lenticular lenses can be used to create the illusion of depth and are the technology that makes possible 3D Game Boys and TV's that don't require special eye glasses.

Many people shudder at the thought of Make files. They can often seem archaic and overly complicated tools reserved for only the most hardcore Linux hackers. But you may be surprised at their awesome ability help with managing large data files in collaboration. This is particularly helpful when collaboratively working on data visualizations of large data sets.