Subway delays visually explained

Adam Pearce for The New York Times describes the sad state of affairs that is the delayed subway trains in New York. One delay causes a ripple effect down the line, leaving little chance to get back on track. The more straightforward figures gear you up for the overall view at the end.

This was for New York specifically but is applicable to other transits and forms of transportation. See also the traffic gridlock simulation from a few years ago. It doesn’t take much for gridlock.

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Waiting For a Table

A simulation to estimate how long until you are seated at a restaurant. Read More

Simulation shows swirling of smoke, sea salt, and dust around the world

NASA. Data. Good.

Tracking the aerosols carried on the winds let scientists see the currents in our atmosphere. This visualization follows sea salt, dust, and smoke from July 31 to November 1, 2017, to reveal how these particles are transported across the map.

The first thing that is noticeable is how far the particles can travel. Smoke from fires in the Pacific Northwest gets caught in a weather pattern and pulled all the way across the US and over to Europe. Hurricanes form off the coast of Africa and travel across the Atlantic to make landfall in the United States. Dust from the Sahara is blown into the Gulf of Mexico. To understand the impacts of aerosols, scientists need to study the process as a global system.

Read more here.

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Life expectancy if all diseases were magically cured

Here’s a fun what-if simulation that imagines a world where all natural causes of death were gone. People only die of things like car crashes and homicide. The result: people who live to thousands of years old.

Of course, this assumes that the likelihood of dying from external causes stays the same. With such a long life expectancy, do people start to take more risks? Or do we become more sloth-like because we have all the time in the world? Ah, that’s a thinker.

Want a simulation closer to reality? Here you go.

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How disinformation spreads in a network

Disinformation is kind of a problem these days, yeah? Fatih Erikli uses a simulation that works like a disaster spread model applied to social networks to give an idea of how disinformation spreads.

I tried to visualize how a disinformation becomes a post-truth by the people who subscribed in a network. We can think this network as a social media such as Facebook or Twitter. The nodes (points) in the map represent individuals and the edges (lines) shows the relationships between them in the community. The disinformation will be forwarded to their audience by the unconscious internet (community) members.

Set the “consciousness” parameter and select a node to run.

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Visual simulations to show Uber game strategies

Uber uses psychology and video game mechanics to encourage drivers to work longer and drive in certain areas. Noam Scheiber for The New York Times details the gray area that Uber resides in since drivers aren’t official employees.

Uber exists in a kind of legal and ethical purgatory, however. Because its drivers are independent contractors, they lack most of the protections associated with employment. By mastering their workers’ mental circuitry, Uber and the like may be taking the economy back toward a pre-New Deal era when businesses had enormous power over workers and few checks on their ability to exploit it.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most, but it’s interesting to hear about it in such detail. It’s also fun to play with the simulations by Jon Huang, which help you better understand the strategies Uber use.

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LOOPY is a tool to think in systems

Nicky Case, whose projects to simulate segregation and systems with emoji you might recognize, likes to think in systems. Piece together steps and objects, and let them interact with each other using various probabilities and weights. Simulate. See what happens.

Case’s newest project, LOOPY, is a tool to build your own systems. No programming required. Just click-and-drag things and press play.

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Simulation shows how your mouth works when you talk

You have a mouth with a bunch of tissue in it and manipulate your tongue, lips, throat, and other pieces so that somehow words come out. A lot of variables figure in, which can make the whole process of talking a complex process. Neil Thapen makes it more understandable with a fun simulator he calls Pink Trombone. Turn your sound on, and click and drag any of the words to see how voice changes when you modulate parts of the mouth.

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Here’s how a neural network works

Neural network

Daniel Smilkov and Shan Carter at Google put together this interactive learner for how a neural network works. In case you’re unfamiliar with the method:

It’s a technique for building a computer program that learns from data. It is based very loosely on how we think the human brain works. First, a collection of software “neurons” are created and connected together, allowing them to send messages to each other. Next, the network is asked to solve a problem, which it attempts to do over and over, each time strengthening the connections that lead to success and diminishing those that lead to failure.

I took one course on neural networks in college and poked around at those parameters for hours for various homework assignments and projects. I was basically a monkey pushing at buttons to see what images I could produce. I wish I had something like this to mess around with, so I could actually see the process.

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Simulation shows why polls don’t always match future results

Rock 'n Poll

With election season in full swing, as far as the news is concerned at least, we get to see poll after poll in the beginning of a voting day and then reports the next day about which ones were wrong. Based on the news alone, it feels like almost every poll is just plain wrong. Maarten Lambrechts shows what’s going on here with Rock ‘n Poll. It simulates a poll and then multiple polls, showing how small differences in the numbers can seem like a lot once the voting results come in.

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