Charts, maps, and statistics helped stop gerrymandering in Pennsylvania

Issie Lapowsky for Wired:

The change that’s already come to Pennsylvania may not have been possible without the research Kennedy and three other expert witnesses brought to light. They took the stand with a range of analyses, some based in complex quantitative theory, others, like Kennedy’s, based in pure cartography. But they all reached the same conclusion: Pennsylvania’s map had been so aggressively gerrymandered for partisan purposes that it silenced the voices of Democratic voters in the state. Here’s how each came to that conclusion—and managed to convince the court.

This is a great story of visualization and data put to use for a greater good. The analyses solidify the points, and the charts drive them home.

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How to Get Excited About Standard Datasets

It can be hard to get excited about the standard datasets that we keep using to show how visualization and statistics work. But if that's the case for you, it's not the datasets's fault, it's you! Here’s how to keep that spark going!


What could be more interesting than cars? I mean, come on – they’re cars! And I’m not talking about boring Priuses or self-driving cars or any of that newfangled stuff. No, these are from the time when cars were still cars: the 1970s and early 80s. That’s what the cars dataset is all about (there are, it turns out, lots of car-related datasets, but there’s only one true cars). Real cars. Manly cars.

So yeah, cars. Like, from the 1970s. Look at them! All those cylinders (whatever those are)! Four and six and even eight cylinders! Crazy! Also weight and mileage and stuff. Who knew they had those in the 70s?

You can learn fascinating things, like that heavier cars have lower mileage – who knew? Or that more cylinders mean lower mileage. I know, somebody should really tell those car makers about that. Even acceleration is correlated with weight, you can’t make this stuff up!

Cars just never get old. I mean, cars. Who doesn’t love cars? Cars, cars, cars…


If the cars dataset seems a bit dated, surely the iris data will answer your burning questions. Who hasn’t stared at an iris plant and gone crazy trying to decide whether it’s an iris setosa, versicolor, or maybe even virginica? It’s the stuff that keeps you up at night for days at a time.

Luckily, the iris dataset makes that super easy. All you have to do is measure the length and width of your particular iris’s petal and sepal, and you’re ready to rock! What’s that, you still can’t decide because the classes overlap? Well, but at least now you have data!

Actually, it turns out that this data is even older than the cars! It's from a 1936 paper! They sure knew their irises in the 30s. And it's not like plants change all that much in 80 years.


Of all the datasets, the Titanic data is clearly the most dramatic. Who isn't obsessed with the disaster that happened over 100 years ago? Who hasn’t seen the movie that came out in 1997, which is, uh, just over 20 years ago now? I mean, who over the age of 40, of course (millennials don’t know anything, as usual)?

Well, the data is fascinating either way. You can see how people in the first class did much better than those in the second and third classes! Fascinating insights that you would never have guessed! And the crew mostly died too. It's almost as if wealth bought you survival. Of course, by now they're all dead so it's not like it matters anymore.

Isn't it amazing how much you can learn from just four variables, though! It doesn't even matter who all those people were, they're just numbers now anyway. They've all turned into data.

Love the Classics

The classic datasets are fine. If they bore you, maybe it’s you who’s boring? If they don’t interest you, maybe you have the wrong interests? Generations of students have learned to love them, and so will you!

First Forum 2018, Cinema and Media Studies Graduate Conference, USC

March 21 2018 to May 1 2018
Call for Papers
FIRST FORUM invites submissions that explore the many meanings and implications of the concept of “emergency” in relation to cinema and media scholars and practitioners. The concept of the exception, the anomaly, and the crisis pervade both contemporary aesthetics and academic discourse, connected...
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA
United States

Release Notes for Safari Technology Preview 52

Safari Technology Preview Release 52 is now available for download for macOS Sierra and macOS High Sierra. If you already have Safari Technology Preview installed, you can update from the Mac App Store’s Updates tab. This release covers WebKit revisions 228856-229535.

Legacy NPAPI Plug-ins

  • Removed support for running legacy NPAPI plug-ins other than Adobe Flash

Service Worker

  • Changed Fetch event release assert to take into account the fetch mode (r228930)
  • Changed to not use a Service Worker in the case of document redirection if it will be already served by AppCache (r229086)
  • Fix loads for a Document controlled by a Service Worker to not use AppCache (r229181)
  • Updated Service Worker to respect IndexedDB and DOM cache partitioning (r229483)


  • Added support for preconnect link headers (r229308)
  • Fixed converting a load to a download to work with async policy delegates (r229177)
  • Prevented DNS prefetching from being re-enabled (r229061)


  • Fixed handling undefined global variables with the same name as an element ID (r229451)
  • Made Number.isInteger an intrinsic (r228968)


  • Added new CSS env() constants for use with fullscreen (r229475)
  • Fixed ::selection CSS stroke-color and stroke-width to be applied to selected text in text fields (r229147)


  • Fixed HTML pattern attribute to set u flag for regular expressions (r229363)
  • Fixed replaceState causing back and forward navigation problems on a page with <base href="/"> (r229375)
  • Fixed to cancel navigation policy check in addition to cancelling the existing provisional load (r228922)


  • Added more accessibility events support (r229310)
  • Dispatched accessiblesetvalue event (r229112)
  • Fixed keyboard focus to follow the VoiceOver cursor into web content or within web content (r228857)
  • Fixed WebKit running spell checker even on non-editable content text (r229500)

Web Driver

  • Fixed clicking on a disabled option element to not produce an error (r229212)
  • Fixed stale elements not getting detected when removed from the DOM (r229210)
  • Fixed failed provisional loads causing “Navigate To” command to hang (r228887)
  • Fixed script evaluations via WebDriver to have a user gesture indicator (r229206)

Web Inspector

  • Changed Canvas Tab to scroll into view and inspect an element if Canvas has a DOM node (r229044)


  • Added cache for memory address and size on an instance (r228966)


  • Fixed the webkitfullscreenchange event to fire at the same time as :-webkit-full-screen pseudo selector changes (r229466, r229487)

Bug Fix

  • Fixed copying a table from the Numbers app and pasting into iCloud Numbers (r229503)

The Eye of History

I’ve been spending time in the map room of the British Library recently, trying to understand the main historical points to do with the emergence of modern “scientific” map-making in Europe. Maps are physically unwieldy, and their unwieldiness is an important, yet sometimes overlooked aspect in this history.


This rather fine folio from the English edition of Abraham Ortelius’s  Theatrum Orbis Terarum – the first atlas – for example, gives us an insight into his thinking about why, in 1570, he had had this new-fangled idea of putting a collection of maps together into a book:

“There are many”, Ortelius says, “that are much delighted with Geography or Chorography, and especially with Mappes or Tables containing the Plotts and Descriptions of Countreys, such as there are many now adayes extant and everywhere to be Sold, But because they have either not that, that should buy them, or if they have so much as they are worth, yet they neglect them, neither do they anyway satisfy them”.

In other words, only the very wealthy could afford the maps on which the far-flung New World was being recorded at this time, and the gentlefolk of sixteenth century Antwerp were either too poor, or too mean, to buy them.

Ortelius goes on:

“Others there are who when they have that which will but them would very willingly lay out the money, were it not by reason of the narrownesse of the Roomes and places, broad and large Mappes cannot be so open’d or spread so that everything in them may be easily and well be seen and disceren’d”.

Maps, in other words, were simply too big for people’s houses.

This preamble gives a nice insight into Ortelius’s motivation for inventing the atlas, while at the same time providing a snapshot of early publisher advertising strategies.

But what is really interesting about this folio however is the way Ortelius introduces the idea that in order to understand history, we must understand the place in which it happens:

for the understanding of [Histories] aright, the knowledge of Geography, which, in that respect is therefore of some – and not without just cause called The eye of History.

This statement marks a critical shift in the perception of the past. Whereas before it was taken that you could only understand, for example, the Roman world by reading Livy or Polybius; or to understand the Greek world you would have to read Thucydides or Herodotus. Ortelius’s phrase is an explicit recognition that the events these authors describe happen in place, and that understanding of that place (through the visual affordances of cartography) is integral part of the interpretation of history itself.



Apollo 11 conversations on the way to the moon

As you can imagine, there was plenty of conversation between Earth and Apollo 11 en route to the moon. Nicholas Rougeux visualized the back and forth with an interactive timeline.

During the historic mission to the moon and back, some of the most famous words ever said were transmitted between the Apollo 11 spacecraft and Earth. Between those icons moments was a great deal of chatter—mostly about technical matters but also about how the Earth looked from space, bounding around on the moon, and even sandwiches.

Also available in print.

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