Sunday, December 8, 2013

Better Living Through Charts and Graphs

Back in March 2013, I decided I'd lose some unwanted 10 pounds I had gained and go back to what I considered my ideal weight and waist size so that I can fit into my favorite pants and shirts I simply refused to give away or replace. I managed to reach my goals in 6 months, with the help of a couple of smartphone apps that allowed me to monitor my caloric intake and expenditure through diet and exercise, respectively. But just as important, if not more, was simply measuring on an almost daily basis my weight and waist size. It gave me a solid and immediate readout to how well I was eating and working out. Ultimately, it was trying on those clothes and not feeling them too tight to button that showed it had all worked.

But suddenly, things started fitting tight again. What happened?

I looked back at the chart of the numbers I had been tracking all these months and saw that I had suddenly gained both weight and inches. But why then all of a sudden? The graph of my data gave me some clues.

As I've indicated by the two icons, my sudden gain in pounds and inches coincided with two things: the autumnal equinox (September 23), after which the days get progressively shorter, and Halloween (October 31), around which candies become excessively and too easily available.

Click on graph for larger view.

Every year, around this time of year, my body and my spirits slow down. I start to eat more and move less. I feel less motivated to do anything and I sleep more. So this, coupled with very easy access to large amounts of sugary candy, probably combine to explain my sudden gains.

Knowing this now motivates me to crank up my exercise routine, something I should have done earlier in the fall in anticipation for my annual slow down. And also keeps me from munching on the leftover Halloween candy in my office.

Many people track fitness and other progress by taking pictures, which is great. But there's nothing like a graph, a picture of the actual numbers that measure what matters, to tell you what's going on, and how you're progressing, as well as offer you a handle on unexpected changes in course.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Monthly music video: Chartsengrafs by Grandaddy

Chartsengrafs by Grandaddy
No video. Just the song, and a graph.

From the album "The Sophtware Slump" (2000)

"birds come...and then they go"
i traded laughs
in for charts & graphs
but all that's only fun
until evening comes
your guess as good as mine
as to just what kind
of trouble i might find
tonight out of my
my mind
my mind
my mind
my mind

Sunday, October 20, 2013

ART and SCIENCE breakthrough contest - DNA, in your face!

The PAX3 gene is involved in the development of the face. Toronto based scientist Dennis McCormac had his PAX3 gene sequenced, and in collaboration with an artist, had his particular sequenced of A, C, T and Gs compose a portrait of his face. Edward Tufte, are you seeing this? Talk about making a visual connection between genotype and phenotype, between DNA and the trait it determines! This is gold to me.

This collaborative art and science work is in the running in a science visualization contest. If you like this as much as I do, please VOTE HERE for this piece by scientist Dennis McCormac and artist James Fowler!

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Genesis Tank

A few weeks ago I went to a flea market looking for a lamp and chairs, and came back with a 10-gallon fish tank instead. I filled it with water, added some gravel, and turned on the water pump. I also went to a nearby pond and grabbed a few pieces of aquatic plants to add to the tank.

A few weeks later, some of the plants had grown, but the duckweed, which I had hoped would have been covering the surface, were not doing so hot. I thought maybe it was that the current was too strong, so I turned off the pump so the water would be more still.

A few days later, the duckweed had indeed grown a little tiny bit better. But the water surface was now filmy. And on that surface film was a constellation of tiny organisms moving around.

I can't be sure, but under a magnifying glass, I spotted what I think were Daphnia (tiny crustaceans also known as water fleas), and tiny baby Planaria (little flatworms with triangular heads), gliding on the bottoms of the surface of the film (I had seen bigger ones gliding on the aquarium walls a few days before.) Since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated with both of these organisms. Daphnia, because as a tropical fish hobbyist I learned they were a favorite food of fish, and Planaria because of the well know regeneration properties: cut them in half and they form two new worms.

Suddenly I felt like Lisa Simpson, in the Treehouse of Horror VII segment called The Genesis Tub, where she performs a science experiment with a corroding tooth in a small tub that results in the creation of a tiny universe.

I can't wait til I've created Lutherans!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The "official" Fun vs. Effort Graph of Pets

I like this graph. It uses the actual subjects of the graph as representations of the values reported. Edward Tufte would be so proud!

Which is why it's a shame they violated what to me is a fundamental rule of graphs. Ah well. Good effort College Humor. This other "official" version corrected some of the mistakes of the above version (though they did away with the cool size proportionality of the first graph).