Map Projections

The Earth is round, and maps are flat. That’s a problem for map makers. And a source of endless entertainment for geeks.

World Map

Carlos A. Furuti has an excellent website with many projections and clear explanations of the tradeoffs of each. The main projection page has links to all types, including two of my favorites: Other Interesting Projections, and Projections on 3D Polyhedra. Enjoy!

In R, the packages maps and mapproj are your entrée to this world. I created the above map (a Mollweide projection, which is a useful favorite), with:

library (maps)
library (mapproj)

map ("world", projection="mollweide", regions="", wrap=TRUE, fill=TRUE, col="green")
map.grid (labels=FALSE, nx=36, ny=18)


Real Data Science pt1: Review of Numbersense

So far, when I’ve written on Data Science topics I’ve written about the fun part: the statistical analysis, graphs, conclusions, insights, etc. For this next series of postings, I’m going to concentrate more on what we can call Real Data Science®: the less glamorous side of the job, where you have to beat your data and software into submission, where you don’t have access to the tools or data you need, and so on. In other words, where you spend the vast majority of your time as a Data Scientist.

I’ll start the series with a review of Kaiser Fung’s Numbersense, published in 2013. It’s not mainly about Real Data Science, but I’ll start with it because it’s a great book that illustrate several common data pitfalls, and in the epilogue Kaiser shares one of his own Real Data Science stories and I found myself nodding my head and saying, “Yup, that’s how I spent several days in the last couple of weeks!”

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Children’s science fiction and fantasy: it’s not just for children anymore!

Larklight Cover

My wife and I have started listening to books on audio during car trips or in the evening, and we’ve discovered that there are some absolute gems in the children’s literature section of the library. Yep, kid’s stories aren’t just for kids anymore. (And I wish I’d had stories like this when I was growing up!) In particular, we’ve been listening to audio CD’s and several of them have superb a voice acting that really enhances the story. These stories show incredible imagination, and in this posting I’d like to highly recommend two series: The Larklight Trilogy and the Bartimaeus Sequence, especially the audio CD’s.

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Knots, Knots, and Avast ye Landlubbers

Several years ago I became interested in mathematical knot theory, so I got a book called The Knot Book by Adams. I also got the Ashley Book of Knots by Clifford Ashley, which is a 600-page encyclopedia of actual knots in ropes/string/etc. I’d forgotten about both books until last night, when a key plastic piece on our bedroom blinds broke: the part that joins the lower single cord to the upper multiple cords that actually go to the blinds.

I whipped out the Ashley Book and found the perfect bend, #1463, which is good for joining two cords that have different thickness. I’ve shown my results below, but note that the actual knot is in the upper left and the rest of it is just my quick work to make sure that the thicker piece stays bent and doesn’t straighten out and try to pull through. I don’t think Ashley would approve of that part.

My KnotCU
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A secret underground “lair” in DC

When visitors come to the Washington, DC, area I like to have an off-the-beaten-path option for them. Something that most people would just walk or drive by and not notice. One of these options used to be the Einstein Statue, but recently they’ve redone the landscaping so it’s much harder to miss as you drive down Constitution Avenue.

It turns out that there is a “secret” underground “lair” in DC that you can enter and feel almost like you’re in a James Bond movie. In the photo, below, note the inconspicuous little building between the Smithsonian Castle (on the left) and the Freer Gallery (on the right). Looks like a visitor’s welcome center or something, right?


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A silent lightning storm

Turns out that what we called “heat lighting” as kids — lightning that has no accompanying thunder — is simply lightning that’s more than about 10 miles away. Tonight, while we were out walking, there was a huge lightning storm about 25 miles north of us. There was so much lightning that it looked like it was a timelapse video. I taped 90 seconds on my phone and uploaded it to Youtube.
Silent Lightning Storm

Creative and Inspiring Architecture

When I was in Junior High School, I wanted to be an architect. I even took a drafting class, and in my spare time designed a city. Never got around to designing actual buildings before my interests turned to physics, then photography, and finally computers.

I still find good architecture to be amazingly inspiring. There’s something about architecture that makes it special: it’s like a monument or a sculpture, but it’s also a space that is itself planted in a space and has a flow. I’ve tweeted about interesting buildings a few times and highly recommend Wired Magazine’s Building-of-the-week page.

Here’s a local building that does three things at once: 1) it has an interesting and attractive design, 2) it has several parts that join the building with a couple of different surrounding architectures, and 3) it includes a replica of the previous building as an element in its design. So it spans both space and time. Very classic.


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