Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘health’

03 DECEMBER, 2010

Hans Rosling for BBC: 200 Countries Over 200 Years in 4 Minutes


Statistical stuntsman Hans Rosling, mastermind of revolutionary visualization platform Gapminder, is a longtime Brain Pickings darling. From his blockbuster TED talks, better described as performances than mere talks, to his projection of the future of humanity in LEGO, Rosling is easily the most vocal and engaging advocate for data visualization as a sensemaking mechanism for culture and the world.

Now, The Hans strikes again with an absolutely brilliant 4-minute distillation of 200 countries over 200 years, part of BBC’s The Joy of Stats. (An excellent companion to The Beauty of Maps.) With his signature sports commentator style, Rosling narrates two centuries worth of income and life expectancy data in a way he never has before: Using augmented reality animation. To see the impact of historical and political milestones, from colonization to the Industrial Revolution to WWII, in such a visceral way contextualizes these events and their aftermath in a way no history book or verbal storytelling ever could — a living manifesto for the power and importance of data visualization as a storytelling device.

For more on the storytelling and sensemaking art and science of data visualization, the journalistic importance of which we’ve previously examined, we highly recommend Data Flow 2 and Beautiful Data: The Stories Behind Elegant Data Solutions, both of which reference Rosling’s work, among countless other masters of the discipline.

HT @TEDchris

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19 NOVEMBER, 2010

Sounds of HIV: Music Made of AIDS Virus Nucleotides


A few months ago, we spotlighted 7 fascinating experimental music projects, but this is positively the strangest album you’ll ever hear. And possibly one of the most conceptually ingenious. To draw attention to the AIDS epidemic, which claims more than 2 million lives every year, composer Alexandra Pajak decided to capture the “sonic beauty” deep in the genome of the virus. Sounds of HIV “plays” the patterns of the AIDS virus nucleotides and amino acids transcribed by HIV in 17 eerie, mesmerizing tracks.

To create the recording, Pajak used the National Institutes of Health’s record of the retrovirus’ genome to identify the thousands of coded letters transcribed onto DNA once a cell is infected. She then assigned specific pitches to the 20 amino acids manufactured in an infected human cell, ordering them according to their affinity for water. To reflect the profound sadness of the disease, Pajak composed the work in the A minor scale and meticulously double-checked that each of the 9,181 nucleotide-notes was in the right place.

Just knowing that the disease is so devastating and personal, I just wanted to make sure all the notes were right.” ~ Alexandra Pajak

Proceeds from Sounds of HIV benefit breakthroughs in HIV vaccine research at Emory Vaccine Center.

via SciAm

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01 NOVEMBER, 2010

Marvelous Movember


What Frida Kahlo has to do with Lance Armstrong and neo-hippie jewelry.

2010 has been the year of the mustache. And now it’s the month: We’ve been longtime supporters of Movember, the global monthlong mustache-growing movement raising awareness about prostate cancer. Since 2003, Movember has been encouraging guys to grow “sponsored” mustaches for 30 days, just like one would do a charity run or marathon. Funds raised through Movember benefit the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG.

We’ve already seen some stellar efforts, but if you happen to lack the necessary Y chromosome for joining the movement directly — or you’re already sporting a ‘stache — you could still have some mustachey fun while benefiting a good cause. We love these Movember plugs and wooden Movember pendant by Denver-based indie eco-jewelery handcraft studio Omerica Organic.

This black-and-pink mustache wallet is a gem and the Mellow mustache tote made of all-vintage fabric from the same Etsy seller is just delightful.

Lastly, for some quasi-literary fun, The Little Book of Beards: …and a couple of mustaches! by illustrator and hardcore pogologist (that’s beard nerd for the uninitiated) O. S. Belgie is an absolute treat. And for those truly serious about the cultural heritage of the good ol’ ‘stache, Sweet ‘Stache: 50 Badass Mustaches and the Faces Who Sport Them offers an analysis of history’s best mustaches and the men (and women!) who wore them, from Gandhi to Frida Kahlo to Salvador Dali.

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