Profile

Cover photo
Jon Orwant
Works at Google
Attended MIT
Lives in Brookline, MA
1,210 followers|212,409 views
AboutPostsPhotosYouTubeReviews

Stream

Jon Orwant

Shared publicly  - 
 
 
The Style of Elements
Posted by +Daniel Smilkov, Software Engineer

Data doesn't have to be big to be complex. In 1869, Mendeleev created the first "periodic table"--an arrangement of elements based on fewer than 70 data points. In fact, the most interesting thing about the original periodic table might have been the data it didn't include: the "holes" in the original chart turned out to be a kind of treasure map, pointing the way to undiscovered elements.

Although the periodic table is one of the classic visualizations, it still provides a chance for designers to play with new ideas. The Big Picture visualization group (http://goo.gl/vxsUdU) was fascinated with this version (http://goo.gl/8ozrj8), which allocates elements bigger or smaller areas to give a qualitative picture of how common they are in the Earth's crust.

Because the numbers behind that chart were only approximate, we decided to design a precise, quantitative view. (We're going to get into the weeds on this--visualizers gonna visualize--but you can skip to the last paragraph if you don't want to read the details of the design.) We quickly discovered that using area to represent abundances didn't give a good sense of the differences between elements: they covered so many orders of magnitude that all but the most common elements disappeared entirely. (The earth's crust has 170,000 times as much oxygen as uranium.) Using a logarithmic scale had the opposite effect: it flattened out the scale so that differences didn't seem as significant.

But we found that using volume to represent size produced a readable and interesting result. It also felt natural and direct when we looked at other data related to the elements. After all, how better to show the volume of 1 gram of an element than by volume itself?

Those experiments led to the visualization you see at http://goo.gl/5RCSmj. For fun, we let you choose between representing data with length or with volume, so you can see for yourself the difference the encoding makes. And as a bonus, we've added a view of electron shells, so you can see how Mendeleev’s visualization beautifully reflects atomic structure.
4 comments on original post
3
1
Chip Salzenberg's profile photo
Add a comment...

Jon Orwant

Shared publicly  - 
 
I ate that. Yet another fringe benefit of working with Google's Optimization team!
 
Sudoku, Linear Optimization, and the Ten Cent Diet

Yesterday, we posted an image of a tasty looking dish, and asked you to guess what it had to do with Computer Science. The dish, Foie Linéaire à la Stigler, was made from a list of ingredients that are the solution to the “Stigler Diet”, a classic linear optimization problem (http://goo.gl/JUDpTg).  

Today we’re proud to announce two new ways for everyone to solve linear optimization problems. First, you can now solve them in Google Sheets with the Linear Optimization add-on; Second, we’re open-sourcing the linear solver underlying the add-on, Glop (the Google Linear Optimization Package), as part of the or-tools suite.

At Google, our engineers work on plenty of optimization problems, such as the YouTube video stabilization system, and the lighthearted Google Sheets Sudoku add-on. Head over to the Google Research Blog, linked below, to learn more.
14 comments on original post
7
Jon Orwant's profile photoElaine Ashton's profile photo
3 comments
 
So the list of ingredients was built on what's optimal in terms of price/nutrition today? Interesting. I'm sure that changes from country to country and varies seasonally depending on weather, e.g. CA drought, and availability. I'm sure commodities traders would be very interested.

And, yes, while METCO is a bit of a political curveball, it is your target demographic since I doubt the chefs at chez google are restricted to maximum 'bang for the buck' in their menu building choices. It's not an entirely political football, though, as I suspect that it's also an issue of nutritional education. Sin taxes don't always work, just like the pigovian tax on sugar in Norway hasn't proven to make significant changes in diet. Efficiency where humans are concerned is, to put it mildly, difficult.

I've been trying to increase the efficiency of the school's Lost & Found this year by putting photos of the items on a Twitter feed and by sending regular email to the all-school mailing list and by setting up a rolling rack in the school entrance with all clothing on a hanger ordered by size....minimal success. I'm considering a L&F fashion show or concocting a play based on the lost items next, but that's just entertainment for me as I don't expect either of those to really work. Who doesn't miss a $200 jacket? Apparently a lot of folks.
Add a comment...

Jon Orwant

Shared publicly  - 
 
Neil deGrasse Tyson found Krypton:
Neil deGrasse Tyson on Finding Krypton
6
1
Kevin Partridge's profile photo
Add a comment...

Jon Orwant

Shared publicly  - 
7
1
Colin McMillen's profile photo
Add a comment...

Jon Orwant

Shared publicly  - 
 
 
An American anthropologist tells the story of Hamlet to the Tiv of West Africa.  The reaction she gets is amazing, including:

"You tell the story well, and we are listening. But it is clear that the elders of your country have never told you what the story really means. No, don’t interrupt! We believe you when you say your marriage customs are different, or your clothes and weapons. But people are the same everywhere; therefore, there are always witches and it is we, the elders, who know how witches work. We told you it was the great chief who wished to kill Hamlet, and now your own words have proved us right."

The italics are mine because I love that sentence so much.

HT to thebrowser.com.
View original post
1
Add a comment...

Jon Orwant

Shared publicly  - 
 
A coin flip understands abstract art more than me:
http://games.usvsth3m.com/hang-the-abstract-art/
Should the art be hung as portrait or landscape?
5
2
Chris Colohan's profile photoJasvir Nagra's profile photoColin McMillen's profile photo
2 comments
 
Must have been luck.  Did it again and got 1/5.  :-)
Add a comment...
Have him in circles
1,210 people
Huỳnh Thị Thảo Trang's profile photo
Jahaan Khan's profile photo
Susan Musleh's profile photo
Frederick Yankowski's profile photo
Sören M. Laird Sörries's profile photo
Peter Leonard's profile photo
balaji chenchu's profile photo
sonjila brantley's profile photo
Jana marcelino's profile photo

Jon Orwant

Shared publicly  - 
 
http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119321/harvard-ivy-league-should-judge-students-standardized-tests

(Also discussed by Scott Aaronson and his surprisingly educated commenters at  http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=2003.)

The Pinker article includes this wonderful bit:

It seems to me that educated people should know something about the 13-billion-year prehistory of our species and the basic laws governing the physical and living world, including our bodies and brains. They should grasp the timeline of human history from the dawn of agriculture to the present. They should be exposed to the diversity of human cultures, and the major systems of belief and value with which they have made sense of their lives. They should know about the formative events in human history, including the blunders we can hope not to repeat. They should understand the principles behind democratic governance and the rule of law. They should know how to appreciate works of fiction and art as sources of aesthetic pleasure and as impetuses to reflect on the human condition. 

On top of this knowledge, a liberal education should make certain habits of rationality second nature. Educated people should be able to express complex ideas in clear writing and speech. They should appreciate that objective knowledge is a precious commodity, and know how to distinguish vetted fact from superstition, rumor, and unexamined conventional wisdom. They should know how to reason logically and statistically, avoiding the fallacies and biases to which the untutored human mind is vulnerable. They should think causally rather than magically, and know what it takes to distinguish causation from correlation and coincidence. They should be acutely aware of human fallibility, most notably their own, and appreciate that people who disagree with them are not stupid or evil. Accordingly, they should appreciate the value of trying to change minds by persuasion rather than intimidation or demagoguery.
The Ivy League is broken and only standardized tests can fix it.
6
1
Chris Nandor (Pudge)'s profile photoFrancesca Berger's profile photoDavid Miller's profile photo
2 comments
 
The first paragraph is the reason I have my daughter in a Core Knowledge school.   I'm watching her get a well-planned exposure to history starting from Kindergarten, which I certainly didn't get in the hodge-podge of elementary & high schools I went to.  

Pinker's description of Harvard is extremely accurate, especially for students in humanities and social sciences.  (Possibly a little less so for those in the physical sciences.  And I would love someone's feedback on whether the new engineering school has introduced a large population of students who are more dedicated to their academic courses.)  

I interview student applicants to Harvard every year.  I will say that their service projects generally impress me as being much more substantive than the clothes-sorting he mentions here.  One girl I interviewed last year had spent a semester interning with the local public defender and several other semesters working with a local peer-to-peer counseling group for youth in the justice system.  The only kid from our town I know of who was actually ACCEPTED at Harvard in the last few years started a group which builds quirky little play houses and then sells them, using the proceeds to donate to a different charity each time.   Before I heard of him I saw one of his playhouses that had been donated to the local city gardens, which looks like something out of Dr. Seuss and provided a great focal point in the children's garden.  Of course, he'd also written a medical paper and was a nationally ranked figure skater, so I my general impression has just been that one needs to walk on water to get into Harvard these days.  
Add a comment...

Jon Orwant

Shared publicly  - 
 
 
Care to take a guess at what the dish pictured below has to do with Computer Science? Give it your best shot by leaving your guess in the comments!
85 comments on original post
1
1
Joe Johnston's profile photoElaine Ashton's profile photoRiff Zifnab's profile photo
2 comments
 
Looks inviting, but lacks substance as a little aioli, fava beans, horse radish, shredded cucumber and deep fried protein of some sort looks a bit too nouvelle and not crazy enough to be in the molecular gastronomy vein for the caparison to CS. Diner will be both hungry and gassy within one hour. Looks tasty though. :)
Add a comment...

Jon Orwant

Shared publicly  - 
 
 
This is, quite frankly, amazing:

"He spoke haltingly, uncertainly; the connection between his mind and his mouth seemed to have atrophied from disuse. But over the next couple of hours, he gradually opened up.

His name, he revealed, was Christopher Thomas Knight. Born on December 7, 1965. He said he had no address, no vehicle, did not file a tax return, and did not receive mail. He said he lived in the woods.

"For how long?" wondered Perkins-Vance.

Knight thought for a bit, then asked when the Chernobyl nuclear-plant disaster occurred. He had long ago lost the habit of marking time in months or years; this was just a news event he happened to remember. The nuclear meltdown took place in 1986, the same year, Knight said, he went to live in the woods. He was 20 years old at the time, not long out of high school. He was now 47, a middle-aged man.

Knight stated that over all those years he slept only in a tent. He never lit a fire, for fear that smoke would give his camp away. He moved strictly at night. He said he didn't know if his parents were alive or dead. He'd not made one phone call or driven in a car or spent any money. He had never in his life sent an e-mail or even seen the Internet."

http://www.gq.com/news-politics/newsmakers/201409/the-last-true-hermit
5 comments on original post
3
Terry Cunha's profile photo
 
Christopher McCandless would be proud
Add a comment...

Jon Orwant

Shared publicly  - 
 
 
You're just not that interesting Thought for the Day: With some notable exceptions of course, a good rule of thumb is that the more paranoid a person is that their computers and phones are being spied on, the less likely it is that anyone would have any conceivable interest in spying on them.
4 comments on original post
1
Add a comment...

Jon Orwant

Shared publicly  - 
The game of quick wiki thinking.
2
Elaine Ashton's profile photoChris Colohan's profile photo
2 comments
 
32%.  Shows what I know.
Add a comment...
People
Have him in circles
1,210 people
Huỳnh Thị Thảo Trang's profile photo
Jahaan Khan's profile photo
Susan Musleh's profile photo
Frederick Yankowski's profile photo
Sören M. Laird Sörries's profile photo
Peter Leonard's profile photo
balaji chenchu's profile photo
sonjila brantley's profile photo
Jana marcelino's profile photo
Work
Occupation
Engineer
Employment
  • Google
    Engineer, present
  • O'Reilly, France Telecom
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Brookline, MA
Previously
Rockville, MD - Iowa City, IA
Links
YouTube
Contributor to
Story
Tagline
Engineering Manager, Google Research
Education
  • MIT
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Apps with Google+ Sign-in
I've been going here for ten years. Helpful staff, good stock, decent prices. I'm heading there in ten minutes for help installing some coat racks; it's nice to know that not only will they have the parts I need, they'll take the time to give me advice about how to use them.
Public - 7 months ago
reviewed 7 months ago
Choisissez quelqu'un d'autre Ne pas utiliser Abbatiale Batiment sans un avocat. Ils vont vous arnaquer si vous n'êtes pas suffisamment informé sur la réparation. J'ai déposé une plainte auprès de la police nationale, qui paraissait pas surpris qu'une autre personne a été escroqué par Abbatiale Batiment.
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
2 reviews
Map
Map
Map