Volcanoes of the World

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Here's a fun figure I made: every volcano on the planet, colored by every known eruption.

(Click for full size)

This data comes courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute's Global Volcanism Program. This dataset includes 10734 known eruptions from 1562 individual volcanoes, going back about 12000 years!

Of course the data are not complete throughout history, but should be quite robust for modern times. For reference, there are 176 entries for eruptions since 2010!!

Our planet is incredible.


update: Some people felt I was under-selling the volcanism of Iceland, and also some folks don't like the Hammer-Aitoff projection I used... so here's another version using a more Euro-centric view and a Robinson map projection:
(Click for full size)

The Rainbow is not Dead

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What I have to say may shock some of you: the rainbow color map isn't dead, and it shouldn't be.

Boom. Let the rage begin!

It might seem surprising for me to say that, since I've been a huge advocate of the cubehelix color map on this site (and IRL). Some of my friends have also penned strongly worded comments against rainbow (aka jet). I've been known to wax on about it too. There have also been widely read critics of this color map recently, which pushed me to write my own (shudder) defense of the rainbow.

Most of the criticism is well founded, and falls along a few (excellent) lines of reasoning:
  1. It doesn't desaturate to black/white sensibly
  2. The color order is not universally understood
  3. It is hard to make out fine details, and can artificially exaggerate others
  4. It includes colors which are hard to see (e.g. cyan, yellow)

I argue that's not the whole story....

The tl;dr answer: some data is categorical not continuous, and some continuous data needs certain features highlighted. Always choose colors for a reason.

Let's break it down... here's a figure that aesthetically irritates me (I'm nitpicking on the astroml figures here because they are damned excellent). People use this kind of figure as an example of good plotting style and nice visualization methods. It is also used it as an example of bad color choices and weird visual artifacts.

This figure is good and bad. Specifically, the left panel is probably bad, the right seems good.
(SDSS surface gravity versus temperature for stars. From here)

Name your child for success!

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Shakespeare famously posed the question:
"What's in a name?"
The answer may actually be: quite a bit!

Your given name (and your family name, for that matter) likely contains a lot of subtle information about you and your history. For example, we often assume names correlate with gender (as I have in previous articles)... Except the gender identity of some common names has changed over history (examples here)! Your name may also correlate with your political affiliation or what job you have.

I recently wondered: do certain names correlate with brilliance or high intellectual achievement? 

To find out, I gathered a large dataset of full names from people with PhDs in science (from the IAU and AAAS), as well as the names of lawyers using several recent years of bar exam "pass lists" provided by WA, NY, and TX. In total I was able to easily (read: quickly) gather over 36,000 full names of scientists and lawyers!

With this corpus of highly educated names in hand, let's look at which are most common!

The most common names of scientists:

Right away you can see a dramatic trend: it's mostly dudes. In fact, of the top 100 most common names for scientists, only 14 are female!

The most common names of lawyers:

While mens names still dominate, there are definitely more women in top list. For comparison, of the top 100 most common names for lawyers, 50 are female! That difference is shocking to me.

The Dream of Spaceflight

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Me and fellow member of team "Gagarin", at Space Camp (Huntsville, AL) circa 2001
This past Friday during a test flight over the Mojave desert the privately funded SpaceShipTwo crashed, killing one test pilot and severely injuring another. Combined with the destruction of a privately built Antares rocket during launch (thankfully nobody injured), it's been a hard week for the business of space.

Some worry these two accidents have been a damning setback to the dream. Here the dream I'm referring to is making space travel common, available to everyone. And to be clear, it's a LONG ways off... Currently it costs between $1 and $10 per lb to fly on commercial airlines (of course, we don't buy tickets by the lb, but its a round number). By comparison, launching something in to space is over 1000X more expensive, around $10,000 per lb. When private companies are able to make spaceflight an everyday reality, we'll be a lot closer to this dream.

Around 540 people have flown in space (and perhaps a few more if you believe militaries have flown secret missions). That's it! Fewer than 600 humans have ever left our world. Given that the World population is still increasing, I wondered:  Has the number of people who have flown in to space actually kept up with population growth?

In other words, even though it's insanely expensive to launch people, and very few have been fortunate enough to go, are we making any progress on the dream?
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