Who is the greatest person who has ever lived? Those ranking by deaths prevented have put forth Norman Borlaug (over 1 billion), Viktor Zhdanov (300 million), Haber and Bosch (2.7 billion, but then there's the war crimes thing), and, of course, Stanislav Petrov (everyone). Lists of the most important people are often decided by popular vote, with Gutenberg, Einstein, and Darwin generally doing well, but don't count yourself out. More recently, as Cass Sunstein entertainingly covers, there have also been quantitative attempts to measure the most important person., including, most recently, a detailed algorithm by a computer science professor and a Google engineer that tells us that the most important people are, in order: Jesus, Napoleon, Shakespeare, and Muhammed. Smithsonian magazine commissioned them to come up with a special list of the most important Americans. You can also play a historical importance version of the who's hotter game using their algorithm.
Kayak has analyzed a billion travel searches to produce the Travel Hacker Guide, which includes the most up-and-coming beaches and destinations. For North Americans, they found that you want to book Caribbean trips 2-4 weeks ahead, and European trips 6 months ahead. There is also a nifty map showing you how much it costs to get to various destinations. The New York Times has an interview about the report. Another analysis of a different data set found that US domestic tickets are best bought 57 days out, and the best day to shop for fares is Sunday. Data outside the US is less available, but at least one paper has found that it is better to buy in the afternoon, and that 3-6 weeks is the right window.
The internet is full of mediocre, self-aggrandizing, or plain bad advice about how to found and manage a startup, but there some really useful collections out there. The annual collection of best links by Tom Eisenmann of Harvard (also: 2012, 2011, 2010) is very good, as is the 30 best posts by First Round Capital, and the many readings available in Stanford's E145 class. On an ongoing basis, the Startup Management blog is a good place to look, plus, inside, there are... [more inside]
531 of the most interesting articles on Wikipedia covering everything from the linguistic (self-contradicting words in English) to the philosophical (The Ultimate 747 Gambit); from the only German military landing in the Americas (Weather Station Kurt) to the world's only Bigfoot Trap; to oddities both geometric (Gömböc ) and mathematical (Tupper's self-referential formula); great lists of various things (Bible errata, unsolved problems, camouflage patterns, blurred spots on Google Maps, lost art, the last monarchs of the Americas) to things that will make great band names (Orbiting Frog Otolith). [prev, shorter lists]
The map of US military installations by artist Josh Begley uses the US military's list of bases (plus a few other sources) to provide satellite image maps of hundreds of military sites around the world. For similar efforts, see Radical Cartography and the always-amazing work of Trevor Paglen
The Digital Attack Map from Google and Arbor Networks gives you an amazing dynamic visualization of ongoing Distributed Denial of Service and other cyberattacks. You can also go back to see older attacks - like the 6-day long attack on the US in August, attacks on the anniversary of the Korean War, and others. Slate finds it a bit self-serving for Google, but the helpful video explaining DDoS is useful.
A wonderful animated state-by-state map of the most popular names for girls since 1960. Watch the Jennifer Takeover of 1970! Thrill to the doomed Appalachian Amanda Insurgency of the late 1970s! Cower before the great Jessica-Ashley Battles! Sigh with relief at the arrival of Emma, Isabella, and Sophia as we approach the world of today! Regret naming your child the same thing as everyone else! Bonus, also from Jezebel: How to pick a weird name for your kid
What skill can learn right now in 10 minutes that will be useful for the rest of my life? Is a Quora thread that goes beyond the usual "life hacks" (though it has them, too) to include some neat skills [Quora requires registration, but links go to direct sites]. Learn to read Korean, eat a chicken wing properly, fold a t-shirt, become a better Google searcher, crack an egg with one hand, whistle with your fingers, learn to speed read (the most popular answer), use the peg system to remember things, and learn to change a tire. [more inside]
Measure America offers a terrific tools for visualizations and charts of the Measure of America Project from the Social Science Research Council, which looks at the Human Development Index at a city and state level, with breakdowns by race as well. Among the general findings are that "Red States" rank lower, opportunity is increasing everywhere but Michigan, and Connecticut is the best state, Washington DC the best city..
The Boston Globe's map of Starbucks versus Dunkin Donuts locations is surprisingly beautiful. Other useful mapping views into dining and drinking: grocery stores versus bars (On, Wisconsin!), BBQ styles (more information on Serious Eats), and beautiful worldwide food maps from Food: An Atlas.
Ten desirable skills you can teach yourself is a nice round-up of terrific guides to teaching yourself new tricks including basic repair skills, learning a language (the Foreign Services Institute has a chart of how hard various languages are to learn), teaching yourself to code, building electronics (starting with soldering), getting yourself up to speed in photography, learning an instrument, developing a basic sense of design, the inevitable cooking tips, and even some starter self-defense moves. Also, a very nicely organized list of free online college courses.
Over 40 million Americans move in a year, creating a huge amount of internal migration. In this wonderful interactive map you can see the flows of population by county and year in America. Four experts comment on the map ("The Human Capital Swap-meet," "Vibrant Flux," "Reversing Flows," and "New Patterns?"). In more detail, the Census has a report on the latest geographic flows, and the Migration Policy Institute has terrific data on the population flows of immigrants. And, for a more international view, the map of cities that attract the most outside residents is also really interesting.
The Connected States of America is a supercool interactive map from the MIT Media Lab and IBM that lets you visualize how regions in the US are connected by cell phone calls and SMS messages. Instead of the familiar states, new patterns emerge, with New Jersey and California split in half, and Pittsburgh the new capital of West Virginia, among other changes.
Five Books claims to make you an instant expert, which it may or may not. What it does do is interview an important thinker every day about a topic, and have them select five books on the subject. The results are often eccentric and usually fascinating. Some samples: Rebecca Goldstein on reason's limitations; John Timoney on policing; Calvin Trillin on memoirs, Marcus du Sautoy on the beauty of math, Judith Herrin on Byzantium, Jonathan Haidt on happiness, and lots more, including five books on puppeteering, Nabokov, books for kids, moral philosophy, video games, terrorism, the enemies of Ancient Rome, and cookbooks.
Timelines: Time Travel in Popular Film and TV is a beautiful visualization of that most favored science fiction gimmick. For a more thorough, but less pretty, view of science fiction that messes with history, there is a chronology of when 1,800 different alternate history stories deviate from our own time line. Also, a brief look at the logic of time travel in science fiction, and how it should work.
"I'll argue for the sake of arguing that we as human beings have a finite supply of attention for ambient awareness of things around the world.... And the fact that I know just a little bit too much about popular television due to twitter has to be responsible for some other deficit in my life..." Twitter zero: One man's experiment in staying connected to the public-soundbite world without becoming overwhelmed by it.
Dozens of the web's best visualization tools. Neat choices include TuneGlue's music map using data from Amazon and last.fm, Packetgarden's weird world grown from your websurfing habits, Akamai's real-time network visualization, the many widgets of last.fm, the hypnotic maps of the mood of blogs from We Feel Fine, the beautiful galleries of Visual Complexity, and a neat list of tools for drawing diagrams. [some prev]
The entire sequence takes 26 seconds. There’s too much to take in. Or, you don’t know what you’ve taken in, and how deep the impression has been.
The Flow, by Paul Myerscough
That image gives way, quickly and successively, to a series of others: a young black woman smoking, smiling at the camera through a reinforced glass window; three teenage girls in a car, laughing, filmed through the windscreen; a whip-pan to the American flag, pierced by sunlight, drifting in the breeze; a DIY programme on a pixellated TV screen; a ride-along shot of a family in an oversized golf buggy; two different angles of a man alone in a lecture theatre; two more of traffic at night; a woman, suspicious of the camera, wearing a polka-dot dress and partly obscured by glassy reflections; a blurry shot of a long windowless corridor; a man wearing shades in a crowded street; a woman pursued down the cosmetics aisle of a supermarket; and, as Curtis comes to the end of his three short sentences, a woman seen jogging in the wing-mirror of a moving car. The entire sequence takes 26 seconds. There’s too much to take in. Or, you don’t know what you’ve taken in, and how deep the impression has been.
Under alien skies: Start with the simply stunning Exosolar, a flash-based interface for navigating through 2,000 nearer stars in 3-D, including all discovered planets outside our solar system. See what the skies would look like from other planets and suns. Explore star maps from many science fiction universes, from Star Trek to Dune. Watch the Big Dipper change its shape over a hundred thousand years. Zoom into a face-on map of the Milky Way that would cover 16 square meters if printed, and see the Atlas of the Universe. [prev. on extrasolar planets, prev. on star maps]
Are you annoyed that there is no species of blind cave spider named Sinopoda metafilteris or worm salamander named Oedipina bluepepsi? You can fix that for 3,000 Euros at the controversal BIOPAT. For inspiration, the Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature site collects the puns, insults, and other weirdnesses that can be found in the scientific names of various plants and animals [prev.]. Genes are not immune to weird names, especially in the case of the fruitfly, where clever naming is normal; but even better are the world's strangest dinosaur names, which allow you to tremble in fear in front of the bambiraptor and meet the Dragon King of Hogwarts.
The 100 worst reviewed movies ever, according to Rotten Tomatoes. "We've got two Baby Geniuses and three Uwe Boll flicks. Heck, you know these movies must be bad if Catwoman ranks a lofty number 100..." Also, check out the 80 best-reviewed movies.
The International Networks Archive is an effort by a group of sociologists to understand 2,000 years of globalization through mapping the network of transactions that link the world, rather than geography. The project is still ongoing, but you can see some of the results: an interactive map that uses travel time to visualize the world; a graphic of the growth of Starbucks and McDonalds; the distribution of government jobs (apparently the 3,412 postal inspectors can carry firearms); the cashflows of movies and tobacco; and, of course, the world at night. There is also access to a lot of detailed data, as well as more maps and information at the Mapping Globalization wiki.
Pliny's Natural History, the first encyclopedia. Featuring chapters like "Other wonderful things related to dolphins" and one mentioning the lynx and the sphinx in a single passage. Obviously he got a lot very wrong, but it launched a tradition of authoritative encyclopedias. More recently, you hopefully know that the forty-four million word eleventh (1911) edition of Encyclopedia Britannica is online, later volumes are not, but you can still find elsewhere Trotsky's article on Lenin, Freud's on psychoanalysis, Houdini on conjuring, or Lawrence of Arabia on guerillas. Britannica also offers a series of articles from its archives showing how views on Mars or the debate in 1768 over whether California was an island. Other fascinating encyclopedias online include the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia and the 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia, and the Encyclopedia Mythica.
Matthew White's Historical Atlas of the 20th Century. One of those amazing internet reference sites created by some guy (okay, Matthew White). Lots of fascinating, incredibly researched stuff: complete lists of all manmade megadeaths in the 20th century, the 100 most important works of art of the 20th century, maps showing changes in the types of government by decade, comments on Wikipedia, and much more. Also, some fun stuff, like what the US would look like if every secessionist movement succeeded. Previously posted in 2001, but much updated and worth a second look