Datablog: Finding the World's Dimensions
July 26, 2010


The power of data to destroy preconceived notions seems to drive Hans Rosling, co-founder of Gapminder. My first experience with the website was in the spring of 2009 when H1N1 hysteria reached its apex. When a friend sent over the link, I thought I was looking at a simple scatter plot. I had neglected to notice the play button at the bottom of the screen -- an animated feature which shows change over time. In this case, the graph compared the number of news articles about tuberculosis and H1N1 to the number of reported cases of each disease. Obviously, in the spring of 2009, H1N1 had become a disproportionately large news story.

Purchased by Google in 2007, Gapminder pushes data forward in three ways: it liberates long-buried information by publishing the available data; the animation feature makes the data digestible for a significantly larger audience; and most importantly, it encourages participation through its search function, a seemingly common theme in the Datablog.

The recently introduced Gapminder Desktop allows users to both access the information without an internet connection and save their favorite graphs (the current version comes with more than 600 preloaded graphs). A personal favorite is one that monitors per capita CO2 emissions. Before we assail China for their recent upsurge, it should be noted that until recently the US had held that dubious distinction since since 1903.


Trinidad and Tobago was the 1944 world leader in per capita CO2 emissions. Free SPUR membership to the first person who tells me how this could possibly be true.


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