All posts filed under “Weird Stuff

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Star Trek, suicide and Bush voters

I originally heard about StateStats from Fred Wilson, of A VC fame. It sounded interesting. To quote the site:

This tool shows you how popular a Google search query is in each U.S. state, giving a ranking like the one you see in the left column. It then compares this ranking with other ways of ranking states, like average income or population density, using Spearman’s rank correlation.

I first tried out things like different bands I like listening to, a comedian, and a couple of the site’s suggested searches (like yoga).

The most surprising search I made was, of all things, Star Trek. The popularity of searches in states for “star trek” correlates positively to the suicide rate of states!?! Not as strongly, it correlates to the order of states that Voted for Bush in the 2004 presidential election. See the screenshot below:

StarTrek.jpg

Even the search “depression” doesn’t correlate as strongly to suicide rates:

Depression.jpg

I would like to point out a key point the site makes about this data:

Be careful drawing conclusions from this data. For example, the fact that walmart shows a moderate correlation with “Obesity” does not imply that people who search for “walmart” are obese! It only means that states with a high obesity rate tend to have a high rate of users searching for walmart, and vice versa. You should not infer causality from this tool.

But enough of a morbid tone. As I mentioned above, you can see how the popularity of things like up-and-coming bands is concentrated geographically. Check out the chart for the band MGMT:

MGMT.jpg

(This is where I plug that my better half, LondonAnnie, graduated from Wesleyan University. The home of MGMT, Bill Belichick of the Patriots and Eric Mangini of the Jets. For a couple of years LondonAnnie helped Eric put on his family foundation’s football camp for under-privledged kids; it’s been going on since 2002!)

Finally, perhaps it’s yoga that’s really splitting the country?

Yoga.jpg
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A few random notes

So there are a few things I’ve been meaning to post for a while, but haven’t gotten around to. I’m going to un-clog my mind and post a round-up of stuff here.

  • Stephen Hawking will be retiring from the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. Apparently it’s traditional for the person in the post to retire at 67, which he’ll be next year. I didn’t realize he was so old! But he’s certainly still active at the University… a friend of mine has seen him a couple of mornings as he heads to work. For the history buffs out there, this is the same professorship that Isaac Newton held from 1669, as he did most of his pioneering work.
  • Speaking of Stephen Hawking, he dedicated a new clock at Corpus Christi College (the Chronophage, or the Corpus Clock) just a couple of days before I arrived at Cambridge. It’s really amazing; it’s a huge pendulum clock, has a big grasshopper at the top, and doesn’t have any hands. (It uses LED’s instead.)
    CorpusChristiClock.jpg

    Here’s a video:

    What’s perhaps most amazing is that virtually every time I walk or bicycle past it between 2 and 10 times a day people are standing by it, watching it, and taking photos. No matter the time of day or night! I think there’s only been four times in five weeks that I’ve gone by it without someone there! It’s really that captivating.

  • I recently saw an interesting article on Gordon Ramsey. Yes, he’s making tons of money from TV, books, restaurants, etc. But what’s most amazing to me is that he owns:

    1 – Three-star Michelin restaurant
    2 – Two-star Michelin restaurants
    2 – One-star Michelin restaurants

    For my birthday dinner a year ago, LondonAnnie and I went to Maze, his one-star restaurant on Grosvenor Square in London. It was absolutely amazing; the food was incredible, the service was brilliant and we had such a great time. The article mentioned this is his highest-earning restaurant, with revenue in excess of £10million a year!

  • This is a great quote from Evan Williams:

    Starting a company is like landing on the shore of a deserted island

    You have a certain amount of provisions, which you have to make last until you find a way to make the island sustain life—or convince someone to send you more.

    You don’t know how big the island is at first or what predators lie in wait.

    There’s always a chance someone else will raid your island if it looks fruitful, so you need to shore up your defenses.

    Eventually, if you’re successful, you’ll be king of your own prosperous world. If not, you’ll die—or, at least, have to go home.

    Either way, it’s a fun adventure (until you get eaten by a tiger).

  • I really feel for Barack Obama. Just as he’s about to achieve the triumph of a lifetime, his last family member is in her final days. I simply hope that his grandmother will live to see him elected.
  • If you’re fascinated by the current US election, and haven’t gone to fivethirtyeight.com, GO THERE RIGHT NOW. It’s a site run by a legendary baseball statistician, Nate Silver, who has turned his attention this year to the election. In the primaries he made some calls that were well outside the conventional mainstream (in particular Hillary barely winning Indiana and Obama winning North Carolina huge) that were spot on. As of right now, it looks like McCain has about a 5% chance of winning the Presidential election.
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Chumby – I’m strangely intrigued

Chumby_latte.png
I’m strangely intrigued by the Chumby. I was recently reminded of it after reading David Pogue’s review. While I heard about it ages ago, it only recently has gone to regular production.

What is it? Well, it’s essentially a little screen with some speakers and other sensors. Most importantly it has a wireless internet connection so that it is always connected.

What does it do? Whatever you want it to, and a little bit of everything. There are a ton of little “widgets” that have been written for the Chumby. They apparently include alarm clocks, little games, live weather for anywhere in the world, your photos from Flickr, and a bunch more. You can even write your own if you’re so inclined.

It seems like a really neat thing to have on your desk or bedstand. I think you can even program it so that it shows different things at different times of the day. It would be AWESOME if it showed weather and the status of the London Tube lines in the morning and late afternoon. (I hate making my way to the station only to find out there are delays; right now I just have to remember to pay attention to the radio in the morning. Having a bit of warning makes the delays easier to deal with.) During the day it would be great to have a Flickr slide show on the desk.

Anyway, I don’t plan on purchasing one anytime soon, but it seems like a neat little gadget. It will be interesting to see how the company develops.