AIRING NEWS

A Real-Time Map of Births and Deaths

Brad Lyon, Ph.D., does mathematical modeling and software development. Last year he and designer Bill Snebold made a hugely-popular interactive simulation map of births and deaths in the U.S.—the population of which is on pace to increase 44 percent by 2050. Now, Lyon takes on the world.



"This one for world births/deaths is certainly more overwhelming than the one for the U.S.," Lyon told me, "and the rate at which they must be occurring gives another glimpse into how big the world is."

That is to say, watch this and everything you're worried about today becomes nothing. That's a healthy perspective, to a degree.

"What got me interested initially," Lyon said, "was simply curiosity about what the pattern of births and deaths might be like, based on the current rates, coupled with the desire to learn more about some of the newer technologies for the web."

In this case, that technology is primarily d3.js, a javascript library by New York Times graphics editor Michael Bostock. A larger version, with more coding and data source information, is on this Google Drive.

"The visualizations here, while pulling together some numbers," Lyon said, "are still qualitative because we of course don't know what the pattern is really like. However, we do know where the numbers end up, so they must get there somehow."

Last year I wrote about the U.S. map, and included my hopes that someone would make a TV show wherein a tormented protagonist has access to a real version of this map one day in advance of the actual deaths taking place. She has to try and stop them, and is faced with nail-biting choices. (An out-of-control trolley is headed for five people who died on the map. She can  pull a lever that diverts the train to a track where it will instead kill one person. Does she pull it?) Tune in next week. It would be called The Mapkeeper. Still on the table, Hollywood.

 


    






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