Saturday, August 19, 2017

Magic roundabouts

Behold the "magic roundabout" in Swindon, England. It is a roundabout formed by 5 smaller roundabouts arranged around a sixth central, anticlock wise roundabout. I would also called it 'magic' if I managed to drive through it and survive. Jokes aside, it seems pretty safe.

Apparently, this is a thing in the UK where they have four other magic roundabouts. Here is how the one in Swindon works:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Social class and commuting in London from 1800 to 1940

In this video Simon Abernethy talks about his PhD thesis where he looked at how public transport shaped the distribution of social classes in London from 1800 to 1940. The interview covers some interesting details about the daily life of suburban commuters back then. I think some urban historians might enjoy it. Looking at you Yuri Gama.

This is a relatively old interview, though. It was recorded in 2013 and Simon has published a few studies since then.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

An R library to analyze and map John Snow's 1854 Cholera data

As many of you will know, an English physician called John Snow mapped the cholera outbreak in the Soho district of London in 1854. That map would later be a key element in the discovery that cholera was caused by contaminated water, not air. It's fair to say this map somehow changed history not only because of the lives it helped save, but perhaps more importantly because of the ways it opened human imagination to the role of spatial analysis in science and human development. Steven Johnson has written a book about the story of this map and its influence on modern science and cities. If you are short in time, there is a great 9-minute video summary of the book here.

All this introduction to say that now there is an R library that allows you to analyze and map John Snow's 1854 Cholera data yourself. Thanks Bob Rudis for calling attention to this library on twitter. Dani Arribas-Bel also pointed out to this chapter / online notebook that presents the documented code for a reproducible spatial analysis of John Snow’s map using mostly Python. This is great material for teaching.

update 16 Aug 2017: RJ Andrews has also pointed me to this paper analyzing the mortality rates and the space-time patterns of John Snow’s cholera epidemic map.



Sunday, August 6, 2017

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Computational social science and the dynamics of social trust

Just a quick  procrastination  post today since I'm still working on the paper I'll submit to TRB.

I read a few days ago a great piece by Pseudoerasmus (Twitter) on 'Where Do Pro-Social Institutions Come From?'. It's a long read but it gives a nice and beautifully written overview on the recent research on the dynamics of social trust and its relation to collective action, culture, institutions and evolutionary game theory.

On a related topic, I just saw today the new project by Nicky Case. Nick is a star programmer/interactive designer that uses code to build interactive websites to explain scientific theories to the wider public. He has many interesting projects so be aware you might loose a day or two playing with his projects. In his latest project, Nick applies computational social science to game theory to explore the dynamics of social trust. It's a super well designed project that explains in simple terms such a complex topic. I think this is a great complimentary material to Pseudoerasmus' piece and in fact to any course on collective action, social trust, game theory, chaos and complexity theory.

Now go on. Take 7 minutes of your day and give it a try. It's worth it. If you don't have 7 minutes, this is the main take away.
"If there's one big takeaway from all of game theory, it's this: What the game is, defines what the players do. Our problem today isn't just that people are losing trust, it's that our environment acts against the evolution of trust. [...] In the short run, the game defines the players. But in the long run, it's us players who define the game"

Friday, July 21, 2017

The high cost of free parking

Nice video by Vox and the Mobility Lab team on how parking requirements shaped American cities. Via Jeff Wood



Thursday, July 20, 2017

Map of the day: the public transport network of Tokyo

Simon Kuestenmacher tweeted the other day this map that shows the public transport network of Tokyo metropolitan area (higher quality image in Japanese here). Tokyo is today the largest metro area with almost 38 million people. The amount of planning and daily work they put in their transport network overt the decades it just jaw dropping, as this maps can tell. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Vertical Hong Kong

Beautiful drone footage of Hong Kong, by Mariana Bisti (2017). It's better in full screen.