Another Dark Little Corner

moon phases

Started this before change to "New Blogger", as backup in case of trouble with digiphoto blog "In a Small Dark Room", or rants & links blog "Hello Cruel World" . Useful - at one stage Dark Room was there, but like the astrophysical Dark Matter, we could't see it ... better now, but kept Just In Case.

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There is nothing. There is no God and no universe, there is only empty space, and in it a lost and homeless and wandering and companionless and indestructible Thought. And I am that thought. And God, and the Universe, and Time, and Life, and Death, and Joy and Sorrow and Pain only a grotesque and brutal dream, evolved from the frantic imagination of that same Thought.
Mark Twain (letter to Joseph Twichell after his wife's death)
[me, on a bad day]

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Google Hacks - Mapped Web  
Mapped Web
Physical distances are not the same as psychological distances. Physical distances are easy enough to measure, but how do we go about measuring psychological distances? The Mapped Web does this by taking the chance that given a page contains the name of one country it will also contain the name of another country as a measure for psychological distance. The resulting images show us how close countries are to each other in psychological terms.

This procedure can be extended to create maps for specific areas by including extra search terms. Look at all the pages on the Internet with the word War on them, which countries correlate? Probably countries that have something to do with each other in wars. The images below picture some of the relations between countries in this way.

A 200x200 matrix with the relative frequencies of country name combinations represents actually a 200 dimensional space with the countries as dots in between them. The trick is to reduce this amount of dimensions to two so we can actually plot something. This is usually done by a technique called Principal Component Analysis, where two new axis are constructed that represent the lot in the best possible way. The program here uses a different technology, the sammon algorithm. Here we just start with a random initial configuration. Over a number of iterations, we move the countries in the directions where they want to go, i.e. they are attracted to countries which they are closer to according to the matrix than according to the configuration and are repulsed by countries are too close to.

The results are the maps below. You can download two scripts, generateMatrix, which takes one parameter, the keyword, and generates a text file with the distances matrix for that keyword and stressOptimize, which generates the map. The latter uses the brilliant VPython visualization. The nice thing is that it is animated during the iteration, so you see what goes on. This project was largely done together with Ernst Wit, a fellow Savage Minder, who also came up with the initial idea.

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