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• think & dance

`#asciiart`

- ASCII art
- proportional spaced fonts
- structural character selection
- tone-based character selection
- fixed string ASCII art
- angled text ASCII art
- multi-layer ASCII art
- recursive ASCII art

This is a Perl script and requires Imager. See README in the archive for instructions. I cannot provide installation support, but welcome questions and ideas about the method.

After finding a typographic portrait of Christopher Hitchens, created out of Gill Sans letters by Miles Chic at Capilano University, I thought to resurrect software I wrote a long time ago that converts images into letters and expanding traditional ASCII art by using

- proportionally spaced fonts
- a variety of font weights in a single image
- both tone and structure of the image to select characters
- fixed strings to render an image in legible text

The representation of images by characters—ASCII art—has a long history. ASCII art extends the emoticon (or smiley) to represent a larger piece of work. Typically, the works use a fixed-space font (e.g. Courier), originally designed for display on a terminal. Despite the sophistication of computer graphics today, ASCII art continues to have a strong following with new work continually added to public online galleries.

Photos and paintings can be ASCIIfied using a tone-based approach and automated methods exist to do this (Paul D. O’Grady and Scott T. Rickard (2008) Automatic ASCII Art Conversion of Binary Images Using Non-Negative Constraints).

Many artists generate new creations, exclusive to the medium. Typically this kind of ASCII art is based on the interpretation of structure rather than tone—this method has also been automated (Xuemiao Xu, Linling Zhang, Tien-Tsin Wong (2010) Structure-based ASCII Art).

I have written code to generate ASCII art from images by using proportional spaced fonts.

Below is an example of how Pragmata and Gotham can be used to different effect to render an image. When a proportional spaced font is used, the ASCII shape can more fully fill the image.

Let's see how these methods work on a real image. Many ASCII art Mona Lisa versions exist. Below, I render the Mona Lisa with Pragmata, Gotham Book and 8 weights of Gotham.

Two-tone shapes like the S in the figure above require selecting characters that match the structure of the image. (e.g. "|" matches vertical lines). For a given character and image position there are four distinct match possibilities—a combination of whether the character and image have a signal at a position. I show this in the figure below.

By maximizing scores derived from matches (s1, s3) and minimizing any penalties (s2, s4), a character is identified based on maximal coverage of the image region and minimum coverage of areas that are blank.

When proportional text is used, edges are better approximated, such as in the Homer Simpson example below which uses Gotham Book.

Images that are not two-tone require that we match both structure and tone. Structure is approximated by the choice of character, while tone by choice of font weight. To select the best character based on tone, the character's average tone is compared to the average tone of the section of the image to which it is being compared.

It is possible to combine both structure and tone metrics in character selection. Below is an example of how an image with both tone and structure is interpreted as the tone and structure score weights are varied. The balance between these two metrics can be very hard to find—it greatly depends on the image. Tone-based mapping works well when font size is small and the image is viewed from larger distance—in this case, characters play the role of individual pixels with varying brightness. Structure-based mapping works with larger type and closer viewing distance.

Continuous tone bitmaps are an idea application of multi-font ASCII art—images no longer need to be thresholded or dithered.

ASCII art is generated by dividing the image into a grid and finding the letter (the choice of characters is often expanded to include punctuation) that best matches the grid section. Typically, for each grid the entire set of allowable characters is sampled. Instead, we can limit the choice of character by successively sampling from a fixed string.

rendered with the fixed string "monalisa" using 8 weights of Gotham.

Things get even more interesting when the text is angled.

The image can be textured with multiple layers of ASCII art. In the example below, four layers of text are used, each with a different font size.

Instead of varying size, the angle of the text can be changed among layers. This results in a pattern reminiscent of a halftone.

An image can be asciified several times, with each iteration the asciified output of the previous step used as input for the next. At each step, the font size should be reduced to *s* → √*s*.

Building on last month's column about Bayes' Theorem, we introduce Bayesian inference and contrast it to frequentist inference.

Given a hypothesis and a model, the frequentist calculates the probability of different data generated by the model, *P*(data|model). When this probability to obtain the observed data from the model is small (e.g. `alpha` = 0.05), the frequentist rejects the hypothesis.

In contrast, the Bayesian makes direct probability statements about the model by calculating P(model|data). In other words, given the observed data, the probability that the model is correct. With this approach it is possible to relate the probability of different models to identify one that is most compatible with the data.

The Bayesian approach is actually more intuitive. From the frequentist point of view, the probability used to assess the veracity of a hypothesis, P(data|model), commonly referred to as the *P* value, does not help us determine the probability that the model is correct. In fact, the *P* value is commonly misinterpreted as the probability that the hypothesis is right. This is the so-called "prosecutor's fallacy", which confuses the two conditional probabilities *P*(data|model) for *P*(model|data). It is the latter quantity that is more directly useful and calculated by the Bayesian.

Puga, J.L, Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2015) Points of Significance: Bayes' Theorem *Nature Methods* **12**:277-278.

Puga, J.L, Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2015) Points of Significance: Bayes' Theorem *Nature Methods* **12**:277-278.

In our first column on Bayesian statistics, we introduce conditional probabilities and Bayes' theorem

*P*(B|A) = *P*(A|B) × *P*(B) / *P*(A)

This relationship between conditional probabilities *P*(B|A) and *P*(A|B) is central in Bayesian statistics. We illustrate how Bayes' theorem can be used to quickly calculate useful probabilities that are more difficult to conceptualize within a frequentist framework.

Using Bayes' theorem, we can incorporate our beliefs and prior experience about a system and update it when data are collected.

Puga, J.L, Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2015) Points of Significance: Bayes' Theorem *Nature Methods* **12**:277-278.

Oldford, R.W. & Cherry, W.H. Picturing probability: the poverty of Venn diagrams, the richness of eikosograms. (University of Waterloo, 2006)

Celebrate `pi` Day (March 14th) with splitting its digit endlessly. This year I use a treemap approach to encode the digits in the style of Piet Mondrian.

The art has been featured in Ana Swanson's Wonkblog article at the Washington Post—10 Stunning Images Show The Beauty Hidden in `pi`.

I also have art from 2013 `pi` Day and 2014 `pi` Day.

The split plot design originated in agriculture, where applying some factors on a small scale is more difficult than others. For example, it's harder to cost-effectively irrigate a small piece of land than a large one. These differences are also present in biological experiments. For example, temperature and housing conditions are easier to vary for groups of animals than for individuals.

The split plot design is an expansion on the concept of blocking—all split plot designs include at least one randomized complete block design. The split plot design is also useful for cases where one wants to increase the sensitivity in one factor (sub-plot) more than another (whole plot).

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2015) Points of Significance: Split Plot Design *Nature Methods* **12**:165-166.

1. Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Designing Comparative Experiments *Nature Methods* **11**:597-598.

2. Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and blocking *Nature Methods* **11**:699-700.

3. Blainey, P., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Replication *Nature Methods* **11**:879-880.