Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca - contact me Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca on Twitter Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca - Lumondo Photography Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca - Pi Art Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca - Hilbertonians - Creatures on the Hilbert CurveMartin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / mkweb.bcgsc.ca - Pi Day 2020 - Piku
Tango is a sad thought that is danced.Enrique Santos Discépolothink & dancemore quotes

space: out there


Scientific graphical abstracts — design guidelines


music + art
I have billions of pixels to peep and light years to go before I sleep.

Start exploring the Moon discs and see what you can find.

Flunk on the Moon — eventually

There is sound in space, but there is music

Moon above
All the secrets I've told
When we're alone
Down here
I'm always lonely
When you're gone
Down Here / Moon Above, Flunk (History of Everything Ever)

Why don't we send this music to space? What do you say?

imagination in space

Flunk has always had a special place in my heart. When I became involved in the Sanctuary Project — a kind of love letter to the Universe — I saw a way to say thank you to by favourite band.

So I invited them to come with me to somewhere distant and cold.

Flunk on the Moon — eventually (There is sound in space, but there is music) -- science + art + data visualization / Martin Krzywinski / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The first 12 seconds of a 1-bit encoding of a 128 mel 3-bit spectrogram of Flunk's Down Here / Moon Above
Want music? Want math?
My collaboration with Max Cooper tries to answer the question "What does infinity sound like?" Give it a listen.

The Sanctuary Project is a Lunar vault for humanity, inspired by projects like the Golden Record and engraved on ten 10 cm sapphire discs. The discs include math, science, maps, poetry, art and a couple of jokes.

Oh, and a backup of our species. Push to reboot.

how it started

A couple of years ago, I reached out to Ulf Nygaard, the principal and founder of Flunk, and invited him to contribute a song to Sanctuary. Something that would sound great on the Moon.

“I'll make something perfect”, he said.

And then he did.

Get to know Flunk from your balcony.

Moon conquest over drinks

I sat down for drinks with Flunk in Oslo. We celebrated Hitchmas. Make it a double — we were going to go to the Moon.

“Ulf, why is this album called Chemistry and Math?” I asked about Flunk's latest album at the time. And perhaps one with the most unusual title.

I will never forget his answer.

“Sitting in a cafe, I saw two people crossing the street from opposite sides. As they passed each other in the middle, they recognized each other and started talking.”

“In the end, it's just chemistry and math.”

To me, this was the Mariana trench of deep romantic statments. I knew then Flunk was the perfect match for this project.

Ok, I knew thew before too.

how it's going

On May 28th, Flunk released their new album History of Everything Every and Track 1 is Down Here / Moon Above.



While the original plan was for the song to make it to the Moon before its debut on Earth, this didn't quite happen. We're still working on the Moon angle.

all our bases are belong on the Moon

Yes, I do science and make art and I love Flunk, but what does all this have to do with me.

Well, four of the Sanctuary discs contain the backup for humanity: fully sequenced genomes of a woman and man. The individuals were randomly and anonymously selected from our Healthy Aging Study lead by Dr. Angela Brooks-Wilson. The DNA was sequenced at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Center.

I designed and created the content for these discs, which not only include the genomes but also the proteome (gene protein sequences) and the chemical structures of associated metabolites. The genomes include about 10 million SNPs to represent all our variation (imagine me waving my hands around at this point). The SNPs are encoded inline with the sequence, so you do not actually know what the original sequenced genome was — at each position of variation you have a choice of bases.

The discs also contain art and snippes of culture (some pop and some not). It's basically a giant cosmic Easter egg.

Sanctuary discs

Each disc is a 10 cm diameter sapphire wafer containing 3 billion 1-bit pixels.

They're thermodynamically inert and will last forever. Roughly speaking.

You can pixel-peep and browse each of the discs.

To me, these discs are a love poem to the Universe. Or a post card — I love post cards.

Flunk on the Moon — eventually (There is sound in space, but there is music) -- science + art + data visualization / Martin Krzywinski / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The top of the first disc. LUCA's cosmic postcard: the human genome, with related matters.

The four genome discs look like this.

Flunk on the Moon — eventually (There is sound in space, but there is music) -- science + art + data visualization / Martin Krzywinski / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Sanctuary disc with female genome. The proteome is stored in smaller squares placed around the edges of each disc the disc. In the center of disc are decoding instructions and Flunk's song.
Flunk on the Moon — eventually (There is sound in space, but there is music) -- science + art + data visualization / Martin Krzywinski / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Sanctuary disc with female genome (cont'd).
Flunk on the Moon — eventually (There is sound in space, but there is music) -- science + art + data visualization / Martin Krzywinski / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Sanctuary disc with male genome.
Flunk on the Moon — eventually (There is sound in space, but there is music) -- science + art + data visualization / Martin Krzywinski / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Sanctuary disc with male genome (cont'd) and chemical structures of metabolites.

You know you're done reading when you get to the end.

Flunk on the Moon — eventually (There is sound in space, but there is music) -- science + art + data visualization / Martin Krzywinski / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The bottom of the last disc. Because not everyone has time for all 6 billion bases.

The first disc, which contains roughly the first half of the female genome, also contains instructions for decoding, along with a few of our learned lessons (Nuremberg Code and Declaration of Helsinki) that remind the reader not to experiment carelessly with the information.

Flunk on the Moon — eventually (There is sound in space, but there is music) -- science + art + data visualization / Martin Krzywinski / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Sanctuary disc with the female genome. In the center of disc are decoding instructions and Flunk's song.

Peeping a bit closer, these instructions take shape. the long black strip is a spectrogram encoding of Flunk's song. For a closeup of the decoding instructions for the discs, see the Instructions section.

Flunk on the Moon — eventually (There is sound in space, but there is music) -- science + art + data visualization / Martin Krzywinski / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A closeup of the decoding instructions and sonogram encoding of Flunk's song.

music for space

Flunk's song is encoded using 128 mel 3-bit spectrogram. This takes 11,688 × 384 1-bit pixels on the discs. For details see the Sonogram section.

Flunk on the Moon — eventually (There is sound in space, but there is music) -- science + art + data visualization / Martin Krzywinski / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A closeup of the decoding instructions for the sonogram of Flunk's song.

poster for space

A 512 mel 1-bit encoding of the full History of Everything Ever album. Great for your wall or Moon patch.

Flunk on the Moon — eventually (There is sound in space, but there is music) -- science + art + data visualization / Martin Krzywinski / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The 1-bit 512 mel sonogram encoding of all tracks on History of Everything Ever album.

VIEW ALL

news + thoughts

Music for the Moon: Flunk's 'Down Here / Moon Above'

Sat 29-05-2021

The Sanctuary Project is a Lunar vault of science and art. It includes two fully sequenced human genomes, sequenced and assembled by us at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre.

The first disc includes a song composed by Flunk for the (eventual) trip to the Moon.

But how do you send sound to space? I describe the inspiration, process and art behind the work.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The song 'Down Here / Moon Above' from Flunk's new album History of Everything Ever is our song for space. It appears on the Sanctuary genome discs, which aim to send two fully sequenced human genomes to the Moon. (more)

Browse the genome discs.

Happy 2021 `\pi` Day—
A forest of digits

Sun 14-03-2021

Celebrate `\pi` Day (March 14th) and finally see the digits through the forest.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The 26th tree in the digit forest of `\pi`. Why is there a flower on the ground?. (details)

This year is full of botanical whimsy. A Lindenmayer system forest – deterministic but always changing. Feel free to stop and pick the flowers from the ground.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The first 46 digits of `\pi` in 8 trees. There are so many more. (details)

And things can get crazy in the forest.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A forest of the digits of '\pi`, by ecosystem. (details)

Check out art from previous years: 2013 `\pi` Day and 2014 `\pi` Day, 2015 `\pi` Day, 2016 `\pi` Day, 2017 `\pi` Day, 2018 `\pi` Day and 2019 `\pi` Day.

Testing for rare conditions

Sun 30-05-2021

All that glitters is not gold. —W. Shakespeare

The sensitivity and specificity of a test do not necessarily correspond to its error rate. This becomes critically important when testing for a rare condition — a test with 99% sensitivity and specificity has an even chance of being wrong when the condition prevalence is 1%.

We discuss the positive predictive value (PPV) and how practices such as screen can increase it.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Testing for rare conditions. (read)

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2021) Points of significance: Testing for rare conditions. Nature Methods 18:224–225.

Standardization fallacy

Tue 09-02-2021

We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty! —D. Adams

A popular notion about experiments is that it's good to keep variability in subjects low to limit the influence of confounding factors. This is called standardization.

Unfortunately, although standardization increases power, it can induce unrealistically low variability and lead to results that do not generalize to the population of interest. And, in fact, may be irreproducible.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Standardization fallacy. (read)

Not paying attention to these details and thinking (or hoping) that standardization is always good is the "standardization fallacy". In this column, we look at how standardization can be balanced with heterogenization to avoid this thorny issue.

Voelkl, B., Würbel, H., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2021) Points of significance: Standardization fallacy. Nature Methods 18:5–6.

Graphical Abstract Design Guidelines

Fri 13-11-2020

Clear, concise, legible and compelling.

Making a scientific graphical abstract? Refer to my practical design guidelines and redesign examples to improve organization, design and clarity of your graphical abstracts.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Graphical Abstract Design Guidelines — Clear, concise, legible and compelling.