Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / - contact me Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / on Twitter Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / - Lumondo Photography Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / - Pi Art Martin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / - Hilbertonians - Creatures on the Hilbert CurveMartin Krzywinski / Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre / - Pi Day 2020 - Piku
This love loves love. It's a strange love, strange love.Liz Fraserfind a way to lovemore quotes

filling space: curious

Scientific graphical abstracts — design guidelines

visualization + design

Like paths? Got your lines twisted in a bunch?
Take a look at my 2014 Pi Day art that folds Pi.

Hilbert Curve Art, Hilbertonians and Monkeys

I collaborated with Scientific American to create a data graphic for the September 2014 issue. The graphic compared the genomes of the Denisovan, bonobo, chimp and gorilla, showing how our own genomes are almost identical to the Denisovan and closer to that of the bonobo and chimp than the gorilla.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski

Here you'll find Hilbert curve art, a introduction to Hilbertonians, the creatures that live on the curve, an explanation of the Scientific American graphic and downloadable SVG/EPS Hilbert curve files.

Hilbert curve

There are wheels within wheels in this village and fires within fires!
— Arthur Miller (The Crucible)

The Hilbert curve is one of many space-filling curves. It is a mapping between one dimension (e.g. a line) and multiple dimensions (e.g. a square, a cube, etc). It's useful because it preserves locality—points that are nearby on the line are usually mapped onto nearby points on the curve.

The Hilbert curve is a line that gives itself a hug.

It's a pretty strange mapping, to be sure. Although a point on a line maps uniquely onto the curve this is not the case in reverse. At infinite order the curve intersects itself infinitely many times! This shouldn't be a surprise if you consider that the unit square has the same number of points as the unit line. Now that's the real surprise! So surprising in fact that it apparently destabilized Cantor's mind, who made the initial discovery.

Bryan Hayes has a great introduction (Crinkly Curves) to the Hilbert curve at American Scientist.

If manipulated so that its ends are adjacent, the Hilbert curve becomes the Moore curve.

constructing the hilbert curve

The order 1 curve is generated by dividing a square into quadrants and connecting the centers of the quadrants with three lines. Which three connections are made is arbitrary—different choices result in rotations of the curve.

Hilbert curve. / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski
First 8 orders of the space-filling Hilbert curve. Each square is 144 x 144 pixels. (zoom)

The order 6 curve is the highest order whose structure can be discerned at this figure resolution. Though just barely. The length of this curve is about 64 times the width of the square, so about 9,216 pixels! That's tight packing.

By order 7 the structure in the 620 pixel wide image (each square is 144 px wide) cannot be discerned. By order 8 the curve has 65,536 points, which exceeds the number of pixels its square in the figure. A square of 256 x 256 would be required to show all the points without downsampling.

Two order 10 curves have 1,048,576 points each and would approximately map onto all the pixels on an average monitor (1920 x 1200 pixels).

A curve of order 33 has `7.38 * 10^19` points and if drawn as a square of average body height would have points that are an atom's distance from one another (`10^{-10}` m).

mapping the line onto the square

By mapping the familiar rainbow onto the curve you can see how higher order curves "crinkle" (to borrow Bryan's term) around the square.

Hilbert curve. / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski
First 8 orders of the space-filling Hilbert curve. Each square is 144 x 144 pixels. (zoom)

properties of the first 24 orders of the Hilbert curve

1 4 3 1.5
2 16 15 3.75
3 64 63 7.875
4 256 255 15.9375
5 1,024 1,023 31.96875
6 4,096 4,095 63.984375
7 16,384 16,383 127.9921875
8 65,536 65,535 255.99609375
9 262,144 262,143 511.998046875
10 1,048,576 1,048,575 1023.9990234375
11 4,194,304 4,194,303 2047.99951171875
12 16,777,216 16,777,215 4095.99975585938
13 67,108,864 67,108,863 8191.99987792969
14 268,435,456 268,435,455 16383.9999389648
15 1,073,741,824 1,073,741,823 32767.9999694824
16 4,294,967,296 4,294,967,295 65535.9999847412
17 17,179,869,184 17,179,869,183 131071.999992371
18 68,719,476,736 68,719,476,735 262143.999996185
19 274,877,906,944 274,877,906,943 524287.999998093
20 1,099,511,627,776 1,099,511,627,775 1048575.99999905
21 4,398,046,511,104 4,398,046,511,103 2097151.99999952
22 17,592,186,044,416 17,592,186,044,415 4194303.99999976
23 70,368,744,177,664 70,368,744,177,663 8388607.99999988
24 281,474,976,710,656 281,474,976,710,655 16777215.9999999

You can download the basic curve shapes for orders 1 to 10 and experiment yourself. Both square and circular forms are available.


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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Graphical Abstract Design Guidelines — Clear, concise, legible and compelling.

"This data might give you a migrane"

Tue 06-10-2020

An in-depth look at my process of reacting to a bad figure — how I design a poster and tell data stories.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski
A poster of high BMI and obesity prevalence for 185 countries.