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visualization + design

Christopher Hitchens—Out of Letters

ASCII Art

The images shown here were created as part of my ASCII Art project, which extends ASCII art to include

  • 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

Applying the code to images of Hitchens was motivated by my own deep love of Hitchens and a typographic portrait of Christopher Hitchens, created out of Gill Sans letters by Miles Chic at Capilano University.

This adds to my growing shrines to Hitchens, including Merry Hitchmas! and hitchslap t-shirts.

Christopher Hitchens in Letters and Words

All images are generated using Gotham, with up to 8 weights (Extra Light to Ultra). Each image includes size and characters used for the image. I give the absolute type size, though only useful to know in relative terms to the size of the image and other images drawn with the same method. The color of text in each layer is the same—black— but font weight may vary.

Some images are generated using more than one layer of ASCII. In some cases the characters used in each layer are different.

basic ascii

As the font size is reduced, greater detail and contrast can be achieved.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 43pt set: . x 8 : * @ - \ | _space_ / (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 29pt set: . x 8 : * @ - \ | _space_ / (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 17pt set: . x 8 : * @ - \ | _space_ / (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: . x 8 : * @ - \ | _space_ / (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)

By setting the image with a fixed string, such as a short quote or longer body of text, detail is lost but the ASCII representation takes on more meaning.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: godisnotgreat (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 29pt set: godisnotgreat (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: Hitchslap 11 (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 5 layers (11pt -6deg, 17pt 6deg, 29pt -3deg, 43pt 3deg, 59pt 0deg) set: godisnotgreat (source from Christian Witkin/Twelve/Grand Central Publishing) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 7pt set: . x 8 : * @ - \ | _space_ / (source from Gasper Tringale) (zoom, source)

multi-layered ascii art

Images take on detail when multiple rotated layers of text is used. Each of the images below is composed of more than one layer, starting with a 2-layer image which uses the uppercase alphabet at 0 and 90 degrees.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers (0deg, 90deg) set: A-Z (source from HBO) (zoom, source)

Meaning can be added to the image by using different text in each layer. In the examples below, I set the same image using the pair "Godisnotgreat" (at 0 degrees) and "religionpoisonseverything" (at 90 degrees). In the second example, I use the unlikely combination of "Jesus" and "Mohammad"—inspired by Jesus and Mo.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers set: Godisnotgreat. 0deg Relionpoisonseverything. 90deg (source from HBO) (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers set: Jesus 0deg Mohammad 90deg (source from HBO) (zoom, source)

When rotated layers contain punctuation, very high level of detail can be achieved.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers set: . : - + * _space_ 0deg / 90deg (zoom, source)

The image below is made out of layers that contain only forward (/) and back (\) slashes.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers set: \ / (zoom, source)

The image below is made using only the period character in three layers rotated at -45, 0 and 45 degrees. Although the image looks like a pixelated version of the original—it is more than that. It is a typeset representation that uses 8 weights of Gotham. Character spacing between periods is informed by font metrics.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers set: . (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 2 layers set: 8 X x | ^ : . - = + ' " @ \ / | * ~ , # (source from The Australian) (zoom, source)

hitchens at the podium

The three images below show the difference between using a variety of punctuation characters and setting an image using a block of text. The first image uses "8 X x" and common punctuation.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: 8 X x | ^ : . - = + ' " @ \ / | * ~ , # (zoom, source)

I use hitchslap 9 for the first image below, and all the hitchslaps for the second image. When setting an image in using a block of text, the choice of character at any position is fixed and only the font weight is allowed to vary. When the text is relatively short (e.g. hitchslap 9 is 544 characters and is repeated 50 times in the image), rivers of space appear in the image.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: Hitchslap 9 (zoom, source)
Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: all Hitchslaps (zoom, source)

In both cases, the image is very recognizable.

recursive ascii art

When an image of text is set with the text itself, you have recursive ASCII art. Below is hitchslap 2, set with itself. In the image, the font is Gotham and the text used to asciify the image is also Gotham.

It makes ordinary moral people, compels them, forces them, in some cases orders them do disgusting wicked unforgivable things. There's no expiation for the generations of misery and suffering that religion has inflicted in this way and continues to inflict. And I still haven't heard enough apology for it. — Christopher Hitchens

The quote is 307 characters long and is repeated 391 times in the image.

Christopher Hitchens - ASCII Art / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Christopher Hitchens ASCII Art. method: Gotham font, 8 weights, 11pt set: Hitchslap 2 (source from hitchslap 2) (zoom, source)

In principle, the process of asciifying text with text can be repeated, by using the asciified image as input for asciification with progressively smaller text.

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news + thoughts

Markov Chains

Tue 30-07-2019

You can look back there to explain things,
but the explanation disappears.
You'll never find it there.
Things are not explained by the past.
They're explained by what happens now.
—Alan Watts

A Markov chain is a probabilistic model that is used to model how a system changes over time as a series of transitions between states. Each transition is assigned a probability that defines the chance of the system changing from one state to another.

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

Together with the states, these transitions probabilities define a stochastic model with the Markov property: transition probabilities only depend on the current state—the future is independent of the past if the present is known.

Once the transition probabilities are defined in matrix form, it is easy to predict the distribution of future states of the system. We cover concepts of aperiodicity, irreducibility, limiting and stationary distributions and absorption.

This column is the first part of a series and pairs particularly well with Alan Watts and Blond:ish.

Grewal, J., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2019) Points of significance: Markov Chains. Nature Methods 16:663–664.

1-bit zoomable gigapixel maps of Moon, Solar System and Sky

Mon 22-07-2019

Places to go and nobody to see.

Exquisitely detailed maps of places on the Moon, comets and asteroids in the Solar System and stars, deep-sky objects and exoplanets in the northern and southern sky. All maps are zoomable.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
3.6 gigapixel map of the near side of the Moon, annotated with 6,733. (details)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
100 megapixel and 10 gigapixel map of the Solar System on 20 July 2019, annotated with 758k asteroids, 1.3k comets and all planets and satellites. (details)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
100 megapixle and 10 gigapixel map of the Northern Celestial Hemisphere, annotated with 44 million stars, 74,000 deep-sky objects and 3,000 exoplanets. (details)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
100 megapixle and 10 gigapixel map of the Southern Celestial Hemisphere, annotated with 69 million stars, 88,000 deep-sky objects and 1000 exoplanets. (details)

Quantile regression

Sat 01-06-2019
Quantile regression robustly estimates the typical and extreme values of a response.

Quantile regression explores the effect of one or more predictors on quantiles of the response. It can answer questions such as "What is the weight of 90% of individuals of a given height?"

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

Unlike in traditional mean regression methods, no assumptions about the distribution of the response are required, which makes it practical, robust and amenable to skewed distributions.

Quantile regression is also very useful when extremes are interesting or when the response variance varies with the predictors.

Das, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2019) Points of significance: Quantile regression. Nature Methods 16:451–452.

Background reading

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2015) Points of significance: Simple linear regression. Nature Methods 12:999–1000.

Analyzing outliers: Robust methods to the rescue

Sat 30-03-2019
Robust regression generates more reliable estimates by detecting and downweighting outliers.

Outliers can degrade the fit of linear regression models when the estimation is performed using the ordinary least squares. The impact of outliers can be mitigated with methods that provide robust inference and greater reliability in the presence of anomalous values.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Analyzing outliers: Robust methods to the rescue. (read)

We discuss MM-estimation and show how it can be used to keep your fitting sane and reliable.

Greco, L., Luta, G., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2019) Points of significance: Analyzing outliers: Robust methods to the rescue. Nature Methods 16:275–276.

Background reading

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2016) Points of significance: Analyzing outliers: Influential or nuisance. Nature Methods 13:281–282.