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hitchens: fun


Scientific graphical abstracts — design guidelines


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

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.