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Tango is a sad thought that is danced.Enrique Santos Discépolothink & dancemore quotes

numbers: beautiful


In Silico Flurries: Computing a world of snow. Scientific American. 23 December 2017


visualization + design

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
The 2018 Pi Day art celebrates the 30th anniversary of `\pi` day and connects friends stitching road maps from around the world. Pack a sandwich and let's go!

The art of Pi (`\pi`), Phi (`\phi`) and `e`


Pi Art Posters
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2018 `\pi` day shrinks the world and celebrates road trips by stitching streets from around the world together. In this version, we look at the boonies, burbs and boutique of `\pi` by drawing progressively denser patches of streets. Let's go places.

Pi Art Posters
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2017 `\pi` day

Pi Art Posters
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2016 `\pi` approximation day

Pi Art Posters
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2016 `\pi` day

Pi Art Posters
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2015 `\pi` day

Pi Art Posters
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2014 `\pi` approx day

Pi Art Posters
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2014 `\pi` day

Pi Art Posters
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
2013 `\pi` day

Pi Art Posters
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Circular `\pi` art

Numbers are a lot of fun. They can start conversations—the interesting number paradox is a party favourite: every number must be interesting because the first number that wasn't would be very interesting! Of course, in the wrong company they can just as easily end conversations.

The art here is my attempt at transforming famous numbers in mathematics into pretty visual forms, start some of these conversations and awaken emotions for mathematics—other than dislike and confusion

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Like music with numbers? Try Angels at My Door (Una), Pt vs Ys (Yoshinori Sunahara), 2wicky (Hooverphonic), One (Aimee Mann), Straight to Number One (Touch and Go), 99 luftbaloons (Nena).

Numerology is bogus, but art based on numbers can be beautiful. Proclus got it right when he said (as quoted by M. Kline in Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times)

Wherever there is number, there is beauty.
Proclus Diadochus


Pi Art Posters
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
2,258 digits of `\phi`, 3,855 digits of `e` and 3,628 digits of `\pi` in 6 level treemaps. Uniform line thickness. Bauhaus prime colors in Piet Mondrian style. (2015 `\pi` day posters, BUY ARTWORK)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
All art posters are available for purchase.
I take custom requests.

the numbers π, φ and e

The consequence of the interesting number paradox is that all numbers are interesting. But some are more interesting than others—how Orwellian!

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
—George Orwell (Animal Farm)

Numbers such as `\pi` (or `\tau` if you're a revolutionary), `\phi`, `e`, `i = \sqrt{-1}`, and `0` have captivated imagination. Chances are at least one of them appears in the next physics equation you come across.

π 
φ
e 
= 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 ...
= 1.61803 39887 49894 84820 45868 34365 63811 77203 09179 ...
= 2.71828 18284 59045 23536 02874 71352 66249 77572 47093 ...

Of these three transcendental numbers, `\pi` (3.14159265...) is the most well known. It is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter (`d = \pi r`) and appears in the formula for the area of the circle (`a = \pi r^2`).


Pi Art Posters
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
2,258 digits of `\phi`, 3,855 digits of `e` and 3,628 digits of `\pi` in 6 level treemaps. Uniform line thickness. Bauhaus prime colors in Piet Mondrian style. (2016 `\pi` day posters, BUY ARTWORK)

The Golden Ratio (`\phi`, 1.61803398...) is the attractive proportion of values `a > b` that satisfy `{a+b}/2 = a/b`, which solves to `a/b = {1 + \sqrt{5}}/2`.

The last of the three numbers, `e` (2.71828182...) is Euler's number and also known as the base of the natural logarithm. It, too, can be defined geometrically—it is the unique real number, `e`, for which the function `f(x) = e^x` has a tangent of slope 1 at `x=0`. Like `\pi`, `e` appears throughout mathematics. For example, `e` is central in the expression for the normal distribution as well as the definition of entropy. And if you've ever heard of someone talking about log plots ... well, there's `e` again!

Two of these numbers can be seen together in mathematics' most beautiful equation, the Euler identity: `e^{i\pi} = -1`. The tau-oists would argue that this is even prettier: `e^{i\tau} = 1`.

accidentally similar

Did you notice how the 13th digit of all three numbers is the same (9)? This accidental similarity generates its own number—the Accidental Similarity Number (ASN).

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news + thoughts

Curse(s) of dimensionality

Tue 05-06-2018
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

We discuss the many ways in which analysis can be confounded when data has a large number of dimensions (variables). Collectively, these are called the "curses of dimensionality".

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Curse(s) of dimensionality. (read)

Some of these are unintuitive, such as the fact that the volume of the hypersphere increases and then shrinks beyond about 7 dimensions, while the volume of the hypercube always increases. This means that high-dimensional space is "mostly corners" and the distance between points increases greatly with dimension. This has consequences on correlation and classification.

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2018) Points of significance: Curse(s) of dimensionality Nature Methods 15:399–400.

Statistics vs Machine Learning

Tue 03-04-2018
We conclude our series on Machine Learning with a comparison of two approaches: classical statistical inference and machine learning. The boundary between them is subject to debate, but important generalizations can be made.

Inference creates a mathematical model of the datageneration process to formalize understanding or test a hypothesis about how the system behaves. Prediction aims at forecasting unobserved outcomes or future behavior. Typically we want to do both and know how biological processes work and what will happen next. Inference and ML are complementary in pointing us to biologically meaningful conclusions.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Statistics vs machine learning. (read)

Statistics asks us to choose a model that incorporates our knowledge of the system, and ML requires us to choose a predictive algorithm by relying on its empirical capabilities. Justification for an inference model typically rests on whether we feel it adequately captures the essence of the system. The choice of pattern-learning algorithms often depends on measures of past performance in similar scenarios.

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2018) Points of Significance: Statistics vs machine learning. Nature Methods 15:233–234.

Background reading

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2017) Points of Significance: Machine learning: a primer. Nature Methods 14:1119–1120.

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2017) Points of Significance: Machine learning: supervised methods. Nature Methods 15:5–6.

...more about the Points of Significance column

Happy 2018 `\pi` Day—Boonies, burbs and boutiques of `\pi`

Wed 14-03-2018

Celebrate `\pi` Day (March 14th) and go to brand new places. Together with Jake Lever, this year we shrink the world and play with road maps.

Streets are seamlessly streets from across the world. Finally, a halva shop on the same block!

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A great 10 km run loop between Istanbul, Copenhagen, San Francisco and Dublin. Stop off for halva, smørrebrød, espresso and a Guinness on the way. (details)

Intriguing and personal patterns of urban development for each city appear in the Boonies, Burbs and Boutiques series.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
In the Boonies, Burbs and Boutiques of `\pi` we draw progressively denser patches using the digit sequence 159 to inform density. (details)

No color—just lines. Lines from Marrakesh, Prague, Istanbul, Nice and other destinations for the mind and the heart.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Roads from cities rearranged according to the digits of `\pi`. (details)

The art is featured in the Pi City on the Scientific American SA Visual blog.

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

Machine learning: supervised methods (SVM & kNN)

Thu 18-01-2018
Supervised learning algorithms extract general principles from observed examples guided by a specific prediction objective.

We examine two very common supervised machine learning methods: linear support vector machines (SVM) and k-nearest neighbors (kNN).

SVM is often less computationally demanding than kNN and is easier to interpret, but it can identify only a limited set of patterns. On the other hand, kNN can find very complex patterns, but its output is more challenging to interpret.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Machine learning: supervised methods (SVM & kNN). (read)

We illustrate SVM using a data set in which points fall into two categories, which are separated in SVM by a straight line "margin". SVM can be tuned using a parameter that influences the width and location of the margin, permitting points to fall within the margin or on the wrong side of the margin. We then show how kNN relaxes explicit boundary definitions, such as the straight line in SVM, and how kNN too can be tuned to create more robust classification.

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2018) Points of Significance: Machine learning: a primer. Nature Methods 15:5–6.

Background reading

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2017) Points of Significance: Machine learning: a primer. Nature Methods 14:1119–1120.

...more about the Points of Significance column

Human Versus Machine

Tue 16-01-2018
Balancing subjective design with objective optimization.

In a Nature graphics blog article, I present my process behind designing the stark black-and-white Nature 10 cover.

Nature 10, 18 December 2017

Machine learning: a primer

Thu 18-01-2018
Machine learning extracts patterns from data without explicit instructions.

In this primer, we focus on essential ML principles— a modeling strategy to let the data speak for themselves, to the extent possible.

The benefits of ML arise from its use of a large number of tuning parameters or weights, which control the algorithm’s complexity and are estimated from the data using numerical optimization. Often ML algorithms are motivated by heuristics such as models of interacting neurons or natural evolution—even if the underlying mechanism of the biological system being studied is substantially different. The utility of ML algorithms is typically assessed empirically by how well extracted patterns generalize to new observations.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Machine learning: a primer. (read)

We present a data scenario in which we fit to a model with 5 predictors using polynomials and show what to expect from ML when noise and sample size vary. We also demonstrate the consequences of excluding an important predictor or including a spurious one.

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2017) Points of Significance: Machine learning: a primer. Nature Methods 14:1119–1120.

...more about the Points of Significance column