Author Archive: Michael

How Color Can Trick The Eye: 12 Fascinating Optical Illusions

Source: Ann Swanson, 12 fascinating optical illusions show how color can trick the eye, The Washington Post, February 27, 2015,

It sounds inane, but the dress question was actually tricky: Some declared themselves firmly in the blue and black camp, only to have the dress appear white and gold when they looked back a few hours later.Wired had the best explanation of the science behind the dress’ shifting colors. When your brain tries to figure out what color something is, it essentially subtracts the lighting and background colors around it, or as the neuroscientist interviewed by Wired says, tries to “discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis.” This is why you can identify an apple as red whether you see it at noon or at dusk.The dress is on some kind of perceptual boundary, with a pretty even mix of blue, red and green. So for those who see it as white, your eyes may be subtracting the wrong background and lighting.Changing a color’s appearance by changing the background or lighting is one of the most common techniques in optical illusions. As the examples below show, colors can change dramatically against different backgrounds. (If you’ve ever held a sock up to something black to see whether it was black or navy, you understand the concept.)

For example, in this classic shadow illusion by Edward H. Adelson, A and B are the exact same shade of grey:

Here’s a minimalist illustration by Wikipedia user Dodek. The grey bar across the center is actually one constant color:

In this image from BrainDen, the surface colors of A and B are the same. To test it out, just use your finger to cover the middle of the drawing, where the two squares meet.

In this illusion by Barton L. Anderson and Jonathan Winawer, the black and white chess pieces are the same color:

If you want a dog of a different color, just set it against a different background (via BrainDen):

There are actually only two colors in this image — red and green (sorry, color blind people). Also via BrainDen.

The blue and yellow border around this image by Jochen Burghardt creates the illusion that it is pale yellow, instead of white:

Contrasting colors can even give you the illusion of motion, as in this trippy graphic by Paul Nasca:

The same principle is at work here, in Akiyoshi Kitaoka’s “autumn color swap.” If you move the page up and down, the inset square will appear to move.

If you stare at the center of this illusion by Jeremy Hinton, you will eventually see a revolving green circle. When the lilac disappears, the adaptation of rods and cones in the retina leaves a green afterimage.

Or, as in Pinna’s illusory intertwining effect, colors can give the illusion that circles are intertwining (they are actually concentric).

But probably the best illusion on the subject of the dress is by Randall Munroe of Xkcd, who immortalized the debate in an optical illusion cartoon form.

Chart: Stories of the Past and Future (xkcd)


2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms – Tableau Wins Again

2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant BI & Analytics


Click on Image to Read the Report

Tableau’s intuitive, visual-based data discovery capabilities have transformed business users’ expectations about what they can discover in data and share without extensive skills or training with a BI platform. Tableau’s revenue growth during the past few years has very rapidly passed through the $100 million, $200 million and $300 million revenue thresholds at an extraordinary rate compared with other software and technology companies.

Tableau has a strong position on the Ability to Execute axis of the Leaders quadrant, because of the company’s successful “land and expand” strategy that has driven much of its growth momentum. Many of Gartner’s BI and analytics clients are seeing Tableau usage expand in their organizations and have had to adapt their strategy. They have had to adjust to incorporate the requirements that new users/usage of Tableau bring into the existing deployment and information governance models and information infrastructures. Despite its exceptional growth, which can cause growing pains, Tableau has continued to deliver stellar customer experience and business value. We expect that Tableau will continue to rapidly expand its partner network and to improve international presence during the coming years.

Infographic: Inequality At The 2015 Academy Awards By The Numbers

Source: Niall McCarthy, Inequality At The 2015 Academy Awards By The Numbers [Infographic],, February 20, 2015,

Oscar predictions are certainly gathering pace in the run-up to the 87th Academy Awards, taking place in Los Angeles tonight. Will Bradley Cooper walk home with the award for Best Actor? Why did the Lego Movie only get one Oscar nomination? There are many exciting and intriguing questions but some important ones also need to be asked. Such as this one: where are the women?

The 2015 Oscar nominations have been rightly criticised for gender inequality, something that’s a far wider problem throughout the film industry. According to research conducted by the Telegraph, 102 nominees are men with an average age of 51 compared to just 25 women with an average age of 41. When it comes to voting members of the Academy, there’s also a significant gender gap with 77 percent being male.

A lack of racial diversity is also blatantly obvious with no non-white actors nominated across the four acting categories. Out of 127 nominees, 118 are white and 9 are non-white. When it comes to Academy voting, the ethnicity ratio is 94 percent white and 6 percent non-white. One prediction is definitely accurate, however. You can expect middle-aged white men to take home the majority of the awards on Sunday night.

*Click below to enlarge (charted by Statista)Gender Inequality Rife At The Oscars

Wired: College Faculties Have a Serious Diversity Problem


To be a professor is to belong to a select few—an insider’s club of vanishing tenured faculty positions. It’s no secret that a fancy diploma can help grads vying for those coveted spots. But while working on his PhD and contemplating his career prospects, computer scientist Aaron Clauset wanted to know just how much weight a prestigious alma mater—an MIT, a Stanford, a Harvard—carried. So he decided to dive into the data himself.

Clauset and a couple of grad school friends started gathering information about who’s hiring whom. After a break in the project, during which he graduated and landed a faculty position at the University of Colorado at Boulder (yup, he joined the club), Clauset started up again—recruiting his new students for help. They spent three years grabbing and analyzing hiring data from computer science, business, and history departments, collecting info on 19,000 faculty positions across North America.

Their results: 71 to 86 percent of all faculty came from only a quarter of the institutions surveyed. In computer science, just 18 institutions produced half of all faculty jobs. “Essentially, faculty jobs are reserved for a small number of graduates from a small number of institutions,” Clauset says.

But that’s not necessarily bad, right? The prestigious universities are supposedly the best, so shouldn’t their graduates be the best too? Not so, Clauset says. The imbalance is just too stark to be merit-based. Academic hiring leans heavily on name-recognition, biasing the universities’ decisions toward prestigious, branded institutions—just like hiring in a lot of other industries.


Like tech, for example. Clauset’s study shows a strong hiring bias in computer science departments, and many people perceive the same insularity in tech companies hiring CS majors. “They share the problem of giving preferential consideration—sometimes almost exclusive consideration—to graduates from the top universities,” says Catherine Ashcraft, a researcher at the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

Now, that’s not entirely true. WIRED did its own analysis of LinkedIn data, and found that major tech companies recruit from plenty of institutions that aren’t usually considered elite. Microsoft, for example, gets most of its workers from the University of Washington, which is close to the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Apple hires from Stanford and Berkeley, but also from Cal State Poly and nearby San Jose State.

But that doesn’t mean tech is free of bias—all of these companies are still hiring a majority of employees from a small set of schools, whether it’s because of prestige or proximity. Google still hires a ton of employees from Stanford and Berkeley, as well as Carnegie Mellon, UCLA, and MIT, which all grace the top of the much cited/loathed US World & News Report rankings.

What does that mean for companies like Google and Facebook? Well, like universities, it means that they’re hiring a lot of the same kind of people, over and over again. And that means less diversity—of opinion, of technical and cultural background, of ideas, of talent.

Those practices are also what make gender (and racial and ethnic) diversity so hard to come by. Hire based on familiarity—either a name-brand school, or maybe, your sex chromosomes—and you end up with a homogenous workforce. Google, for example, has a worldwide employee base that’s only 30 percent female. That number drops to 17 percent when considering only technical jobs. And the same problem exists in academia, Clauset says: “Only 15 percent of computer science faculty is female.”

Not only that, but Clauset’s analysis shows that women in computer science have a harder time finding quality faculty jobs. Most graduates tend to get jobs at a lower-ranked institution than the one they attended. But in computer science (and business), women have to settle for jobs at schools ranked especially low—the drop in rankings between their alma mater and their new employer was 12 to 18 percent greater than for men. “I was surprised that the difference was large as it is,” Clauset says.

Biases in hiring practices run deep, so if companies and universities want to change these trends, they have to tackle diversity head-on. “If we want to improve it, we’re going to have to make a concerted, conscious effort to change it,” Clauset says. He thinks extending his analysis to job placement in the tech industry could help companies figure out how to improve diversity and retention rates.

But that requires data that companies would have to divulge. “If there are people in the tech industry who want to collaborate, I’m happy to chat with them,” he says. And step one is not to get blinded by the famous name on the diploma—or whether or not your applicant is wearing heels.


Source: Marcus Woo, Infoporn: College Faculties Have a Serious Diversity Problem,, February 19, 2015,

25 Inappropriate Valentine’s Day Cards

$(KGrHqF,!i0E8(TBOqmkBPMdek12Uw~~60_3 $(KGrHqNHJBME8e-J5)BzBPK88ZsY2g~~60_3 4e43d1834c18cc74e9e34520c39a6eb7 59d0e1c6457bd77dd22c8b63275ca230 522dca1f2f052b98acebecc131940e73 4651a2d006ed9a7f9880d7ebd8023cad enhanced-1611-1391633977-6 enhanced-2470-1391641638-16 enhanced-15590-1391636396-1 enhanced-17945-1391637711-1 enhanced-18201-1391635316-7 enhanced-18778-1391635624-6 enhanced-24779-1391636164-1 Funny Valentine Cards - Meat and Weapons (1) Funny Valentine Cards - Meat and Weapons (5) Funny Valentine Cards - Meat and Weapons (6) Funny Valentine Cards - Meat and Weapons (7) Funny Valentine Cards - Meat and Weapons (8) Funny Valentine Cards - Meat and Weapons (23) Funny Valentine Cards - Meat and Weapons (25) Funny Valentine Cards - Meat and Weapons (27) Funny Valentine Cards - Meat and Weapons (35) Funny Valentine Cards - Meat and Weapons (39)

Infographic: Valentine’s Day in the UK (2015)

NOTE: 1 British Pound Sterling equals 1.53 U.S. Dollars on 2/11/2015.


DataViz as Maps: Maps that Shaped the World (BBC News)

Bursting with information and often incredibly beautiful – maps do more than just showing you where you are, or where you might be going. Here we tell the stories behind some fascinating examples.

The recently published Times History of the World in Maps features documents from ancient civilizations, through the medieval period, to some of the key events of the 20th Century.

Historian Philip Parker helped compile the accompanying text.

Maps that shaped the world

This fine example of Christian cartography below is the Mappa Mundi at Hereford Cathedral.

A treasure of the medieval world, it records how 13th Century scholars interpreted the world in spiritual as well as geographical terms.

Mappa Mundi

The world depicted is centered on Jerusalem.

The single sheet of vellum features about 500 drawings – including cities and towns, events, plants and animals, plus strange mythical beasts.

Mappa Mundi

The next image shows the first time that the name ‘America’ was used on a map as a term for the New World.

Waldseemuller World Map

Named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, the continent features on a section of modern day South America, from the 1507 Waldseemuller World Map, which originated from Germany.

Waldseemuller World Map

The Battle of Gettysburg, in 1863, is widely considered the turning point of the US Civil War.

Battle of Gettysburg

This map shows how Confederate and Union forces squared up against each other around the Pennsylvanian town.

Battle of Gettysburg

The map was drawn relatively soon after the battle by a Union Army supporter – a northerner.

That’s why Confederate forces on it are termed ‘rebels’.

Battle of Gettysburg

The shaded topography, showing ridges in the landscape, was included to help the public envisage how the battle played out.

Battle of Gettysburg

George Bradshaw’s popular railway timetable guides, which were revised and republished long after his death, are what he is best known for.

But he was also a cartographer – and his map from 1852 reveals a dense network of railways lines spreading out across much of the UK.

Bradshaw railway map, 1852

Considering that passenger rail services were a relatively recent phenomenon, the explosion of branch and main lines – over a period of about 20 years – is remarkable.

Bradshaw railway map, 1852

The densest parts of the network are where industrialization was happening fastest.

Central Scotland, the north of England from Liverpool to Hull, and the Midlands.

There were fewer trains in southwest England and south Wales.

Bradshaw railway map, 1852
Bradshaw railway map, 1852
Bradshaw railway map, 1852

The close up city maps reveal just how much industrialization and urbanization was still to happen in the 19th Century.

Bradshaw railway map, 1852

Industrialisation was also a driving force for railway development in other countries.

This Gaylord Watson railroad map of the United States dates from the early 1870s.

US railways 1871

From the northeastern seaboard, the rails have spread west – stretching to areas which hadn’t been part of the USA for that long.

US railways 1871
US railways 1871

The black ink hand-written annotation is what makes this relatively ordinary map of Cuba special.

Map from Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962

President John F Kennedy was shown the map at a CIA briefing in 1962 – and it was he who marked where the Soviets had started to construct nuclear missile launch sites.

Map from Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962

The map is a testament to the Cuban Missile Crisis – playing a physical role in the tension and drama, which saw the world brought to the brink of nuclear war.

Map from Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962

The colored shapes on this map from 1973 show the South African government’s black homelands consolidation proposals.

South Africa Homelands map, 1973

Under the apartheid regime, the homelands – or Bantustans – were designed to be separate political entities.

Black inhabitants of these areas were deprived of their South African citizenship.

South Africa Homelands map, 1973

These mini states – never internationally recognized – were spread out, deliberately fragmented.

Click here to listen to the video in Mr. Kerley’s article to hear more about other historically significant maps.

Chart: Baking Units Demystified

A handy chart by Andrew M.H. Alexander.



Infographic: The Evolution of Spawn

The Evolution of Spawn infographic is a fantastic design. Not fan art, this official infographic was designed by Todd McFarlane, Creator of Spawn and Co-Founder and President of Image Comics!

From Todd’s Facebook post:


With Spawn issue #250 coming up at the end of the month…. I thought it would be COOL to put together all the different costumes Spawn has had over the years.

And if you’re doing the math, that’s 24 YEARS. TWENTY-FOUR!!!!!!!! It’s cool to look back and see how things have changed since 1992….it’s hard to believe we’re already coming up on our #250th issue.

Thanks for all your support over the years!!! I’ll be doing a giveaway with these, soon.


P.S.- There have been a few requests for a downloadable poster (and higher res)… You should be able to download the poster from this link:

Found on GeekTyrant

The Evolution of Spawn


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 392 other followers