This is the kind of

This is the kind of thing that makes staying up late and surfing the web so addictive. I was poking around last night reading about information visualization. Several of the ideas mentioned there involved work that had been pioneered by Martin Wattenberg (of Map of the Market renown). So I reflected, web-like, I wonder what Martin has been getting up to lately? and a short trip to Google later I had my answer. THE SECRET LIVES OF NUMBERS is a piece he worked on with Golan Levin. It has an astonishingly elegant interface for understanding the relative popularity (in the sense of web hits à la Google) of all the numbers between 0 and 100,000. The sociology of numbers is interesting enough, but I could also play with it for a long time just for the experience of watching the interface react to my fiddling. It turns out that 415 is a surprisingly popular three digit number. Surprising, until you remember that 415 is a San Francisco area code. Similarly, you can unearth the postal geography of the United States just by looking for peaks and plateaus in the five digit numbers that correspond to zip codes. As they say in the Michelin guides “three stars; merits a special trip.”