Visualizing flights; visualizing Google

I’ve spoken to several people who really liked the airplane flight visualizations that I linked to here and here. The patterns are so beautiful that they are practically aching to be put into the hands of an artist. That artist is among us, and his name is Aaron Koblin. Via peterme I found out about his work. You must go look at his take on the FAA planes-in-flight data for March 20, 2005. The raw data is inspiring enough, but Koblin makes it look like the U.S. is juggling 19,000 brightly colored balls, or scintillating with pyrotechnic tracers, or in the pièce de résistance, spawning molten globules of amoeboid protoplasm. Sorry for the overwrought prose, but this stuff is really good.

Until very recently, data patterns like this were being interpreted either strictly by engineers or, in the best cases, an engineer who happened to have a good sense of design. Now the pros are starting to arrive. When has this happened before? I was wondering what the pre-computer analogy would be to an artist taking on a technical topic with technical tools. Was there a time when photography was just transitioning to art, before which it was considered only the domain of 19th century gadgeteers? And I suppose architecture has always been on this cusp.

In passing, I wanted to link to an eerily similar animation of Google search activity that I found via A Day of Google” href=”http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2006/09/a_day_of_google.html”>O’Reilly Radar site. This an animation of where searches are originating all over the world for one 24 hour period. One take-away observations: planes sleep more than Google searches do. Lots of people are staying up too late banging away on their computers.

Speaking of which, where did the time go? Good night!