Friday, March 1, 2013

Data link roundup (week of March 1, 2013)

The week's top data analysis links...


The newest incarnation of SimCity allows players to build fascinating infrastructure like sewers and transportation networks.
Speck, the city planner, noted that this type of model is actually more advanced than what most traffic engineers use in real life. In fact, if the calculations the Sims citizens are making were even more complex, the game could have real-world applicability. “They need to consider that if they drive it’ll take them this long, and that they’ll have to pay this much for parking, and that they can’t work in their car but that the train has Wi-Fi, and so on,”
What the author misses in this piece is that transportation engineers, land use modelers, and urban planners ARE moving toward micro-simulation models like UrbanSim, PECAS, and Activity Based Transportation models that function much like the individual-level decision making that occurs in SimCity.

The models that technicians use just aren't as visually appealing as the video game. This aesthetic difference occurs, in part, because computing power goes toward calculating the tiny and multitudinous decisions about parking cost and travel time that Jeff Speck requests (above) rather than toward slick graphics...

(Also, I have a minor quibble with Jeff Speck's quote in The Daily Beast article: There is no such thing as a "traffic engineer." No one engineers traffic, they're transportation engineers.)


The Freakonomics team wants us to believe that the rise in obesity can be attributed, at least in part, to reductions in cigarette smoking.
Image source: Nationaal Archief
It's an interesting premise, but I'm not sure I buy it...


This map of paid maternity leave policies around the world is either a sad commentary on U.S. family policy, or positive commentary on family-friendly workplaces in 180 other countries...
You be the judge...

Source: New York Times
(Special thanks to Balancing Jane for pointing out the New York Times / xoJane graphic on maternity leave.)

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