Everyday Data

May 8, 2016
(was 06.29.2015)

So much of our daily lives gets turned into data -- our online shopping purchases, phone calls, family photos. We're all surrounded by data, and learning how to harness it could be more transformative than we realize. This week, a look at the new data specialists using their knowledge of numbers to change everything, from music to baseball to health.

  1. Can Tracking Your Period Change Women's Health?

    Like a lot of great innovators, Ida Tin wanted something that didn’t exist, so, she built it. It’s a period tracking app called Clue, and the more you tell it—about your mood and your cycle—the more it can tell you about your reproductive health. On the surface, Clue is a tool for individuals to track menstruation. But Ida's real goal is nothing short of transforming women's health around the world. She’s part of a new wave of renegade thinkers who believe that everyday data can give everyday people more power over their lives.

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  2. Runs, Hits, and Algorithms: How Data is Changing Baseball

    People who like baseball call it "the thinking person’s game," but for the first 100 years, baseball was governed by a surprisingly limited range of critical thinking. Decisions were made by insiders, the current and former players who spent a lifetime around the diamond, and did things mostly one way: the way they've always been done.  But in the last 3 or 4 years, that storehouse of common knowledge—much of which was kept guarded in a true "old boy's club"—has been cracked wide open. Now the game isn't driven by intuition, it's driven by data. And the math nerds who rode the bench in Little League—if they played at all—are now telling pro ballplayers what to do. Journalist Travis Sawchik tells Steve Paulson the story.

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  3. By Transforming Data into Music, New York's Income Inequality Gets Amplified

    The power of big data—why so many corporations and government agencies and political pollsters and baseball teams are after it—is that it can reveal things we might otherwise not see. But statistics alone can't do that. We need to transform those statistics into stories. One artist doing that is Brian Foo, aka the Data Driven DJ. He takes large data sets and turns them into music. His first song, "Two Trains," amplifies a dire but often ignored truth about our country: income inequality.

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  4. A Novelist Assesses the Beauty of Computer Code

    When we’re talking about data, we’re really talking about code—the languages that structure every aspect of our digital lives. But can code itself be interesting? Or even beautiful? Vikram Chandra grew up in India and always wanted to be a novelist, but when he came to the United States, he discovered computers—going from a weekend tinkerer to a consultant who paid his way through grad school. He spoke with Steve Paulson on what makes good writing, and what makes good code.

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  5. The Box of a Trillion Souls: Stephen Wolfram on the Distant Future

    In this dangerous idea, computational mastermind Stephen Wolfram wonders about the distant future of humanity, and what will happen when—not if!—humans achieve immortality.

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  6. Their Lovely Bones: The Decorated Skeletons of Europe

    Paul Koudounaris has spent the past decade traveling around the world, climbing into church crypts and bone chambers and taking photos at over 250 burial sites in 30 countries. He's discovered chapels decorared with skeletons and underground caves filled with skulls—among other things. In this interview, he tells us how he began his obsession with displays of death.

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