Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bret demolishes the '80s and moves on

A young man named Bret Victor is exploring the capacity of new forms of visual displays of data, equations, scientific relationships, and the like. There is a great example in the video below. As you watch, consider the ramifications for health care or whatever field in which you are involved.

I like that Bret presents this work as examples of two core concepts (outlined at 4:57 in the video) ubiquitous visualization (you can see everything -- every variable and every term in every equation) and in-context manipulation (there is a knob on the screen that can be use to change values and coefficients and see the results immediately). He draws the contrast with traditional computer programming to do the same. Here's my favorite line:

That may have been a pretty good way of working in the early '80s, but I think it is time for something better.

Some firm should be very smart and hire this guy before its competitors do.

if you cannot see the video, click here.

Interactive Exploration of a Dynamical System from Bret Victor on Vimeo.


ParadiseDrummer said...

That was well done and very cool--for someone like me who is not much for math, the visualization/interaction with the concepts clicked. Glad you shared-thanks.

Margaret Polaneczky, MD (aka TBTAM) said...

Wow. Imagine this applied to the menstrual cycle...

Of course, we would probably have to have a mathematical formula for the interactions, which I'm not sure that we have.

Anonymous said...

How about being able to do this with your insurance risk algorithm? You know, the data they have on you with no transparency?

rlbates said...

Very cool!

Anonymous said...

That is SLICK. Especially helps those of us math-phobes. What a teaching tool!


Robin Eichert said...

This is amazing. It makes you WANT to understand the data that is being presented. Thanks for sharing.

76 Degrees in San Diego said...

My family physician colleague, who was an MIT undergrad a long time ago, commented: "Differential equations rule our lives. Too bad very few understand them."

Anonymous said...

This is pretty nice--I always had trouble visualizing what an equation meant in the real world--i.e., how a body moved---how a force field changed, etc.

I remember (with horror) my final exam in theoretical was taught by a Chinese guy who could barely speak English. He never explained anything and didn't care if you came to class (it was useless anyway).

BUT--the exam counted 100%. When I sat for the exam, there was ONE problem, with several subparts--all centering around one situation. A man threw a 5 ball bolo into the air-(in Australia they have 3 balls tied together with a string--they threw it and tangled up birds and kangaroos). Only the balls were attached to each other by springs,not ropes. So--give 5 balls of mass=m1, m2 , etc and 5 springs of strength= k1,k2, etc. And the man threw the balls up with force F, against gravity G---"write the equations of motion for each ball".

I cried---guys got up and left, trashing their exam book. I did my best. I got an "8"--yes 8 of 100 pts. Grading on a curve-it was worth a "B".

Now you know why of 87 freshmen physics majors,7 graduated--if we had a teacher who used visuals to help students "see" the equations effects on the variables--it would have helped a lot.