College Football's Oligarchy


From 1999 to 2014, the Bowl Championship Series (better now as the BCS) administered a series of season-ending bowl games in an effort to determine the National Champion of Division I College Football. Rankings for these games, which would ultimately determine who would participate in the National Championship game, was done by fusing results of the AP Rankings, Coaches Poll rankings, and six different computer ranking systems. This system, while well-intentioned, was ultimately doomed to a lifetime of controversy.

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Building Better State-Level Election Maps with Cartograms and Tilegrams


Building maps that are rich in data and also easy to interpret is an incredibly hard task. The map-maker must keep in mind the needs of their audience and cater the projection, coloration, shading, labeling, and more so that the map can be grasped intuitively. If you’re anything like me, you probably got a full year’s dosage of maps thrown up on big touchscreens at the start of this month as part of the 2020 Presidential Election.

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Through 28 Games, Charlie Blackmon Is Batting .405. Can He Finish the Season Over .400?


Earlier this summer, before the kickoff of the Major League Baseball season, I wrote an article which sought to predict the odds that any hitters might end the shortened 2020 season with a 0.400 batting average. Through a series of Monte Carlo simulations, I found that over an 81 game half-season, the odds that any one batter might hit 0.400 was about 6% - a possibility I found very exciting!

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Visualizing the Airline Industry's COVID Contraction


What is it about human nature which always pulls us towards what we can’t have? While I’ve been marooned at home due to Coronavirus, my travel wanderlust has been running rampant. I don’t know if it’s the work-from-home in particular, or if taking international travel off the table makes it that much more alluring, but the bottom line is that I can’t shake a desire to just go somewhere. One of the ways this wanderlust has manifested itself has been me spending a lot of time reading about the airline industry, which is going through some pretty significant changes right now.

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Analyzing the 1033 Program and the Militarization of US Police


In 1997, the National Defense Authorization Act legalized the transfer of military hardware from the Department of Defense (DoD) to all law enforcement agencies for “bona fide law enforcement purposes” as part of the 1033 Program, operated through the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO). For years, the Program transferred small amounts of material, consisting of both assorted benign tools and weapons, to local law enforcement agencies. Things began to change in 2010, however, when the value of equipment transferred began to skyrocket towards a 2014 peak of $391 Million of material transferred from the DoD to local law enforcement agencies.

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How Likely is it that Someone will Hit .400 in a Shortened MLB Season?


Over Memorial Day weekend, I read a great article by The Athletic musing upon what might happen if Major League baseball decides to play a half season of 82 games. One section in particular caught my eye - “What if somebody hits .400?” The author does a great job of delving into what that might mean for baseball, and whether or not it might be feasible. The article also links to an amazing writeup from STATS, which gets even deeper into the numbers of it all, with lots of historical streaks to compare to.

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COVID-19 Mobility Trends Part 2: Visualizing Google's Data


Two days ago, I published a new blog post where I broke down mobility data that Apple had generously made public to aid cities, researchers, and the public at large. One of the things I noted in my post was that while the granularity of Apple’s data trailed what Google had previously shared, Apple made their data easily accessible via CSV download, while Google’s data (though seemingly great) was locked up in PDF files.

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Digging Deeper Into Apple's COVID-19 Mobility Trends Data


Earlier this week, Apple released a trove of mobility data, published to help cities and the public understand the real-world impacts of the COVID-19 disease on human movement across the world. This data comes a bit after Google’s publishing of Community Mobility Reports, which also seek to provide insight into behavior. While Google’s data, due to their widespread tracking of Android device locations, is able drill into detailed points of interest such as grocery stores, transit stations, and workplaces, Apple’s data, which is based upon Apple Maps direction requests, shows a more narrow slice of user behavior.

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The COVID-19 Pandemic, Seen Through Restaurant Traffic and Social Distancing


As the COVID-19 coronavirus sweeps across the globe, it presents a public health crisis that is daunting to even the best-prepared communities. While most Western nations have resisted the strict quarantine regime that China first implemented in Wuhan, local and national governments are grappling with the best way to contain the spread of the virus, and will need to make critical decisions in the coming days and weeks. For those who have not seen it, the Washington Post put together an excellent model on how infection spreads and the potential benefit of alternative approaches to quarantines, such as moderate and extensive “social distancing”.

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Top NBA Duos and Trios


When Kevin Garnett joined Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in Boston in 2007, the “Big Three” style of roster construction method came back to the forefront of modern team building. While the Spurs had long employed a Big Three of their own in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker, the rest of the NBA spent the rest of the decade catching up, to various degrees of success. LeBron, with his two stops in Miami and Cleveland, was the most prolific engineer of Big Threes, teaming up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, and then Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to win multiple championships.

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