London the organism

Since we’ve been talking about London…I found this visualization to be fascinating. It’s from Jay Gordon’s thesis research into London transit journeys, in which data from Oyster card usage was transformed into a time-lapse video showing the movements of people into, around, and out of the city.

Each pixel represents a 100-meter square section of Greater London, and the brightness of each of the three RGB color components indicates the number of riders in one of three categories. Green indicates the number of passengers in the transit system, whether on a bus or in one of several rail modes. Blue indicates the presence of riders prior to their first transaction of the day or after their last: it is assumed that the location of a rider’s first or last transaction approximates their place of residence. Red indicates cardholders who are between transit trips, whether transferring, engaging in activities, or traveling outside the transit system.

One of the big challenges of modern science is to present huge rafts of data in forms that can be useful to our brains — which, alas, are not as good at handling data sets as computers are. We need to “see” the data somehow, to make a picture with it. This visualization is a brilliant data interpretation, and oddly beautiful at the same time. It looks to me like a giant organism, pulsing with life.

Which, of course, it is.


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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6 Responses to London the organism

  1. Jorge says:

    An organism, and a hugely inefficient one. We can’t keep for much longer this modern metropolis type of organization, with daily and massive influxes to the center and outfluxes to the periphery. That just devours energy. We need our cities to be much more distributed than they are now in order to keep them relatively sustainable. Affordable housing in the city centers is sorely needed in much of our biggest cities.

    • Ana_ñ says:

      You are right, Jorge; and this video shows it clearly: It starts very calm, then an increasing centripetal movement until a peak, the stabilization, a crazy centrifugal movement, and calm again. The visualization is fascinating.

      • oregon expat says:

        I agree as well, but with one caveat that may or may not be encouraging: at least the European model of big cities is more sustainable than the American one. With the exception of NYC, the American big city model involves huge, sprawling suburbs covering vast tracts of (formerly arable) land, and that daily transit into and out of the city involves mostly single-occupant cars, rather than buses, subways and trains.

        • Inge says:

          I think Jorge had it right.. mixing of functions throughout the city. Every corner its shop, a school in the neighbourhood and factories/services in close distance… because the most durable journey is the one you don’t have to make, meaning the one that goes to the building next to you.
          For personal travelling there also exists a theory (the Brever law; Hupkes
          1982) that during history and throughout the world people have always been willing to travel on average approximately 1,2 hour per day. So if you bring everything close together that means they can visit more while using the same 1,2 hours of travel a day.This also means that people who have to travel ‘long’ to get to their destination, don’t do many other activities. A more active style is healthier so this also helps the inhabitants of the city out.

          • oregon expat says:

            Fascinating. That explains why, when I’ve driven 45 minutes round trip to teach Pilates, I don’t want to do anything else those days.

          • Inge says:

            There is a lot about behaviour and mobility, which is fascinating. Glad it fits in with your own behaviour. 🙂

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