Something in all of us wants to believe that big tech companies, the ones we provide with reams of personal data everyday, are doing something noble with that information. That’s what made Google’s flu tracker, Flu Trends, so appealing. Here’s Google, taking time out of its busy day of selling our data for profit to apply those millions of Google searches and location trackers to something useful for humanity: Tracking the spread and severity of flu outbreaks across the United States.
There’s only one problem: Flu Trends is wrong.
According to a new Science study, Google overestimated flu outbreaks by 50 percent in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons. As TIME’s Bryan Walsh writes, “If you wanted to project current flu prevalence, you would have done much better basing your models off of 3-week-old data on cases from the CDC than you would have been using GFT’s sophisticated big data methods.”
Some 30,000 flights criss-cross Europe’s airspace on a typical summer day. In this video, you can watch them all in just under two minutes.
Air traffic is a frequent subject for visualization, but the folks at NATS, responsible for handling much of the air traffic control in Great Britain and elsewhere, know the delicate dance better than just about anyone. To give us a sense of what keeps them busy day to day, they put together this stunning video. Running at 1,440 times regular speed, the viz is striking as pure laser light spectacle. But the closer you watch, the more fascinating details you’ll find.
The clip combines UK radar data from June 21 of last year and flight plan data from the rest of the continent from July 28. To start, notice how planes come over from North America, not in one busy throng but instead in orderly rows, like they’re cruising in lanes on some great invisible highway. As we zoom in on England, we see some aircraft joining different thoroughfares to Europe’s big cities, as others split off on byways to destinations like Madrid and Lisbon.