Posts by Jose Luis
¡FiesTau 2015!

Yet another year passed, and all the studio gathered to celebrate our favorite mathematical constant in commemoration of Tau Day!


No matter your mathematical orientation, at Fathom we are open to all kinds of numerical beliefs and points of view. But when it comes to circle constants, we are heavily biased.

Last week, we hosted our second FiesTau party in preparation for the imminent advent of Tau Day. We know, we know, it was a week before 6/28, but it can be complicated to coordinate that many people

Last year we celebrated Tau Day big time: we released Peep in Tau, an app that lets you find any sequence of digits in the first 100,000,000 decimal positions of Tau. We also submitted an entry that was accepted on the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, the “sequence of positions of consecutive 9’s in Tau’s decimals,” inspired by the Feynman Point. It was an amazing evening!

Per tradition, this year we kicked off celebrations with Mark and Kim’s graceful contribution of the yummiest strawberry, rhubarb, and apple pies. Remember, you always need at least two pies for a full tau day.

The Half Tau Pie ;)
A Half Tau Pie ;)

Thanks to James, we had a full set of Fathom Tau Day 2015 Tau-Shirts for the whole team. Keep a lookout for their possible release on Provender…?

Fathom Tauday 2015 Tau-Shirts

James was also kind enough to give us a private preview of a soon-to-be-released app based on a highly acclaimed 70’s movie. Can’t say much more at the moment, but sufficient to say that if you enjoyed Rocky Morphology, this one is going to blow your mind. (Edit: it is out! Please dive into Jawsography!)

The peak of the evening came with the yearly recreation of Taupardy!, our very own crafted Jeopady-inspired Tau quiz game. With a brand new panel featuring new categories and questions, I must say this year was much tougher than the previous one. And I must also say, my expectations were highly surpassed by my fellows… Well done guys, you are the nerdiest! ;)

Taupardy 2015!
Jose Trebek hosting the show.
The Fathom team killing it.
74.5% success rate!

In celebration of this year’s new incarnation of Taupardy!, we decided to clean it up a little and make the code open-source for our 2014 and 2015 panels! You can find the game on this github repository. Enjoy Taupardy! on your own Tau Day festivities, and let us know about them via Twitter, at @fathominfo. Oh, and feel free to pull any panels you may design to the repo and share them with the community!

Final countdown to open sourcing Taupardy!
And there it goes, out to the world!

We were very happy to have Malika Khurana, one of our former interns, visit us for the occasion. She shared some of her latest work with us, illustrating her journey from an engineering to art based approach to design.

Malika Khurana presenting her latest interventions

We wrapped up the evening (well, not really, but the rest shouldn’t be disclosed…) with our traditional photoshoot, which for some reason turned out kind of ‘gangstau’…


We recently found out Michael Hartl featured some of our shenanigans on the latest State of the Tau report… ;)

And that’s all folks! Just remember, it is never too late to reconsider which dimension of the circle you advocate for.

Happy Tau Day 2015 from the Fathom team!

Happy Tau Day 2015 from the Fathom team!
Happy Tau Day 2015 from the Fathom team!

We have been very busy lately in preparation for the upcoming Tau Day. Last week, the whole office gathered around two pies to honor our favorite mathematical constant!


(Edit: check out our FiesTau 2015 celebrations!)

No matter your numerical orientation, at Fathom we are open to all kinds of mathematical beliefs and points of view.

During the development of Peek in Pi, I pointed out the ongoing debate about the circle constant. The current standard relates the circle’s circumference to its diameter (which is what π stands for), though many people claim that it would be more convenient to relate the circle’s circumference to its radius (also referred to as τ). When I discovered that TAU was already a constant in the Processing ecosystem, though, the nerd in me couldn’t have been any happier.

Last week (or half tau months after the Peek in Pi release), we hosted a FiesTau party in our office to prepare for the advent of Tau Day, and to honor the enlightenment of this constancy with the same rejoicing and delight we embrace it with.

Mark and his wife Kim were kind enough to provide us with two whole pies for the event, because we simply couldn’t have a Tau party without lavish food and libations. Fortunately they didn’t use a certain pie pan they own that has an imprint of the digits of half tau…

Two pies for a full tau day
Mark seemingly confused by the math…

We took this opportunity to release the latest creation from the Fathom foundry: Peep in Tau, a new take on searching numbers within the digits of well-known mathematical constants.

Official release of our new Peep in Tau app
Peep in Tau on Google Play
Peep in Tau on an Android tablet

But the climax of this soirée began when we started playing Taupardy!

Main Taupardy! panel, with categories: “Digitaus”, “Geometrau”, “Dusting off the books”, “Rationalitau”, “Feynman point” and “Popular culture”
“Alex, ‘Feynman point’ for $1000 please!”
The correct answer, now OEIS sequence A243955

We took one of the questions (or answers), “The sequence of positions of consecutive 9’s in Tau’s decimals”, as an opportunity to play around with our new app, learn more about the Feynman Point, and submit the sequence as an entry to the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. After an exhaustive review process, the sequence was accepted, though sadly it was stripped of most references to Tau as an independent constant.

The evening finished with a mandatory team photo shoot, with everyone properly attired in brand new Tau-shirts gracefully designed by James. Yes, this is how we roll.

The Fathom team
A new 3*Tau constant…?

I have to say it was a memorable evening, full of joy, fun facts, gracious tau-puns, and lovely geekiness.

Just remember, it is never too late to reconsider which dimension of the circle you advocate for.

Happy Tau Day from the Fathom team!


Game on!

Data, in its multiple forms, can range from the very abstract to the most tangible. We tend to be type-agnostic, but recently a particularly clear set of data caught our eye: real-time position tracking for sports events.

Technical development has brought physical tracking of sports events to a high degree of reliability, enabling real-time data collection and processing for statistical and analytical purposes, in addition to enhancing the spectators’ experience of the event through integration with the broadcasting system. There are currently many examples in football, soccer and even NASCAR racing.

Image of one of STATS' SportVU tracking system cameras installed in the Barclay’s Center Brooklyn
Image of one of STATS’ SportVU tracking system cameras installed in the Barclay’s Center Brooklyn, ©STATS LLC

Since 2010, the NBA has embraced these technologies, and recently announced a major agreement to implement live player tracking for all 30 teams in the league. The idea is actually rather simple: by populating the venue with sets of cameras and running computer-vision algorithms on the footage, the system is able to produce sets of X, Y, Z positions for each player and the ball for every frame, in this case 25 times per second. The system then couples that positioning with actual game event markings.

A glimpse of one second of real-time feed
A glimpse of one second of the real-time feed

What? Our favorite sport coupled with lots of data? We had to give this a try!

Back in 2011 we got our hands on one of these sets of data, thanks to Brian Kopp,  for the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs game of February 23, 2011. Using Processing, we built a sketch to parse through the game’s data, and help us dynamically navigate through the gameplay and statistics.

Beyond letting us ‘watch’ the game over and over, the tool gave us the opportunity to delve a bit deeper into players’ behaviors and patterns. We were particularly interested in figuring out how each player’s intervention affected the game, whether positively or negatively.

Team’s net points per player while on the court
Each player’s plus-minus while on the court

In the game Antonio McDyess was not a starter, scored only six points, and wasn’t even mentioned in the game’s recap. But as it turns out, his presence on the court was crucial for San Antonio’s big score turnaround, and his leave at 8:50 of the second period was closely followed by Oklahoma’s momentary comeback. Whether these events are related or not, we’ll leave to your own judgment.

Furthermore, we wanted to explore game behavior related to the vast collection of location data collected for this game. Accumulating the ball movement throughout the complete game revealed interesting patterns, such as movement concentration around the 3-point mark, preferred shooting spots, or that players tend to transition into offense along the sides of the court.

Ball movement throughout the game
Ball movement throughout the game

Recursively stacking players’ movement over the game also shows some relevant patterns emerging, exposing each player’s recurrent locations, standings, and alignments according to their team position.

Tim Duncan’s power forward moves
Tim Duncan’s power forward moves
Thabo Sefolosha’s shooting guard tracks
Thabo Sefolosha’s shooting guard tracks

Stay tuned for next iterations in the third dimension. Until then, here’s a very interesting article on the subject matter.

Founded in 2010 by Ben Fry, Fathom Information Design works with clients to understand complex data through interactive tools and software for mobile devices, the web, and large format installations. Out of its studio in Boston, Fathom partners with Fortune 500s and non-profit organizations across sectors, including health care, education, financial services, media, technology, and consumer products.

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