Finding Waldo by Visualizing Patterns
Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 11:00AM
Randy in Location, Visualization, book, patterns

Where's Waldo BooksGraphic by Slate. Illustration by Martin Handford published by Candlewick Press.

Here’s Waldo is a great analysis and article by Ben Blatt on Slate.com about trying to determine a strategy for finding Waldo by visualizing patterns from the Where’s Waldo series of books.

In Chapter 1: The Science of Infographics of my new book, Cool Infographics, I cover that our ability to see patterns is a huge factor in why data visualizations and infographics are so effective.  Humans can see patterns and recognize differences where computers can’t.  You can read about this topic and more in the Free Sample Chapter available for download.

Illustrator Martin Handford published the first in his beloved series of Where’s Waldo books over 25 years ago.* The books challenge readers to find the titular cartoon man, clad in his trusty red-striped shirt and red-striped hat, as he hides in a landscape of red-striped red herrings. When attempting to find Waldo you can scan the page completely from top to bottom, or you can focus your search around certain landmarks where Waldo seems likely to be hiding (in a castle’s moat, riding a blimp). Neither approach is particularly efficient. Which got me to wondering: What if there’s a better way?

I sought to answer these questions the way any mathematician who has no qualms about appearing ridiculous in public would: I sat in a Barnes & Noble for three hours flipping through all seven Where’s Waldo books with a tape measure.

The map born of my experiment is below.

Mapping Waldo Locations

It may not be immediately clear from looking at this map, but my hunch that there’s a better way to hunt was right. There isn’t one corner of the page where Waldo is always hiding; readers would have already noticed if his patterns were so obvious. What we do see, as highlighted in the map below, is that 53 percent of the time Waldo is hiding within one of two 1.5-inch tall bands, one starting three inches from the bottom of the page and another one starting seven inches from the bottom, stretching across the spread.

Finding Waldo Patterns

Check out the complete story on Slate.com

Found thanks to a post by Mike Elgan on Google+!

 

Article originally appeared on Cool Infographics (http://coolinfographics.com/).
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