Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

November 17, 2008

What impact will the financial crisis have on science & innovation?

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:25 pm


Nature has launched a special on what the financial crisis might mean for science and innovation. It already includes more than a dozen articles and will be continually updated. It’s all on free access.
If you want a great easy-to-understand 4-page overview, your first stop should be this feature — Science in the meltdown by lead writer, Mitch Waldrop, my colleague in DC — and an accompanying editorial — Danger and opportunity — both of which I’d a hand in.
To see a complete list of the articles, go to Special: Financial Crisis.

November 5, 2008

How America really voted yesterday + maps going back to the 1960’s

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:39 pm

This morning the 8-year old son of a friend of mine looked at a map of the electoral results online and said: “I don’t understand; Obama won, but the map is all red.”

Too right. Maps of the results of the US presidential election usually show up as a patchwork of red and blue states across the country. But visualizing votes by the geographical area of states distorts the true picture — a state with a large area but relatively small population will dominate, whereas small states with large populations vanish from view. Indeed, despite this election’s convincing Democrat victory, conventional maps depicting the election results again show a nation awash with red.

Here, I map the results as a cartogram, which adjusts the area of the states on the basis of the number of electoral college votes [number given in brackets in map] they represent. This — as can be seen from the dominance of blue — gives a more accurate picture of how the United States voted in 2008.

In passing, to see Nature’s complete coverage of the election, click here.
Nature, for the first time since its creation in 1869, this year endorsed a US presidential candidate — see here:
Quote: “This journal does not have a vote, and does not claim any particular standing from which to instruct those who do. But if it did, it would cast its vote for Barack Obama.”

Election: 2008
President: Barack Obama [D]
Main Opponent: John McCain [R]
Electoral Vote: Winner: 349 (as of 4/11/2008 with NC & MO still to be called)
Vice President: Joe Biden
V.P. Opponent: Sarah Palin

Technical note: the cartograms were generated using the ScapeToad software implementation of the Newman–Gastner algorithm. This algorithm was developed by Mark Newman of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Michael Gastner at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, and was first used in the US 2004 presidential elections (M. T. Gastner and M. E. J. Newman Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 101, 7499–7540; 2004)
Mark Newman tells me that has posted his cartograms of yesterday’s elections here, which go into even great detail. Well worth a look.

Here are cartograms of some past presidential elections, going back to the 1960’s, with area adjusted for the electoral college votes attributed to each state for that election — they have changed over the past 40 years. The map below is of the 2004 election; click “Continue reading” to see the rest. Note: I’ve generated these quickly from a database, so let me know if you spot any errors
Data and notes extracted from US national archives.

Here’s the rest:

Election: 2004
President: George W. Bush [R]
Main Opponent: John F. Kerry [D]
Electoral Vote: Winner: 286
Popular Vote: Winner: 60,693,281
Votes for Others John Edwards (1)
Vice President: Richard B. Cheney (286)
V.P. Opponent: John Edwards (252)
Notes: One Minnesota elector voted for John Edwards for both President: and Vice President:. During the counting of the vote in Congress, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) and Sen. Barabara Boxer (D-Calif.) raised objections to the Ohio Certificate of Vote alleging that the votes were not regularly given. Both houses voted to override the objection, 74 to 1 in the Senate and 267 to 31 in the House of Representatives.


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