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art + design
buy artwork Type peep show: Gill Sans by Martin Krzywinski
VISIONS OF TYPE | Put my typographical posters on your wall. (buy artwork / see all my art)
The 2021 π Day art celebrates the digits of π with a forest! Visit the bat cave and underwater ecosystems for the full experience.
My SnellenMK font adds lowercase and punctuation to the traditional Snellen design.

Visions of Type

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Snellen eye chart — nautical flags by Martin Krzywinski
SNELLEN CHARTS | A collection of classic and modern charts. (buy artwork / see all my art)

1 · a font to test your eyes

These typographical posters are designed after the style of the Snellen Chart, which is one of the kinds of eye charts used to measure visual acuity.

If you love looking, seeing and the universe, these posters are for you. They are available for purchase.

2 · optotypes

Symbols on such charts are known as optotypes. Fonts by Andrew Howlett exist whose glyphs conform to the properties of optotypes: Snellen font and Sloan font. However, some of the characters in the Snellen font file are a little oddly shaped—I provide my redesign of the Snellen font in which the glyphs are more consistent (see below). Lowercase characters are not available.

For the posters here, I've used either my redesigned Snellen font or Monotype's Rockwell, with minor stroke and kerning adjustments in places. Some symbols, such as on the math chart, were designed by hand.

The numbers on the left side of the posters (e.g. 20/30) are a measure of visual acuity. The numbers on the right provide information about what is shown on the line (e.g. abundance of elements).

3 · snellen chart design

The charts are designed to be viewed at a distance of 6 meters (20 feet). At this distance, ability to resolve a letter tha subtends 5 minute of arc corersponds to 6/6 (or 20/20) visual acuity. This corresponds to a letter size of $$\frac{2\pi}{360} \times \frac{5}{60} \times 6 = 8.727 \, \text{mm} = 24.74 \, \text{pt}$$

The Snellen optotypes are designed on a 5 × 5 grid and have a fascinating history. For design, Rockwell and Lubalin Graph can be used to approximate Snellen, though these fonts lack the grid structure of the optotypes.

Snellen optotypes of the 9 letters used in eye charts. The optotypes are compared to characters from the Rockwell Bold font. / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Snellen optotypes are designed on a 5 × 5 grid. At a viewing distance of 6 m (20 ft) each letter on the 6/6 (or 20/20) acuity line must be 8.727 mm (24.47 pt). The optotypes are compared to the characters from the Rockwell Bold font, which is a mediocre approximation. (zoom)

4 · snellen optotype font

buy artwork The SnellenMK optoptype font by Martin Krzywinski
SNELLENMK FONT | A complete Snellen type face with upper- and lowercase. (buy artwork / see all my art)

My redesign of Andrew Howlett's Snellen optotype font. Read about redesign process—which reinterprets some of the characters and adds lowercase.

You can download both versions of the font.

Glyph chart of my Snellen optotype font. / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Snellen optotypes are designed on a 5 × 5 grid. At a viewing distance of 6 m (20 ft) each letter on the 6/6 (or 20/20) acuity line must be 8.727 mm (24.47 pt) (zoom, zoom, about the design, download Snellen font)

5 · classic and modern eyechart posters

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The SnellenMK optoptype font — to test your eyes by Martin Krzywinski
SNELLENMK FONT | Look! (buy artwork / see all my art)

5.1 · conventional eye charts

buy artwork Snellen eye chart - classic by Martin Krzywinski
THE CANONICAL 9-CHARACTER SNELLEN CHART | This classic chart uses 9 letters: C D E F L O P T Z. (buy artwork / see all my art)

These Snellen charts include acuity lines from 20/200 to 20/10.

The charts should be printed at a physical size of 16" × 24" (1150 pt × 1725 pt. At this size, the characters on the 20/20 line subtend 5 minutes of arc when viewed at 6 meters (20 feet), which is the technical specification of the Snellen chart.

When the charts are printed at this size, the two horizontal lines below the 20/30 and 20/20 lines are exactly 8" (576 pt) long. These length markers are my own addition.

If the chart is printed at any other size, the viewing distance changes. To compute the correct viewing distance, `d`, measure the length of these lines, `L` (in inches) and use $$ d = 6 \times L / 8 $$

For example, if I print this chart to fit onto an 8.5" × 11" page, these lines are 3.47". Thus, my smaller chart should be viewed from `6 \times 3.47 / 8 = 2.60 \, \text{m}` (8.53 ft).

Numbers on the left provide visual acuity in feet. Numbers on the right show the denominator of the acuity in feet and its equivalent in meters, rounded to the nearest integer.

The order of the 61 characters on the charts has been limit uniformity and avoid easily perceived patterns—especially in the case of the genetic sequence Snellen. These restrictions (e.g. limit in the number of repeated n-grams) apply across linebreaks.

5.1.1 · 9-character eye chart

This is the canonical Snellen chart, using the 9 original characters.

E FP LDO CETD ZOFEL DCZTFP PFLOZDE OZPCELTD TLEFDCOP EDOPTFLC LTCZOEPF FODLPZCT
  1. no more than 8 instances of any character and no fewer than 6
  2. no double characters (e.g. PP does not occur)
  3. no more than 2 repeats of any 2-gram (e.g. LT ... LT ... LT does not occur)
  4. all 3-grams are unique (e.g. LDO does not repeat)
  5. no identical adjacent characters across lines within a distance of one positions.
  6. for a given line, the characters at the same position in the previous 6 lines are all different.

Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
A technically accurate Snellen chart using traditional 9 characters C D E F L O P T Z rendered as optotypes. Print at 16 in × 24 in. (BUY ARTWORK)

5.1.2 · 26-character eye chart

buy artwork Snellen eye chart - full alphabet by Martin Krzywinski
THE EXPANDED SNELLEN CHART | This chart uses my Snellen optotype font and uses all 26 letters. (buy artwork / see all my art)

This chart uses all the letters of the alphabet and is typset using my Snellen font redesign.

  1. all letters of the alphabet are used
  2. no more than 3 instances of any character
  3. no double characters (e.g. PP does not occur)
  4. all n-grams (n = 2, 3, ...) are unique
  5. on a given line, all characters are unique
  6. no identical adjacent characters across lines within a distance of 8 positions.
  7. for a given line, the characters at the same position in all other lines are all different.
E FP NBJ GCHQ RKVNX PZLSAY IMEXDBU CYRAVQGH LWKPIJZO XUBHRFEV JTDIGSYZ QFWLMUKA

Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
A technically accurate Snellen chart using all 26 letters of the alphabet rendered as optotypes. All n-grams are unique. Print at 16 in × 24 in. (BUY ARTWORK)

5.1.3 · sorted alphabet eye chart

buy artwork Snellen eye chart — SnellenMK font by Martin Krzywinski
THE SNELLEN CHART | This chart uses my Snellen optotype font and shows its letters in sorted order. (buy artwork / see all my art)

This chart uses all the letters of the alphabet and is typset using my Snellen font redesign.


Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
A technically accurate Snellen chart using traditional 9 characters C D E F L O P T Z rendered as optotypes. Print at 16 in × 24 in. (BUY ARTWORK)

5.2 · genomic sequence eye chart

buy artwork Snellen eye chart — genomic sequence by Martin Krzywinski
THE GENOMIC SNELLEN CHART | Sequencing, by eye. (buy artwork / see all my art)

Since I work in a genome center, the one below is the one we'd use. Thanks to Dr. Nüket Bilgen for suggesting that the chart start with ATG (start codon) and end with one of the stop codons (TAG, TGA, but not TAA since no two adjoining characters can be the same).

  1. no more than 19 instances of any character and no fewer than 15
  2. no double characters (e.g. AA does not occur)
  3. no more than 7 repeats of any 2-gram
  4. no more than 4 repeats of any 3-gram
  5. no more than 2 repeats of any 4-gram or 5-gram
  6. for a given line, the characters at the same position in the previous 2 lines are different
  7. chart starts with start codon ATG
  8. chart ends with stop codon TAG, which appears only once; the other two stop codons (TGA, TAA) do not appear on the chart
A TG CAT ATCG GCATA CGTCTG TACAGAC GTGTACGA CGAGCTAT ACTCTGTG GTCAGAGC CGAGATAG

Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
A technically accurate Snellen chart using four genetic bases A T G C rendered as optotypes. The chart begins with the start codon ATG and ends in the stop codon TGA, which appears only once in the chart. Print at 16 in × 24 in. (BUY ARTWORK)

The best alignments of this chart's sequence are to fungus (Leptosphaeria maculans lepidii, 35/42, 83%) and a tapeworm (Diphyllobothrium latum, 24/26, 92%). Thanks to Lorraine May for this observation!

5.3 · nautical flag eye chart

buy artwork Snellen eye chart — nautical flags by Martin Krzywinski
THE MARITIME SNELLEN CHART | Charts ahoy! (buy artwork / see all my art)

Charts ahoy!

Z KE CHG XVRM YTWUS JQFINB EZAOXLD NHKVCUGF SWRMIAZP DBTOJYXE FZHLNUKA IVGMYCWR

Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
A technically accurate Snellen chart using the nautical flag alphabet rendered as optotypes. Print at 16 in × 24 in. (BUY ARTWORK)

The flag alphabet has been designed to match, as closely as possible, to the style of the Snellen optotypes. In some cases this required that the geometry of the flag had to be adjusted—this may upset the purists and cause havoc on the waterways.

Proportions of colors has been adjusted in some flags to fit symmetrically into the 5 × 5 optotype grid. The checker of N is now a 5 × 5 grid. The number of stripes in Y has been reduced—the width of each stripe is now 20% of the width of the flag. Proportions in C, D, J, R, S, T, W and X have been adjusted so that color strips are a multiple of 20% of the width of the flag. The cross in M and V matches the X used in the Snellen font.

Snellen optotypes for the nautical flag alphabet. / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Snellen optotypes for the nautical flag alphabet. (zoom)

5.4 · eyes on the elements — chemical eye charts

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Snellen eye chart — by abundance in the universe by Martin Krzywinski
THE CHEMICAL SNELLEN CHART | Elements, ordered either by abundance in the universe (H, He, O, ...) or in the human body (O, C, H, ...). (buy artwork / see all my art)

Elements are sorted in order of abundance. The numbers on the left show the max and min `-log_{10}` abundance of the elements listed on a given line. For example, 3.0/3.3 for the "N Si Mg S" line in the abundance of elements in the universe indicates that abundance of N is 0.001 and of S is 0.0005.

You can download my tidy plain-text table of abundance of elements in the universe (original source, 83 elements) and table of abundance of elements in the body (original source, 60 elements). These have been parsed from the original sources and give the `-log_{10}` abundance for various elements.


Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
Snellen Chart of abundance of the elements in the universe. (BUY ARTWORK)

Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
Snellen Chart of abundance of the elements in the human body. (BUY ARTWORK)

5.5 · physical constants eye chart

buy artwork Snellen eye chart — physical constants by Martin Krzywinski
THE PHYSICS SNELLEN CHART | A collection of intersting physical constants, sorted from the very large to the very small. (buy artwork / see all my art)

44 of the most interesting physical constants ranging from the very large (Planck temperature `T_p = 1.4 \times 10^{32} \mathrm{K}`) to the very small (cosmological constant `\Lambda = 1.19 \times 10^{-52} \mathrm{m}^{-2}`). You can download the table of constants and their values.


Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
Snellen Chart of physical constants. (BUY ARTWORK)

5.6 · mathematical symbol eye chart

buy artwork Snellen eye chart — mathematical symbols by Martin Krzywinski
THE MATH SNELLEN CHART | Operate this! (buy artwork / see all my art)

44 intriguing and perhaps mysterious mathematical symbols ranging from common equality `=` to the esoteric normal subgroup `\triangleleft`.


Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
Snellen Chart of mathematical operators and symbols. (BUY ARTWORK)

5.7 · where's the chart — braille eye charts

buy artwork Snellen eye chart - Braille 2 by Martin Krzywinski
THE INVISIBLE SNELLEN CHART | Can you feel it? (buy artwork / see all my art)

The chart is the visual form of a rhetorical question. The letter layout here is the same as in the canonical Snellen chart, which is limited to the 10 Sloan letters C, D, E, F, L, N, O, P, T, Z.


Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
Snellen Chart typeset in Braille. (BUY ARTWORK)

Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
Snellen Chart typeset in Braille. Variant #2. (BUY ARTWORK)

Typographical posters of how the world works in the style of Snellen eye charts
 / Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca buy artwork
Snellen Chart typeset in Braille. Variant #3. (BUY ARTWORK)
news + thoughts

How Analyzing Cosmic Nothing Might Explain Everything

Thu 18-01-2024

Huge empty areas of the universe called voids could help solve the greatest mysteries in the cosmos.

My graphic accompanying How Analyzing Cosmic Nothing Might Explain Everything in the January 2024 issue of Scientific American depicts the entire Universe in a two-page spread — full of nothing.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
How Analyzing Cosmic Nothing Might Explain Everything. Text by Michael Lemonick (editor), art direction by Jen Christiansen (Senior Graphics Editor), source: SDSS

The graphic uses the latest data from SDSS 12 and is an update to my Superclusters and Voids poster.

Michael Lemonick (editor) explains on the graphic:

“Regions of relatively empty space called cosmic voids are everywhere in the universe, and scientists believe studying their size, shape and spread across the cosmos could help them understand dark matter, dark energy and other big mysteries.

To use voids in this way, astronomers must map these regions in detail—a project that is just beginning.

Shown here are voids discovered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), along with a selection of 16 previously named voids. Scientists expect voids to be evenly distributed throughout space—the lack of voids in some regions on the globe simply reflects SDSS’s sky coverage.”

voids

Sofia Contarini, Alice Pisani, Nico Hamaus, Federico Marulli Lauro Moscardini & Marco Baldi (2023) Cosmological Constraints from the BOSS DR12 Void Size Function Astrophysical Journal 953:46.

Nico Hamaus, Alice Pisani, Jin-Ah Choi, Guilhem Lavaux, Benjamin D. Wandelt & Jochen Weller (2020) Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics 2020:023.

Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 12

constellation figures

Alan MacRobert (Sky & Telescope), Paulina Rowicka/Martin Krzywinski (revisions & Microscopium)

stars

Hoffleit & Warren Jr. (1991) The Bright Star Catalog, 5th Revised Edition (Preliminary Version).

cosmology

H0 = 67.4 km/(Mpc·s), Ωm = 0.315, Ωv = 0.685. Planck collaboration Planck 2018 results. VI. Cosmological parameters (2018).

Error in predictor variables

Tue 02-01-2024

It is the mark of an educated mind to rest satisfied with the degree of precision that the nature of the subject admits and not to seek exactness where only an approximation is possible. —Aristotle

In regression, the predictors are (typically) assumed to have known values that are measured without error.

Practically, however, predictors are often measured with error. This has a profound (but predictable) effect on the estimates of relationships among variables – the so-called “error in variables” problem.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Error in predictor variables. (read)

Error in measuring the predictors is often ignored. In this column, we discuss when ignoring this error is harmless and when it can lead to large bias that can leads us to miss important effects.

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2024) Points of significance: Error in predictor variables. Nat. Methods 20.

Background reading

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2015) Points of significance: Simple linear regression. Nat. Methods 12:999–1000.

Lever, J., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2016) Points of significance: Logistic regression. Nat. Methods 13:541–542 (2016).

Das, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2019) Points of significance: Quantile regression. Nat. Methods 16:451–452.

Convolutional neural networks

Tue 02-01-2024

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry. – Richard Feynman

Following up on our Neural network primer column, this month we explore a different kind of network architecture: a convolutional network.

The convolutional network replaces the hidden layer of a fully connected network (FCN) with one or more filters (a kind of neuron that looks at the input within a narrow window).

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Convolutional neural networks. (read)

Even through convolutional networks have far fewer neurons that an FCN, they can perform substantially better for certain kinds of problems, such as sequence motif detection.

Derry, A., Krzywinski, M & Altman, N. (2023) Points of significance: Convolutional neural networks. Nature Methods 20:1269–1270.

Background reading

Derry, A., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2023) Points of significance: Neural network primer. Nature Methods 20:165–167.

Lever, J., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2016) Points of significance: Logistic regression. Nature Methods 13:541–542.

Neural network primer

Tue 10-01-2023

Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished. —Francis Bacon

In the first of a series of columns about neural networks, we introduce them with an intuitive approach that draws from our discussion about logistic regression.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Neural network primer. (read)

Simple neural networks are just a chain of linear regressions. And, although neural network models can get very complicated, their essence can be understood in terms of relatively basic principles.

We show how neural network components (neurons) can be arranged in the network and discuss the ideas of hidden layers. Using a simple data set we show how even a 3-neuron neural network can already model relatively complicated data patterns.

Derry, A., Krzywinski, M & Altman, N. (2023) Points of significance: Neural network primer. Nature Methods 20:165–167.

Background reading

Lever, J., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2016) Points of significance: Logistic regression. Nature Methods 13:541–542.

Cell Genomics cover

Mon 16-01-2023

Our cover on the 11 January 2023 Cell Genomics issue depicts the process of determining the parent-of-origin using differential methylation of alleles at imprinted regions (iDMRs) is imagined as a circuit.

Designed in collaboration with with Carlos Urzua.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Our Cell Genomics cover depicts parent-of-origin assignment as a circuit (volume 3, issue 1, 11 January 2023). (more)

Akbari, V. et al. Parent-of-origin detection and chromosome-scale haplotyping using long-read DNA methylation sequencing and Strand-seq (2023) Cell Genomics 3(1).

Browse my gallery of cover designs.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A catalogue of my journal and magazine cover designs. (more)
Martin Krzywinski | contact | Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences CentreBC Cancer Research CenterBC CancerPHSA
Google whack “vicissitudinal corporealization”
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