Challenge 5: Astrology

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Entry Summary: For my project, since Mathematica is such a technical program, I thought it would be fun to showcase the least rigorous possible application: astrology. My project, “Wolfram’s Astrology” gives you a three part, personalized astrological reading.

1. First is an animated start chart that automatically updates for the next few days (this twitter length code won the 2011 Wolfram One Liner Contest 2011.)

2. An automatically/randomly generated “scientific” astrological reading for you, based on your birthdate. I got the idea from this hilarious example I found from the documentation from an old version of Mathematica, but updated it to allow you to punch in your birthday and for the text to be funnier and sound more personal (http://reference.wolfram.com/legacy/applications/astronomer/Notebooks/AstrologicalReadings.html).

3. A “Quick Take,” which randomly chooses a planet to be your most “influential” planet for the week, shows you a picture of the planet, and advises you on how to act based on that planet. I figured internet-people like to not have to read too much.

Background: This week, I was interested in what the future of the infographic looks like. I would posit that it is interactive data manipulation. Some of the best visual data presentation on the web is published as infographics/interactive features by the New York Times. They publish excellent content, but if you aren’t a professional programmer, making that kind of content is out of reach for a lot of people. Mathematica’s Computable Document Format is one attempt to address this. They are currently promoting their software as a tool for consultants and even bloggers to make interactive content that can be posted on the web. It is still geared toward the presentation of technical content, but it really opens up the door to new and exciting ways to present data. They have robust data sets, but to be honest, before they get people to widely adopt this more widely, a lot of work would have to be done to make the outputs more visually compelling. As a final note, I think there is also a space for a simpler, but more visually compelling interactive feature generator for interactive online content. There are several solutions out there, but no one has really hit the sweet spot of simple and beautiful way to make interactive graphs online. I suspect in the next few months we’re going to start seeing a lot more of these developed.

“Viral Strategy” write up link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1DwXBYG23rDxTUUA_zkzycz0bU-Nw5_njmSdt2K-YCUU/edit?usp=sharing

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