What will Google do with a time machine for world health?

The concept is brilliantly simple: The best way to understand data is to animate it so you can watch trends over time. Go to Gapminder and you can plot variables against each other, and watch bouncing balls shift and wobble as the years roll by.

Gapminder is really Trendalyzer, software developed by Swede Hans Rosling to plot world health trends. Google purchased the software back in March, and we’re waiting to hear if Google will do anything with it other than juice its web analytics tools. Rosling was just honored by Discover Magazine as a Notable Scientist of the Year.

The way data jumps off the page is quite startling. The above screen shot, for example, is one part of an animation showing how faster economic growth in China vs. India correlates with increases in carbon emissions. The software also helps assess if there is no connection between two variables; liberals in the United States will be pleased to find that increases in military spending appear to have no impact on U.S. fertility rates.

Until Google releases an update, healthcare policymakers can be tempted with limited data sets here.

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