Alex “Sandy” Pentland, a data scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tracks the “digital breadcrumbs” we leave behind with our smartphones and web browsers, using them to plan more efficient bus routes. Other data geeks like Hilary Mason and Max Shron use data points to solve everyday problems, such as where to find the best cheeseburger, or how to predict the success of online dating matchups.
Below are three examples of Hilary Mason's data maps, showing the relative cost of popular food items across the 100 most populated metro areas in the U.S. She accessed the data via Locu
, a company that parses data from U.S. menus, and also pulled data from Menupages and Seamless in New York City. "This analysis is not exactly rigorous and is subject to the bias in these data sets, so it shouldn't be considered definitive or authoritative," she notes, "but I do think it's a good example of a bit of useful knowledge gained very quickly."