Thursday, February 2, 2012

The ZIP Dimension

It's hard to believe that ZIP Codes (Zoning Improvement Plan) have only been in use for about fifty years. They were one of the most important breakthroughs in modern communication. 
But when they were rolled out in 1963, it was a novel and challenging concept for many Americans to get used to.

The ZIP Code is now often taken for granted, though it still is vital for the automation of mail service. And it has implications beyond the delivery of mail. For instance, mail volume per ZIP Code is one factor used by the U.S. Census Bureau to estimate population changes between decennial census enumerations.

ZIP Codes were not created randomly. There is an order and a structure to the system intended for efficient sorting. So what would happen if you were to connect all the ZIP Codes in the US in ascending order?

Robert Kosara used Ben Fry's zipdecode applet, and Jeffrey Heer's prefuse toolkit for a little programming exercise of connecting the dots to create his Zipscribble map of the USA. The result is very interesting. The patterns and density distribution are readily apparent.

Samuel Arbreson took it another step further and used the Zipscribble Map to discuss the possible fractal dimension of ZIP Codes.

For more on ZIP Codes visit these websites:


Grannybunny said...

I like the Zipscribble Map; we might be able to sell that on a poster.

Anonymous said...

We SHOULD try to sell these! I want one for my home! The revenue generating ideas truly abound in this blog, but, sadly, I haven't seen many (if any) come to fruition...