American Solar Challenge 2018 Tracker Data

I just got my hands on the GPS tracker data for the American Solar Challenge last July. Out of the 13 cars from Michigan, MIT, CalSol, Western Syd, Illini, Waterloo, Minnesota, GA Tech, Poly Montreal, ETS Quebec, Bologna, W Mich, and App State, most were not being tracked during large stretches of the route (see the map above). That restricts what I can do with the data, but I will do something. Stay tuned.


Voting patterns in the United States

Because of my interest in social statistics, I’ve been exploring county-level results from the US 2016 presidential election. The map below (click to zoom) summarises the results (blue for Democrat and red for Republican, coloured according to how strongly counties voted one way or the other). Nine of the more extreme counties are highlighted.

Most of the variance in this data can be explained by demographic factors such as race, age, education levels, local unemployment, rural-urban continuum code, and median household income. The latter is particularly interesting, and the chart below provides a summary.

On a scale from −0.5 being 100% Republican to +0.5 being 100% Democrat, the curve shows the average vote of counties by 2016 median household income (where the averages are weighted by county population sizes, and LOESS smoothing is used to draw the curve). Overlaid on the diagram is a bar chart for the total population of different median household income groups (the scale for this bar chart is on the right).

It can be seen that, at the very poorest end, votes are balanced between Democrat and Republican. For example, here are the 7 poorest counties in the United States, by median household income. They are all rural:

Above that bottom end, votes trend Republican, with the peak Republican vote occurring at median household incomes around $40,000. Above about $56,000, counties swing Democrat, and the Democrat vote increases with increasing wealth. For example, here are the 4 richest counties in the United States, by median household income. They are all part of the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area:

Essentially, the Republican Party seems to have become the party of the poor, particularly the rural poor. Indeed, the (population-weighted) median of 2016 median household incomes for Democrat-majority counties was $61,042; while for Republican-majority counties it was $52,490 ($8,552 less). For a visual perspective, the map below limits the previous one to counties with a 2016 median household income below $56,000. It is precisely because the Republican Party has become the party of the rural poor that these maps are mostly red. I had not fully appreciated this before analysing the data (although others have), but it certainly explains much of recent politics in the US. However, predicting the results of the next presidential election would require some solid demographically linked polling data as well as a good voter turnout model.

Would y’all like to see a map?

The word y’all is used as a second person plural pronoun in the United States (although in my travels I have also heard it used as a polite singular). The map above (click to zoom) shows the average frequency of use by state, according to the 2003 Harvard Dialect Survey. The usage is primarily Southern.

English needs a second person plural pronoun, it seems to me. What do all-y’all think?

Image produced using the maps package of R. Other visualisations of the survey exist.


I’m off soon to Vanuatu for a holiday. Above (click to zoom) is a map of this island nation (produced using the raster package of R, with my own colour palette). The map outlines are from (which is missing an island, unfortunately). Elevation data is from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (with additional void fill using a lower-resolution dataset).

The overlay in red shows light visible at night (from NASA’s Earth at Night). Apart from the two main towns of Luganville and Port Vila, the active volcanoes on Ambrym and Tanna are clearly visible (take a closer look at Ambrym’s lava lake here).

Not highlighted is the active volcano on Ambae, an island which held 4% of the nation’s population until it was recently evacuated – consider helping the evacuees via Anglican Aid.

ASC 28: Road Race Day 2 (morning)

Sunday 15 July (Nebraska time) looks like being cloudy, which is not good for the American Solar Challenge road race. The map below (click to zoom) shows the latest known team positions. GPS trackers are proving unreliable, and the grey positions reflect approximate positions as at last night. Waterloo, Onda, AppState, and the teams pictured (ETS in Ellsworth, Esteban on the road, Illini near Halsey, and CalSol in Halsey) are all on the move, however. Western Sydney seems to be back in the lead.

ASC 27: Road Race Day 1 Wrap

This post has been updated.

Here are the approximate night-time positions of cars at the end of the first day of the 9-day American Solar Challenge road race (click to zoom). GPS trackers are proving unreliable in Nebraska, so this map is based on social media reports and gossip about locations. For example, Eclipse posted an Instagram story about end-of-day charging at Ellsworth, Nebraska (650 km by road from the start). Western Sydney seem to be in Alliance (700 km), but may have driven ahead slightly to find sleeping accommodation. Day 2 of the race will end at Gering (790.2 km).

And here, in the colours of an Oregon Trail sunset, are the speeds to the Grand Island checkpoint. The bullet car from Michigan is ahead, but only by minutes. Sadly, Western Michigan had problems with their car and failed to meet their provisional qualification speed requirements. Also, none of the Cruisers are keeping to the necessary average speed of 53.5 km/h. They will all need to speed up somehow. Georgia Tech have trailered, but are still in the event. SIUE are racing non-competitively.

In some highlights, Western Sydney is nipping at the heels of Michigan, Esteban charges at the checkpoint, Minnesota changes a tire, and Onda is on the road:

ASC 26: Road Race Day 1 (morning)

Saturday 14 July (Omaha time) marked the start of the 9-day American Solar Challenge road race. The maps below (click to zoom) use extrapolation of GPS positions (based on the speeds included in the GPS feed) so that they are probably a bit more realistic than just looking at a snapshot of the live map. The photographs come from various teams.

Initially, there was fog, and a nail-biting contest between Michigan and Western Sydney for the lead. A few teams had problems at the start, and SIUE briefly strayed off the race route:

After two and a half hours, Michigan was in the lead, having driven 164 km. Georgia Tech was still doing repairs. Illini (shown in grey) seemed to have GPS problems, so their position was uncertain. In the Cruiser class, only Appstate was running at the necessary average speed of 33.3 mph or 53.5 km/h (but no doubt this will change):