Monthly Archives: October 2015

Data geniuses have figured out what the ultimate beer-drinking road trip looks like

By Ana Swanson


So much beer, so little time.

If you’re a beer lover who lives in the U.S., you might be familiar with this problem. The U.S. has tons of fantastic breweries — 3,464 in total in 2014, about 1,800 of which were microbreweries, according to the Brewer’s Association.

So Nathan Yau, who runs the blog Flowing Data, has performed a great public service — finding the top-rated breweries in the continental U.S., and then creating a map for a road trip route that will take you to all of them in the fewest miles possible.

Yau’s map uses the same technique as a road trip map that I wrote about previously: Randy Olson’s amazing data-driven guide to visiting a top-rated historical landmark in each of the lower 48 states. Olson’s route took the traveler to the Grand Canyon, the Alamo, Mount Vernon, Graceland, the White House, the Statue of Liberty, and much more.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 12.02.38 PM

To create this route, Olson used a technique called “genetic algorithms” to determine the most efficient route between all of these sites. Calculating the fastest way to drive between all 50 landmarks – 2,500 individual routes – could theoretically take forever by hand, so Olson used something called a “genetic algorithm.”

This algorithm basically starts with a handful of solutions, takes the best one, and then compares that to other solutions until it can’t find a better one. Here’s a snapshot of how that algorithm works, from one of Olson’s projects, finding the optimal search pattern for perusing “Where’s Waldo” books.

Yau used this same approach. He referenced a list of the 100 top breweries in the world for from RateBeer, a beer and …read more


If you fly between Chicago and L.A. you might be a drug dealer, according to the DEA

By Christopher Ingraham

A sign with a DEA badge marks the entrance to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Museum in Arlington, Virginia, August 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In April of this year, two Drug Enforcement Administration task force members stopped a man named Issa Serieh at Los Angeles International Airport, asked him some questions, and seized $30,750 in cash off of him. They sent him on his way without charging him with a crime.

The task force members “were in a LAX terminal gate monitoring passengers arriving on American Airlines flight number 2220 which had traveled from Chicago,” according to a complaint filed last month at the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. And why were they monitoring that particular gate? Because “Chicago is a known consumer city for narcotics and Los Angeles is a known source city where narcotics can be purchased,” the complaint explains.

U.S. District Court Complaint, "United States of America v. $30,750 in U.S. Currency"

U.S. District Court Complaint, “United States of America v. $30,750 in U.S. Currency”

That fact, plus the fact that the Serieh exited the plane with “a small backpack over his shoulder,” are the only reasons given for why the agents initiated the encounter that would lead to over $30,000 in cash being taken from Serieh.

We don’t know whether Serieh was carrying the cash as part of a series of drug transactions. Earlier this year, he was arrested in Nebraska for driving one of two cars that police officers found 128 pounds of marijuana in.

But the DEA task force members didn’t know this when they stopped him in Los Angeles. The complaint states they identified him as Issa Serieh later, during their questioning. The only reasons they give for initial suspicion are the backpack, …read more