Facebook intern Paul Butler has made a courageous attempt in revealing the electronic social connections worldwide. Turns out we do not need geographers to help us decide where to draw country borders, some clever social scientists with Facebook data should do.
Instead of taking the whole (secret?) Facebook social graph consisting of about 500 million people, the data is based on a sample of "about ten million pairs" of friends, which is combined with their home location. From this information, Paul was able to calculate the relative strength between pairs of cities, which was then normalized by their relative distance. By drawing lines between these pairs on top of each other, and fine-tuning their brightness, a map of visually distinguishable countries and continents naturally appeared. In fact, the map might not be that different from a view on the Earth at night, one commenter at Mashable remarked.
"After a few minutes of rendering, the new plot appeared, and I was a bit taken aback by what I saw. The blob had turned into a surprisingly detailed map of the world. Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well. What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn't represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships."