Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Month: February 2011

The many names of Gaddafi

You can hardly miss the colonel who has run Libya for the last 42 years. But how do you spell his name?

Due to there being no formal way of translating his name from the Arabic, Col Gaddafi (FT spelling) has many viariants. This has been written about here, and lots of other places, but I thought I would take the time to try to quantify it.

Using ABC news‘s list of all the variants they could find, I removed the extraneous bits, and cut all the variants of “Muammar”, leaving just the Gaddafi bit. I then deduped the list. This whittled their 112 names down to 41. I then ran each name through Google, making sure to get the exact name and not one they were suggesting.

Here are the results:

Variant Google results
Gadhafi 104,000,000
Gaddafy 94,800,000
al-Qaddafi 27,200,000
al-Gaddafi 24,800,000
el-Gadhafi 11,900,000
Kaddafi 11,000,000
Gaddafi * 3,250,000
Kadhafi 3,070,000
Gadafi 1,770,000
Qaddafi 1,360,000
Gheddafi 1,010,000
Gadaffi 873,000
Kadafi 563,000
al-Kad’afi 387,000
Al-Kaddafi 339,000
al-Kadafi 332,000
Kad’afi 300,000
Khadafy 285,000
Qadhafi 231,000
Khaddafi 153,000
Ghaddafi 148,000
Ghadafi 113,000
Qadafi 96,800
Kadaffi 89,500
al-Qadhafi 85,900
al-Khaddafi 84,100
Khadaffy 80,500
Ghadaffi 61,400
Gadafy 57,300
Gathafi 47,900
Qathafi 44,900
al-Qadafi 30,300
Qadhdhafi 25,300
Al-Gathafi 23,300
Gaddhafi 16,600
Kazzafi 8,650
al-Qadhdhafi 6,580
Ghaddafy 5,480
Quathafi 4,070
Qudhafi 649
Qadthafi 199

* Most frequently suggested by Google

So there you have it. Gadhafi is the clear winner, with 104m. And yet it’s not the most frequently suggested by Google. That’s Gaddafi. Why?

Here’s another way of looking at the data with a Many eyes bubble chart. And here’s a bar chart. Basically, there’s one hell of a long tail.

Source: Google. Click to see full graphic.

China: the new home of the skyscraper

In my last post I talked about how London is getting a new clutch of 200m plus buildings. But then I thought – where are the biggest buildings around the world now?

In the past, New York was always regarded as the tall-building capital of the world, and held that reputation even though the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in Chicago was the tallest building in the US. Hong Kong has always been a tall city, given the pressure on land space. And after that, a few smatterings of tall buildings in Asia held the world’s tallest title – the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, followed by Taipei 101.

Then came The Burj in Dubai – significanty bigger than anything else by some distance, at over 800m (Taipei 101 is around 500m).

And yet – the country that leads the way is China. A list of the top 100 tallest buildings in the world (completed, not in construction) shows that China has 32 – just shy of a third. Next is the US with 28. The UAE has 17. That leaves the rest of the world with only 22.

And the Chinese surge is amazing – 23 of China’s 32 were completed since 2000. As for New York, of its seven buildings in the list, four were built in the 1930s. That’s a bygone if golden age. Overall, 55 of the top 100 were built this side of 2000.

And where are the next clutch of buildings being built? India, Saudi Arabia, and of course, China. Three of the top five buildings under construction are in China, and it has five buildings under construction that will top out at over 500m.

Every so often China takes over something as the world’s most or biggest: most internet users, overtaking Japan as the second biggest economy (read Gavyn Davies for the best analysis of the economy issue). In skyscrapers, China may not have the tallest, or even the most iconic, but in sheer volume it leads the way.

London – the new monolithia

The London skyline is rapidly changing. This is obvious, and has been much-written about. Since the 2008-09 hiatus in construction due to the credit crunch, building big is back on.

UPDATE: would be remiss of me to not mention the FT’s excellent Shard of glass construction multimedia extravaganza.

But although a few buildings with catchy names are well-known, what is remarkable is just how many buildings over 200m are being built, and how few there are currently.

The problem is that many of these buildings are pretty uninspiring. For every Shard or Gherkin, there are several bland towers. Here’s a list (it’s a Google doc) and here is an excellent diagram-based list.

Of the nine 200m plus buildings listed above in London, only one is built – One Canada Square in Canary Wharf. The rest are all in construction, or about to be. The cranes are going up.

Of the 26 150m plus buildings, only two were built earlier than 2000 – again, One Canada Square and Tower 42.

What does this mean? London is not about to join the list of mega-skyscraper cities, where Hong Kong, New York and others are way ahead in terms of height and number. But this is a changing of a city.

Big buildings have impact – both in terms of inspiring residents and attracting tourists, but also in the gusts of wind around their base, the anonymous and impersonal nature of their function, and the sense of detatchment they can create.

London is a modern city which competes with New York, HK, Singapore and others on the world stage. But it did so successfully without building up up up. Is there a need now?

London is often described as a city of villages. It is becoming a city of mid-sized but imposing skyscrapers. I’m not sure it is any the better for that. Welcome to London – the new monolithia.

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