TIBCO Spotfire® Goes Back To Its Roots: An Interactive Periodic Table

In 1991, Christopher Ahlberg was a visiting student working in the University of Maryland's Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory under the direction of Ben Shneiderman. Professor Shneiderman tasked Christopher with building an early application that would allow dynamic queries on data to be controlled by the end user through the adjustment of sliders, buttons, check boxes, and other widgets. This was a departure from traditional command line interfaces and provided end users with a more visual, interactive and intuitive interface. Christopher, for his first such application, built a tool for querying the data associated with the periodic table. From this early foray into data analytics, the TIBCO Spotfire data visualization and analysis platform was born, and was soon being used to support varied data querying common in lifescience and pharmaceutical research. Today, the software program is used by most, if not all, major pharmaceutical organizations.

PerkinElmer Informatics, the home of software solutions such as ChemDraw and the industry leading E-Notebook, embarked on a joint partnership with TIBCO Software™ in 2012. TIBCO had acquired Spotfire in the years following its creation and guided it to be a leading analytics and business intelligence tool. By striking two partnership agreements with TIBCO, PerkinElmer has become the provider and developer of the TIBCO Spotfire platform as a visualization and analysis tool in science.

One of the virtues of Spotfire is that although it allows for advanced users, or analysts, to query the data in virtually any manner they want, it also allows for much simpler, predefined queries to be run through a web browser by more occasional users. The PerkinElmer Informatics team was interested in finding fun applications of Spotfire that would help communicate what exactly Spotfire does through this web browser.

Ironically (or perhaps not so ironically), the Informatics team decided on creating an interactive Periodic Table as a fun demo for use by scientists and students, just as Christopher Ahlberg used in 1991 as Spotfire’s first application.

Were you ever interested in who discovered the most elements, or what the relative abundance of an element is in seawater or in the human body? This online tool allows you to easily select portions of the periodic table and rapidly and intuitively display information that is dynamically updated on the basis of selections that you make.

In this hands-on interactive tool, anyone can create a number of visualizations based on chemical and physical property data of the elements, presented via a Periodic Table. Users can select parts of the table and display the relative abundance of only the selected atoms in dynamic pie charts, or show graphs depicting the age or country of discovery, along with headshots of the discovers.

You can access the interactive periodic table here. This visualization forms part of a broader gallery of freely available online demonstrations which you can find here. And, if you care to try out TIBCO Spotfire® for yourself, you can download a free trial to see how Spotfire can help you with your data challenges right here.