Nature, Jupyter, Altair, Vega and Binder

PyData London Meetup, 6 March 2018

Jonathan Fine


Slides at

This talk is NOT about:

  • Nature: the physical, material and biological universe
  • Jupiter: massive gassy planet, with a Great Red Spot
  • Altair: the brightest star in the constellation of Aquila
  • Vega: the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra
  • Bender: belligerent fictional robot in Futurama

This talk is about:

  • Nature: a major online scientific publisher
  • and also

  • Jupyter: deservedly popular online scientific notebook
  • Vega-Lite: high-level interactive visualisation language
  • Altair: a Python front-end to Vega-Lite (hides the JSON)
  • Binder: stable on-demand backend to Jupyter notebooks

The last four have made major recent improvements.

About the journal Nature

  • World's most cited scientific journal.
  • Established 1869. Impact factor 40 (very high).
  • Published many landmark papers:

  • particles are waves, the neutron, nuclear fission
  • plate tectonics, ozone hole
  • structure of DNA, cloning of mammal, human genome
  • pulsars, gravitational waves

Important breaking news

Jupyter's sweet spot is still expanding!!!

We've now got video of this!

Credit: NASA via Wikipedia

Nature is interested in Jupyter

In January 2018, Nature published a toolbox article:

  • Data visualization tools
  • drive interactivity
  • and reproducibility
  • in online publishing

This article mentions Jupyter, Altair, Vega and Binder

News: JupyterLab now ready for users

To try it out, on Binder, just follow the link

  • jupyterlab/jupyterlab-demo/
  • 18a9793b58ba86660b5ab964e1aeaf7324d667c8
  • ?urlpath=lab%2Ftree%2Fdemo%2FLorenz.ipynb

So let's take a look

mybinder can work with your notebooks on github

This helps drive reproducibility in online publishing

Jupyter and Nature

Wasn't that impressive!

  • Publication quality interactive graphics
  • Easily available online
  • Backed by reproducible software

Will be used more by authors …

… and publishers

Next: Tools for interactive graphics


A high-level grammar for interactive graphics.

With a concise JSON syntax.

Best explained by looking at examples

This helps drive interactivity in online publishing


According to

Altair is a declarative statistical visualization library for Python, based on Vega-Lite.

It is a bridge between Jupyter and Veta-Lite

According to

The Atair developers are working hard to provide full support for the new versions of Vega-Lite and Vega.

We wish them well with this important work

Jupyter's sweet spot again!

Driven by the winds of Altair, Vega and Nature

Credit: NASA via Wikipedia