The NCSL Blog


By Pam Greenberg

Are you keeping a list of all the states and state capitols you’ve been to, with a goal of visiting all 50?

Legislators and legislative staff are usually more interested than most in visiting state capitols.

If it’s lack of time holding you back, Randal Olson, a postdoctoral researcher who specializes in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data visualization, has developed an algorithm to determine the most direct driving route to the state capitols on the mainland (9.33 days of driving, with no stops):











Map courtesy Randal Olson

In what is undoubtedly our shared goal, Olson’s purpose is to “visit the capitol buildings, not the city the buildings are located in (i.e., state capitals).” As Olson notes, “by going on this road trip we’re in for an epic journey and some beautiful architecture.”

Olson, whose work has been featured in the Washington Post, among other publications, also has calculated some shorter trips, and he shares his code so you can use it to plan your own trip (hint, hint: NALIT members attending the Professional Development Seminar in Indianapolis).

Road trips and fascinating visualizations are not the only reasons to value the work of people like Olson. Data visualization and GIS tools increasingly are being used to inform public policy making.

Pam Greenberg follows technology issues for NCSL.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.