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An efficient world facts checker - guide to CIA World Factbook

Posted on 31 January 2011 by Mila

Over the years I grew a nasty habit of always checking background facts about any topic I am reading about.  One of the resources I visit most often is the CIA World Factbook which provides incredible amount of information about countries, their citizens, and economics. I always felt that this resource could be even more useful if it was given a proper informatics treatment and so a few weeks ago I gave it a try and guide to CIA World Factbook has been born.

This post demonstrates a few possibilities how to check for economic data including production and consumption of fossil fuels as they seem to be particularly relevant in the context of climate discussions. 


The guide provides plenty of data about individual countries including :


  • several GDP related values
  • exports and imports
  • natural resources
  • electricity production and consumption
  • production and consumption of oil and natural gas


  • number of inhabitants
  • age structure
  • health 
  • income


Countries can be  compared based on individual statistics.

The picture on the left demonstrates such usage.

The graphs are generated on the fly (thanks to Google Charts Tools) and so they can be experimented with.

It especially means that selection of countries to be displayed can be tailored by using the selection tool in the right corner:




The screenshot on the left provides an example of such comparison - electricity consumption of US compared with Africa.

The bottom screenshot provides population comparison based on the same countries selection. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.


If you find the guide  interesting  the short demo video may further whet your appetite:

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Comments 1 to 8:

  1. I might try this. I'm constantly looking at the Factbook - usually I find what I want. This could be a big advantage. (Though I confess I'm normally looking for health related matters rather than climate.)
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  2. #1 - a top secret - what I am playing with after CIA Factbook release: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23 - planned release : end of February 2011 :)
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  3. Thanks for this Mila! I've been using the Factbook for more years than I can remember, so this resource will come in handy. Any chance you can do a guide to Tamino's Open Mind blog? (The big problem is the deletion of pre-March 2010 posts, most of which I was able to list in this archive) Thanks again! The Yooper
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  4. #3 If you are willing to feed in data I will tweek Zvon RC system to care for Open Mind blog - it would mean to fill Google Documents or a zip file on a stable address with keywords, dates, titles, abstracts, names, and dois. It is nothing complicated, something like: #title:Friday round-up #href: #authors:rasmus #date:24 April 2009 #categories:RC Forum;skeptics ######################################## #keywords: sun galactic cosmic rays #names: Singer, Fred #doi: 10.1002/joc.1651 10.1029/2005GL023621 10.1029/2001JA000507 10.1098/rspa.2007.0347 #oclc:
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  5. @ Mila @ 4 Would the lost posts now linked in the Archive be usable where they are (in the Internet version of the recycle bin) or would they need to be hosted independently of that? As far as the format, would an Excel spreadsheet, if set up like your example above, work? The Yooper
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  6. #5 1) if you export an Excell spreadsheet as a text file it will suit my needs - I am a Linux user and do not own Excell; I would have to use a third party software and I would prefer not to - work with clean text files is much easier; Excell offers a few export formats so we can try one of these 2) the posts may be located anywhere; I will just need to know the urls
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  7. Plain TXT file then (just as easy for me, so if easier for you, so be it). Last Next-to-last question: In your example, you begin each line with the # symbol; is that required, or just something to demonstrate a new row/record? Last question: Unsure as to the DOI's. Can you elaborate on that as well when you get the chance? The Yooper
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  8. #7 sign # is required to mark a start of a field, it significantly simplify processing code; you may omit ##################### line; this one is just a visual separator DOIs identify scientific articles listed in the post; we can take them off if you do not want to have them listed if you start to work on it send me URL with a zip file with few entries so I can test the system before we move to full production
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    Moderator Response: [Daniel Bailey] Will do; give me a couple of days (life in the way right now).

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