I have just discovered www.google.com/publicdata, and I think I’m in love. Admittedly, I am “one of those” who can’t wait for the census data to be released. Yes, American FactFinder is one of my favorite websites, and I try not to go there unless I have nothing more pressing to occupy my time because I can spend hours absorbing all the fascinating data. Did you know they have a US population clock that keeps up-to-date population count? At the time of this writing, our population is 310,501,422…actually 310,501,423 and counting.

But, oh my, Google’s public data site buries FactFinder. It has fascinating data not only from our country but dozens of others across the globe! And it’s delivered in a visually compelling format. Let’s say you’re interested in international fertility rates and life expectancy around the world from 1960 to 2008. Take a look here. If you’d like to isolate an individual country, simply check that country on the left before clicking the play button. For a sobering reminder of the tremendous loss of life in Rwanda during the 80’s and 90’s, click Rwanda on the left, and then hit play.

What about unemployment in the US since 1990? Well, after 20 years of observation, I’d say there are a few key states to avoid, if you’d like to stay gainfully employed for the duration of your career, (California, Florida, Michigan, Georgia, and, sadly, my home state of Illinois).

From minimum wage in Europe (with Luxembourg and Ireland taking the lead) to STD’s in the US (yikes, California and lowest in the Virgin Islands), Google has it covered. They offer this project to all curious individuals.

“Students, journalists, policy makers and everyone else can play with the tool to create visualizations of public data, link to them, or embed them in their own webpages. Embedded charts and links can update automatically so you’re always sharing the latest available data.”

There are instructions for you to understand how to use the data, and you can also propose sharing your own datasets. It’s 2011, an exciting time to be alive. The world grows smaller every day, bringing opportunities for learning and for enacting change in powerful ways.