Seven More Planets

What else did you guys think I was going to cover today? The by-elections in Copeland and Stoke? Well, yeah, we’ll likely get back to that tomorrow when we have some results. In the meantime…space!

This is an animation from the New York Times about the Trappist-1 system that has seven Earth-sized planets, a few of which could support liquid water. And since life as we know it depends upon liquid water…well, you get the idea. Go space.

So there's Doc, Dopey, Bashful…wait, wrong group of seven
So there’s Doc, Dopey, Bashful…wait, wrong group of seven

Credit for the piece goes to Neeti Upadhye.

Scottish Independence?

I was having a conversation with a mate the other night about what Brexit means for Scottish independence. This mate, however, is an American. Because when American politics are depressing and nonsensical, we turn to British pol—wait, never mind.

Despite the overall UK vote to leave the European Union, Scotland (and London, and Northern Ireland) voted overwhelmingly to remain. But since part of the whole vote no to independence thing was remaining part of the EU thing, shouldn’t Scotland now be well positioned for IndyRef2?

I read this article from the Guardian back in January and meant to share it with you all, but I somehow forgot about it. So at long last, it turns out no, not so much. The whole thing is worth a read; it uses YouGov survey data to break out voters into different camps. And what sort of nails the argument is this graphic.

About that independence…
About that independence…

There are four/five groups of Brexit/IndyRef1 voters that then get sorted into two/three IndyRef2 results (yes, no, maybe I don’t know?). And what you can see is that yes, a significant number of those who voted to Remain in the EU, but voted no to Scottish independence would now vote for independence. But, an almost equal number of those who voted to Remain and also voted for Scottish independence would now vote against Scottish independence. In effect, these two voter movements are cancelling out any potential gains for a future Scottish independence vote.

Credit for the piece goes to the YouGov graphics department.

The Russians Are Coming

I mean, they’re already here…we will return to that shortly.

I hope you enjoyed your three-day weekend, but this is a busy week, folks. Most importantly we have Thursday’s by-elections in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent, those are in the UK for my American audience, where we will see just how crazy British politics gets post-Brexit referendum.

But today is Tuesday, and in a slight departure from the normal, as a new subscriber to the failing New York Times, I was pleasantly surprised to see this cover waiting for me Sunday.

In Soviet Russia, newspaper reads you…
In Soviet Russia, newspaper reads you…

Quite a nice use of the Russian constructivist language going on. I’m not accustomed to seeing newspaper copy set on an angle.

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

Marriage Rates

Well, so about that whole Michael Flynn furore thing I wrote about yesterday…. Time to add another name to the list of people to be appointed—as I said, that post isn’t confirmed, merely appointed.

But today is Valentine’s Day. So for all you lovebirds out there, here are some graphics showing how rate of marriages has declined in the United States.

It does a real nice job of presenting the overall national view, but then breaking that down into a state-by-state comparison over time, the small multiples shown below.

I can say that I was in DC for a friend's marriage during that spike
I can say that I was in DC for a friend’s marriage during that spike

My critique would be the labelling. Note how the state label appears above the chart, but how when stacked in a row, the label for the state below appears far closer to the chart above. The first few times I looked at this, I saw the label for the chart as being below. And I was therefore curious why Kansas was so different from the rest of the plains state. It just goes to show you how important spacing and layout can be on the page.

Credit for the piece goes to Matt Stiles.

Voting on Trump’s Cabinet

Michael Flynn, the National Security Advisor, may have broken the law by talking to the Russian ambassador about Americans sanctions on Russia before Trump took office. One can imagine the furore surrounding the man and the post. However, the post is not confirmed by the Senate, but is appointed by the president. But how has the Cabinet taken shape thus far? Well the New York Times is keeping tracking with this graphic on how senators have voted.

The more controversial picks are on the left, with the more no votes.
The more controversial picks are on the left, with the more no votes.

Credit for the piece goes to Wilson Andrews.

Snowfall in Philadelphia

Today, 9 February, it finally snowed significantly here in Philadelphia. In Chicago it probably snowed shortly after I moved out in September. Today’s graphic is a forecast map from philly.com using National Weather Service (NWS) data.

Snowfall in Philadelphia
Snowfall in Philadelphia

I fail to understand the divergent palette—to be fair this is not the only instance of it throughout the meteorological world. There is a split at the six-inch mark—but why? If anything, my eye would think that the 4–6 range is the heaviest, not the yellow. Snowfall is usually more of a continuous range, and so both within the blues and yellows you get that through a softer edge as the colours become more intense. And then you hit the six-inch mark and a violent shift.

I am also curious as to why the choice to use a coloured map background. Especially if the colour, a lightish green-blue is so close to the lightish blue used by the map to forecast snowfall.

In short, I think this Philadelphia map could use some attention from some designers to make the message a bit clearer.

Credit for the piece goes to the philly.com graphics department.

Hans Rosling Has Died

It’s easy to miss the news these days. But as a designer who does a lot of work—and writes a blog about—data visualisation and information design, I was fortunate to catch the word that Hans Rosling died. You might know him best from his TED talks, but I became familiar with him through his Gapminder project.

Mind the gap, please.
Mind the gap, please.

Do I agree with the design decisions? Of course not, just ask anyone who has asked me anything about bubble charts. But that is not the point. He and others laid the groundwork for myself and those newer to the field to work on the presentation of data, and its integration into analysis.

Unfortunately his death comes at a time when the field of data visualisation comes under threat. Not from the Chinese stealing our jobs, or robots doing them better for cheaper, but from those who assail the veracity of data and fact itself.

It’s easy to joke about alternative facts and alternative data—I do it on an almost daily basis now. But, as Rosling knew that accepting facts, even if unpleasant or challenging to your view on things, was critical to public discourse. To quote from Claire Provost of the Guardian, who interviewed him in 2013:

“Rosling stood for the exact opposite – the idea we can have debates about what could or should be done, but that facts and an open mind are needed before informed discussions can begin.”

Hans Rosling, dead at the age of 68.

Credit for the piece goes to Hans Rosling.

Education Correlates to Leave

So this isn’t quite a shocker, but the BBC gained access to more granular Brexit vote data, and then examined the results against demographic data. The conclusion, a lower education level best corresponded to voting to leave the European Union. Again, we all sort of knew that, but this provides an even larger, richer sample size.

Still a sad result
Still a sad result

What is interesting from the American perspective is how that compares with the election of Donald Trump. In that case as well, lower levels of education correlated well with votes for Trump.

Of course now I will be closely following the elections in the Netherlands, France, and Germany this year to see if the same lower education level corresponds to the vote in favour of populist, nationalist political parties, e.g. Marine le Pen and Geert Wilders.

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

Monday Morning Quarterbacking the Quarterbacks

As most of you know, I am a huge baseball fan. I am not so much a huge fan of American football. But I will watch it from time to time. And as a Red Sox fan, that means I will root for the Patriots. So I guess you know how my Sunday night went.

But this past week, I started my subscription to the printed New York Times. And on Sunday I opened the sports section to this full-page graphic.

Page design
Page design

It comprises three graphics: The big one on the left looks at completions under pressure. Despite being a full-colour page, the designers only needed two colours to convey the message—black and orange.

Under pressure
Under pressure

Similarly, on the right, the third-down graphic also uses a more limited palette. But, for the heat map it does make some sense to use a full colour palette.

Performance in the pocket
Performance in the pocket

Overall, the page shows that colour, when thoughtfully restrained, makes not just the graphic clearer, but also good sense.

Credit fort he piece goes to David K. Anderson and Joe Ward.