Yesterday the New York Times published a fascinating piece looking at the data on how often President Trump has gone after the Special Counsel’s investigation. (Spoiler: over 1100 times.) It makes use of a number of curvy line charts showing the peaks of mentions of topics and people, e.g. Jeff Sessions. But my favourite element was this timeline.
It’s nothing crazy or fancy, but simple small multiples of a calendar format. The date and the month are not particular important, but rather the frequency of the appearances of the red dots. And often they appear, especially last summer.
Credit for the piece goes to Larry Buchanan and Karen Yourish.
Back in 2012 the New York Times ran what is a classic data visualisation piece on Mariano Rivera. It tracked the number of saves the legendary Yankees closer had over his career and showed just how ridiculous that number was—and how quickly he had attained it. Last week, the Washington Post ran a piece that did something very similar about LeBron James, a future basketball legend, and Michael Jordan, definitely a basketball legend.
The key part of the piece is the line chart tracking points scored, screenshot above. It takes the same approach as the Rivera piece, but instead tracks scored points. Unlike the Rivera piece, which was more “dashboard” like in its appearance and function, allowing users to explore a dataset, this is more narratively constructed. The user scrolls through and reads the story the authors want you to read. Thankfully, for those who might be more interested in exploring the dataset, the interactivity remains intact as the user scrolls down the article.
While the main thrust of the piece is the line chart, it does offer a few other bar and line charts to put James’ career into perspective relative to the changing nature of NBA games. The line chart breaking down the composition of James’ scoring on a yearly basis is particularly fascinating.
But, don’t ask me about how he fits into the history of basketball or how he truly compares to Michael Jordan. Basketball isn’t my sport. But this is a great piece overall.
Credit for the piece goes to Armand Emamdjomeh and Ben Golliver.
Last summer NASA’s Martian exploration rover Opportunity went dark as its solar panels, needed to power the golf-cart sized explorer, were covered in dust from a planet-wide dust storm. Everyone hoped that over the following months the light Martian winds and dust devils would wipe clean the dust from the solar panels and the rover could recharge its batteries, turn on its heaters, and resume contact with Earth. It hasn’t. Consequently, on Wednesday NASA called Opportunity’s mission complete. And thanks to xkcd we have a proper little farewell.
Or at least a portion that was already funded back in March. If it was, in fact, a wall.
This morning it appears as if President Trump will not scupper the funding agreement. It includes far less than the $5.7 billion he demanded, but do not forget back in March, Congress appropriated funds to construct barriers, not walls in Texas.
This piece from the Washington Post looks at those plans and details how wall-like or not these border installations are. (Spoiler: semi.) The screenshot below illustrates the levee fencing would work.
But the piece also includes some really nice maps and aerial shots, also seen above, of where these border enhancements will be constructed.
Overall it is just a really informative and enjoyable piece with several graphical elements.
But whether this is a wall, I will leave that up to you.
Credit for the piece goes to Laris Karklis and Tim Meko.
As someone who loves geography and maps, I have plenty of printed atlases and map books. One year, as a gift, my family gave me an early 20th century atlas. That one in particular is remarkable because of how much the world changed between 1921 and 2019—what was French West Africa is now several independent countries.
But our maps may be changing again as Greece has now formally recognised the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as North Macedonia, what most of the world simply calls Macedonia. But Greeks do not want you to confuse that Macedonia with the Macedonia (or Macedon) of Ancient Greece and Alexander the Great. The squabble over the name has prevented what will be North Macedonia from joining the European Union and NATO because of Greek objections.
As the Economist recently showed, however, it might take a little while before the name Macedonia catches on with the public at large. (Note, I intended to type North Macedonia but instead went with Macedonia. I opted to leave it incorrect just to show how difficult it will be.)
The plot uses my favourite small multiples to look at six countries whose names have changed. Some of you may be unfamiliar with the originals. Bechuanaland may be the most obscure, but Burma and Ceylon may be far more familiar. Of course the historian in me then wonders why the mentions of countries spiked in books. But small multiples are usually not the place to do detailed annotations to humour an audience of one.
In terms of its design, we have an effective use of colour and line. I may have dropped the thin red line for the max 100 value as it makes the piece a bit busy overall, but that might just be house style.
Of course for this graphic in particular, we will have to wait several years before we can add Macedonia/North Macedonia to the plot.
Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.
One of the really neat things about space exploration has been the New Horizons probe that raced past Pluto, giving us the image of the now famous heart shape on the dwarf planet. But as it raced past a Kuiper Belt object named Ultima Thule on New Year’s, we received some tantalising first images of a snowman in space. Basically, two spheroid bodies fused together like a snowman or a peanut.
Except it’s not.
This is a fascinating graphic produced by the science research teams that show how the latest downloaded photographs from New Horizons—it will take many more months for the full set—show Ultima Thule is not very snowman-like in its shape. Instead, it is far flatter and more, in their words, shaped like a dented walnut and a pancake.
The article has some additional material that show how that spin axis changes the view. They are short videos, but if you are interested in space things, it is neat to see. We are accustomed to seeing spherical objects in orbit around the sun. Not pancakes.
Credit for the piece goes to NASA, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and Southwest Research Institute.
We made it to the end of the week, everybody. And so now we get a look an xkcd take on one of my favourite little pieces: regionalisms. We all use terms that are specific to the areas where we live or grew up. For example, here in Philadelphia we call a cured meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato on a long roll a hoagie. In other places, they are called a sub.
xkcd’s piece looks at regionalisms for a carbonated beverage.
We have two North Poles. The most commonly known is the geographic north pole that sits at the top of the world. We also have the magnetic north pole, which is where your compass points when you are lost in the woods. But, the magnetic north pole is not static and in fact moves. (In Earth’s past, the north and the south pole have actually flipped so north is south and south is north.)
In this piece from the New York Times, we have a nice map from Jonathan Corum that shows the movement of the magnetic north pole over time. The map is a nice orthographic projection centred on the geographic north pole.
Of course the centre of the displayed map is not the north pole, as the designer cropped it to show the movement from Canada towards Siberia. What I really like is that the line is actually a series of dots. Of course we do not know if each dot is an actual measurement or an interpolation of the determined magnetic north pole, and that should be made clearer. But, I like to think that each dot is a point in the movement of the pole.
Tonight President Trump will give his State of the Union address, the annual speech about the president’s goals and agenda. Today I have a work meeting about management practices. So when I read this piece yesterday by Axios on Trump’s schedule (from a leak of November and December dates), I figured what better piece to highlight here on Coffeespoons.
To be fair, the concept is pretty straightforward. We have a stacked bar chart with each type of time block represented by a colour. Because the focus of the piece is the Executive Time blocks, I really think the designer did a great job summing the other types of time, e.g. travel and meetings, into one bin. And by being a lighter colour on nearly the same scale as the grey, it helps the orange Executive Time pop. Clearly Executive Time dominates the schedule, which as many analysts have been pointing out, is a departure from recent past presidents.
And, if you’re curious how the time blocks compare, elsewhere in the piece is a stacked bar chart summing all the types of time. Not surprisingly, most of his schedule is Executive Time.
January has ended, and with it for, apparently, a very few Britons, Dry January. The Economist looked at alcohol consumption, using a proxy of beer sales, and compared that against the number of times people searched for “Dry January” on Google.
What I really like about this chart is that it does not try to combine the two series into one. Instead, by keeping the series separate on different plots, the reader can clearly examine the trends in both searches and consumption.
You also run into the problem of how to overlay two different scales. By placing one line atop the other, the user might implicitly understand that as higher or better than the lower series when, one, that may not be true. Or, two, the scales are so different they prevent the direct comparison the chart would otherwise imply as possible.
Here, the designers rightly chose to separate the two plots, and then highlighted the month of January. (I also enjoy the annotation of the World Cup.) I might have gone so far as to further limit the palette and make both series the same colour, but I understand the decision to make them distinct.
But, overall, as the piece points out, drinking in Britain seems to correlate to the weather/temperature. People go out to the pubs more on warmer days than colder. But regardless of any post-holiday hangover, they still consumer beer in January.
I’ll drink to that.
Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.