Revealing the Past Through a Heatwave

The United Kingdom has been…well, enjoying is not the right word for me, so let’s just say witnessing a heatwave. And it is having some unexpected consequences. In short, things like grass will behave differently in extreme conditions when planted on soil vs. when growing atop stone, wood, or other non-natural features. This helps identify foundations and alike for long-forgotten structures. The BBC has a nice piece looking at some work just like this discovered across the British Isles.

The house was known about, but the details are still fascinating.
The house was known about, but the details are still fascinating.

Credit for the piece goes to Paul Hancock and PH Aerial Photograph.

Rescuing a Trapped Thai Football Team

For much of the last two weeks the world has followed the drama unfolding in Thailand, where a youth football team has been trapped underground in a partially flooded cave complex. This weekend, rescuers, who had overcome a daunting challenge of simply finding them, began extracting the boys. And this graphic from the BBC shows just how challenging their extraction will be.

In particular I like this map. It illustrates both the path of the cave, but also shows how uneven the interior structure is. It does that by showing select cross sections with a person to scale. Some parts are so small and narrow that people can barely squeeze through.

I wouldn't like being in there one bit
I wouldn’t like being in there one bit

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

The World Cup Begins

If you live under a rock or in America, the World Cup starts today. (Go England.) So what else to have but a chart-driven piece from the BBC from last week about the World Cup. It features seven charts encapsulating the competition. But the one I want to focus on? It’s all about the host nations, in this case Russia.

To host, or not to host, that is the question of how much can you pay FIFA officials under the table…
To host, or not to host, that is the question of how much can you pay FIFA officials under the table…

On its design, I could go without the football icons to represent points on the dot plot, but I get it. (Though to be fair, they work well as icons depicting the particular World Cup event in another set of graphics elsewhere in the article.) In particular, I really like the decision to include the average difference between a host nation’s points in non-hosting matches vs. hosting matches.

It does look like the host nation scores more points per match than when they are not hosting. And that—shameless plug—reminds me of some work I did a few years back now looking at the Olympics and the host nation advantage in that global competition.

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC Data Team.

Adding to the British Line of Succession

When I woke up this morning, the BBC was reporting that the Duchess of Cambridge was in labour. Clearly by the time I sat down to write today’s blog post, she gave birth to the child, a boy. And so now we have this graphic from the BBC showing how the new child fits into the line of succession to the British throne.

Family trees always fascinate me
Family trees always fascinate me

In all likelihood, the BBC had this graphic prepared well in advance. And once the child’s name is announced, it can be rapidly updated to include that additional information.

An interesting quirk I wanted to point out was the graphic’s use of orange. The graphic clearly shows how purple is used for the line of succession (and the dotted lines for divorce). But, what about the two orange circles, one for Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and the other Prince Harry? Interestingly, those two are both in the line of succession as well, just not directly.

For example, Harry becomes monarch only if William and his children all die without heirs. But we all sort of knew that. Philip, on the other hand, is a few hundred down on the list, but is himself also eligible. Though the odds of that happening are so remote it’s a wonder it was put on the graphic. But still a neat little piece of trivia.

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

Undersea Mining

Today’s piece isn’t strictly about data visualisation. Instead it’s a nice article from the BBC that explores the nascent industry of undersea mining. What caught my interest was the story of Soviet submarine K-129, which sank mysteriously in the middle of the Pacific. But that isn’t even half the story, so if you are interested go and read the article for that bit.

But that sinking may have created the beginning of the undersea mining industry. And so as I read on, I found a nice mixture of text, photography, and graphics explaining processes and such. This screenshot is a comparison of the size of an undersea mining zone compared to a land-based copper mine.

An undersea mine vs. a surface mine
An undersea mine vs. a surface mine

Some of the graphics could use some polish and finesse, but I do appreciate the effort that goes into creating pieces like this. You will note that four different people had to work together to get the piece online. But if this is perhaps the future of BBC content, this is a great start.

Credit for the piece goes to David Shukman, Ben Milne, Zoe Barthlomew, and Finlo Rohrer.

The Importance of Cartography

Today I wanted to share with you a piece from the BBC that explores the importance of cartography, or mapmaking, in relief efforts particularly in Malawi, a country located in southeastern Africa.

My favourite still, perhaps, was an image of a hand-drawn map
My favourite still, perhaps, was an image of a hand-drawn map

This is a still from a short video—it clocks in at just a tad under three minutes—that you can watch to see how volunteers are identifying and mapping villages that do not appear on today’s maps. The importance, as they explain, is that if the village does not appear, it is as if the village does not exist. Consequently it can be quite difficult for aid to reach these villages during disasters like the 2015 floods.

Credit for the piece goes to Ruth Evans.

The New Dinosaur Family Tree

Today’s post is not a particular great graphic in that it is far from revolutionary. Instead, you could say it far more evolutionary. A new finding by Matthew Baron posits a rather unusual dinosaur named Chilesaurus, discovered in Chile as its name suggests, is actually a cousin to both the tyrannosaurs and raptors as well as to triceratops. (Get the joke now?)

After I read the story I had to dig around for a graphic that made more sense than this BBC graphic. Why? Well, the way the article was written, it read more that the Chilesaurus actually falls after the theropods, but before the ornithischians as a cousin-like species. This BBC graphic makes it appear as a third sibling.

Really, I just want the velociraptor…
Really, I just want the velociraptor…

So in the Daily Mail, we have this graphic, credit given to Matthew Baron, that shows how the theropods branched out, but that Chilesaurus branched out after them and yet still provided ancestral traits to the ornithischians.

Or utahraptors. Give me utahraptors.
Or utahraptors. Give me utahraptors.

As both articles point out, this is not settled science and many disagree with the new arrangement. But as a person who grew up fascinated by dinosaurs, these kinds of stories are just fantastic.

Credit for the piece goes to Matt Baron.

Where the Polling Stands

Tomorrow is the big day: the general election in the United Kingdom. If, like me, you have been following the news over the last several weeks, you know it has been punctuated by…gaffes. And what was initially considered a certainty for Prime Minister Theresa May is, well, not so much.

This graph of polling data compiled by the BBC instead shows how the Conservatives have fallen to the gains of Labour. And what was once a certainty could now be a nail-biter.

With a whole bunch of also rans—not true in the SNP's case
With a whole bunch of also rans—not true in the SNP’s case

By the time I start writing tomorrow, the vote will be under way although the results will not start coming in until tomorrow evening. One has to wonder if that upward Labour trend will continue. Or even just amount to anything.

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

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.

Piece, Larsen C

When I was in high school in 2002, it was big news when one of the three Larsen ice shelves in Antarctica, Larsen B, collapsed. And then when I was at university, the band British Sea Power wrote a song titled “Oh Larsen B” that I have always enjoyed.

Now Larsen B was not the first Larsen ice shelf to collapse. That dubious honour belongs to Larsen A, which collapsed in 1995. But, Larsen B will not be the last as the third, Larsen C, is now on the verge of collapse. This graphic from Adrian Luckman, reproduced by the BBC, illustrates how the rift calving the shelf has seen accelerated growth recently.

The rift's growth has accelerated lately
The rift’s growth has accelerated lately

I believe the colours could have been designed a bit better to show more of the acceleration. The purple fades too far into the background and the yellow stands out too much. I would be curious if the data existed to create a chart showing the acceleration.

The inclusion of the map of Wales works well for showing the scale, especially for British audiences. In other words, an iceberg 1/4 the size of Wales will be released into the Southern Ocean. For those not well versed in British geography, that means an iceberg larger than the size of Delaware. That’s a big iceberg.

Credit for the piece goes to Adrian Luckman.