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.

When America Votes by Goat

Last week Twitter went a wee bit crazy when Donald Trump’s son posted an image about how the Republican nominee had gained ground. Except that it turns out the image was from FiveThirtyEight and looked only at a demographic split by gender—it was what the map would look if only men voted. Suffice it to say, yeah, the Twitterverse went a wee bit crazy. Thankfully the BBC put together this really great recap with some of the best of it.

What the map would look like if goats voted
What the map would look like if goats voted

Happy Friday, all.

Credit for the pieces goes to the various original authors and designers.

The Shrinking Extent of ISIS

Yes, ISIS does receive a lot of attention in the media and during the presidential debates. But you might be surprised to learn that actually the organisation has lost a significant amount of territory lately. This BBC article details the territorial changes through a nice interactive map slider.

Use the scroller to see the changes over time
Use the scroller to see the changes over time

You could create a single map showing the losses/gains instead of using this light-duty interactive piece. And to the BBC’s credit they did. However, between the image quality and territorial changes, I think in this instance the interactive piece does add clarity to the story.

All in one map
All in one map

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

UK Performance at the Olympics

The Olympics are over and Team GB did rather well, coming in second in the medals table with 27 gold medals, more than they won back in 2012 when they hosted the Olympics. (See my piece four years ago where a colleague of mine and I accurately predicted the UK’s total medal count.)

Consequently the BBC put together an article with several data-driven graphics exploring the performance and underpinnings of Team GB. This screenshot captures a ranking chart that generally works well.

How the Olympics rankings have changed over the years
How the Olympics rankings have changed over the years

However, the use of the numbers within the dots is redundant and distracting. A better decision would have been to label the lines and let the eye follow the movement of the lines. A good decision, however, was to label the grey lines for those countries entering and falling out of the Top-5.

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

Airplanes in Hangars

Today’s post features a simple set of graphics on the BBC, however the creators were actually the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. The background? The increasingly tense geopolitical situation in the South China Sea, where China claims numerous islands and reefs claimed by other countries—and to a smaller extent other countries make similar such claims. Just a few weeks back, the Hague ruled against Chinese claims against islands within the Philippines territorial waters. But as these graphics show, it takes more than a legal decision to effect change on the ground.

Satellite photography shows military installations on numerous Chinese-held islands. But what makes the images potent in the communicative sense is the simple overlay of white plane illustrations. They show how many fighter jets, support aircraft, patrol aircraft, &c. that China can base at the various military installations. It is a simple but incredibly effective touch.

Fiery Cross Reef
Fiery Cross Reef

Credit for the piece goes to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

Timeline of Recent French Terrorism Attacks

Yesterday the French Catholic community of Rouen was attacked by an alleged IS terror group. In the aftermath the BBC put together a graphic published inside a broader piece. The graphic documented the recent history of terror attacks in France.

When you read or scroll through the overall piece, a bit more symmetry could be added by aligning dates to the central column. That would make the dates more easily comparable. Though it should be noted the important point is made by the rapid clustering of events in the most recent time period.

And for a personal quibble, I believe that timelines are more effective when the most recent date is at the top. Presume the timeline starts in the 1950s during the middle of the Algerian War fought between France and Algeria, which at the time was an integral part of France. Would we want to read all those incidents from the 1950s and 60s? Likely no. Instead, we could scroll down the entirety of the piece. Here, however, we start in the relative calm of 2012, 2013, and early 2014.

Timeline of terror attacks in France
Timeline of terror attacks in France

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.