A World Without Addresses

I am always intrigued by the mental maps people create for themselves and the environments in which they live. (Try it yourself, draw a map of your day-to-day world. How far can your mind draw streets, neighbourhoods, landmarks, &c. without the aid of a Google Maps?) In this article from the BBC, a Sierra Leonean-Gambian journalist related how he dealt with the lack of a formal address system in the Gambia impacted his ability to do even the simple things like providing a mailing address on postal or banking forms. They provide a very large space for the individual to draw their home address on a map.

At the corner of the street south of the roundabout and between the police station and  open air car showroom.
At the corner of the street south of the roundabout and between the police station and open air car showroom.

But unlike my interest in what could you or I draw, this is practical. There is no other option than to be able to draw your neighbourhood. The whole article is well worth a read to help you…gain perspective on your surroundings.

Happy Friday, all.

Credit for the piece goes to Ade Daramy.

The Chrysanthemum Throne

Today we move from the Iron Throne of Westeros (Game of Thrones) to the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan. Emperor Akihito abdicated his throne in favour of his son Naruhito. Fascinatingly, because Japanese monarchs are not allowed to abdicate, the Japanese parliament had to pass a law allowing Akihito to do just that. It was also a one-time deal. The next emperor would need similar legislation should he ever want to abdicate. You will also note there are a lot of male pronouns in this paragraph. By law, women cannot inherit the throne. And when royal princesses marry, they leave the royal household.

Not surprisingly, the news today had some graphics depicting the family tree of the Japanese royal family. And you all know how much I am a sucker for genealogy related work. This piece comes from the BBC and it is pretty simple. It uses a nice grey bar to indicate the generations and some titling indicates who succeeds whom.

There ain't no Cersei here…
There ain’t no Cersei here…

The graphic also makes rather painfully clear that if Japan wants to preserve its monarchy, it will need to embrace some kind of reforms. There are only four males left in the line of succession and only one is likely to have any sons.

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

The M87 Black Hole in Context

Last week we looked at the amazing news that astronomers had finally photographed a black hole. Or, technically, the shadow of a black hole since the black hole itself cannot be seen. I want to return to that news, because it’s awesome. And because xkcd published a piece that annotated the image to show the size of things by comparison.

I had mentioned that it was a supermassive black hole, some of the biggest of the bigs. And M87 is a beast.

Voyager 1 is barely at the event horizon…
Voyager 1 is barely at the event horizon…

Credit for the piece goes to Randall Munroe.

The Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral: Part Trois

On Tuesday I talked about a small article published by the New York Times that looked at the cathedral fire. I lamented that there were no immediate graphics explaining what happened. Just give me two days. Tuesday we had the BBC piece and then yesterday the New York Times published a more extensive look.

As the user scrolls through the piece, a 3-dimensional model reveals the key structural elements whilst text explains why that part is being focused upon in the story.

Wood beams do not make for preventative measures.
Wood beams do not make for preventative measures.

I do not know if the dramatic, black background helps. It might create contrast the designers deemed helpful against the light-coloured illustration. But that is probably my only real point to make about the piece. Otherwise, it is a very thorough and helpful guide to the architecture and how that helped the fire spread.

Credit for the piece goes to Larry Buchanan, James Glanz, Even Grothjan, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Allison McCann, Karthik Patanjali, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, Jeremy White, and Graham Roberts.

The Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral: Part Deux

Yesterday I mentioned how there were few graphics detailing the fire at Notre Dame de Paris. Just give media organisations a day. The BBC published this piece about the fire. It includes, much like the Times piece from yesterday, an illustrative diagram detailing the key locations of the fire.

But the BBC piece goes a bit further and includes photo sliders like this.

The roof is on fire
The roof is on fire

It shows the extent of the fire burning away at the roof. (Amazingly, the stone vaulted ceiling below the roof contained most of the fire as the ground floor is nearly intact.)

Another slider looks at the appearance of the cathedral while photographs are annotated to provide immediate context of what the reader is seeing.

Overall, it is a very strong piece.

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

The Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral

This was not what I was going to write about today, but the news of the fire that ravaged Notre Dame yesterday rightly dominated the news yesterday and this morning. However, while I found multiple articles dealing with photographic evidence of the damage, I did not see many that detailed the fire from an illustrative or diagrammatic standpoint.

Thankfully, the New York Times did just that. They posted an article that deals specifically with the fire. It includes this set of small multiples that shows the progression along the roof and spire.

Unfortunately wood burns quickly
Unfortunately wood burns quickly

The article also includes a nice diagram explaining how the fire was focused on the cathedral’s attic. That explains some of the imagery from this morning that shows combustible materials like the pews and pulpit on the stone floor fully intact. And that provides hope the overall building can be saved, as French officials are indicating today.

Credit for the piece goes to Larry Buchanan, Weiyi Cai, James Glanz, Evan Grothjan, Allison Mccann, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, Karthik Patanjali, Jugal K. Patel, Scott Reinhard, Bedel Saget, Anjali Singhvi, and Jeremy White.

Demanding the Impossible

The key problem in the Brexit deal remains what to do with the Irish border. In essence, the UK faces the same trilemma it has since the beginning. It wants three things it cannot have at the same time: exiting the EU single market and customs union, so it can create a free and independent trade policy; no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, per the Good Friday Agreement that ended the Troubles; and territorial integrity, i.e. no hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK in the Irish Sea.

Essentially, the UK can choose two of these three options. Below, I have attempted to show how they relate and what the result is once two of the options have been chosen.

Choose two and only two.
Choose two and only two.

Credit for the piece is mine.

Building the Wall

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.

Whatever happened to "Tear down this wall"?
Whatever happened to “Tear down this wall”?

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.

Walnut Pancakes in Space

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.

It probably doesn't taste like a walnut pancake, though…
It probably doesn’t taste like a walnut pancake, though…

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.

Arctic Chill

The Arctic air mass that has frozen the Midwest continues to spread and so today will be a tad chilly in Philadelphia. Yesterday, however, the Guardian had a piece that used data from NASA to show how the air masses over the Northern Hemisphere have been disturbed by unusually warm air.

The Arctic plunge.
The Arctic plunge.

One theory to how this all works is that the reduced polar sea ice means water absorbs summer heat instead of being locked in the ice. But then that heat is basically released come winter. (I’m oversimplifying this.) That warms the air, which disturbs the polar vortex. As the Guardian then explains, the destabilised air mass can wobble and spill some of its frigid air down into the lower latitudes. (It takes a little while because the polar vortex is in the upper atmosphere and the air needs to sink to the ground.)

Point is, bundle up and stay warm.

Credit for the piece goes to the Guardian graphics department.