Last week Mitt Romney’s campaign released a series of infographic adverts. They were Venn Diagrams with messages attacking President Obama by highlighting what the Romney campaign called gaps between what the president has said he would do and what he has in fact done.
The problem with these is that they are all wrong. Do not misunderstand me, the Romney campaign certainly has valid points in these statements. And to use an infographic to communicate their points is a valid approach. But whoever designed these adverts clearly did not know how a Venn Diagram works.
Here is a brief refresher course for those interested.
Unfortunately, the Romney campaign’s message is being lost in a failed medium. It’s like watching a clown give a doctoral thesis in rocket science. He sure might be making a good point. But it’s a clown. People laugh at clowns. People won’t take the clown seriously. The Romney campaign is making good points, but that message is being lost because the campaign cannot master one of the simplest types of charts.
Credit for the originals go to the Romney campaign. The bit on How Venn Diagrams Work is mine.
CERN may—or may not—have discovered a particle that may—or may not—be the Higgs Boson that would probably fill in a lot of the holes in our understanding of how the world may work at a sub-atomic level. That is a lot of ‘may’s.
Understanding just what a Higgs Boson does is not quite so easy. In really simplified language, it explains why things have mass. And when you put things of mass on a planet that has gravity, like Earth, why things have weight. Back in the early 1990s, the British minister for science offered a prize for the best explanation to be given in layman’s terms. The following image, via the BBC, is one part of that example. We all probably need to know it just a little more today.
The National Post’s business section, branded separately as the Financial Post, posted a comment about a proposed bridge that would span the Detroit River and add a third major crossing to the Detroit–Windsor area. The comment used a graphic to explain one of the key points of the story, that early 21st century traffic projections haven proven to be very much incorrect. Unfortunately, it took me a little bit of time to realise that in the graphic.
So without access to the raw data provided by United Research Services I have made a quick attempt to improve the graphic within the confines of Coffee Spoons’ main column space, i.e. 600 pixels. The original locator map is quite useful and therefore not included in my effort.
My main issues with the charts are the separation of the estimates from the actuals and the spacing between the estimates. I would have preferred to have seen, as in my example, how the actuals for 2010 fell far short of the 2004 projections. Ideally, I would have liked to have seen the original estimates for the intervening years between 2010, ’20, and ’30, however that data was not provided in the comment if it is even available from the original source. Consequently, unlike the original, I have kept the spacing of the actual data in the estimates with the intervening gaps.
The subtle effect of this increased spacing is to reduce the visual speed, if one will, of the projected growth. Over the original and narrower space the rate of increase appears fairly dramatic. However when given the correct spacing the ‘time’ to reach the projections lengthens and thus the rate ‘slows down’.
Credit for the original piece goes to Richard Johnson. The reinterpretation and any errors therein are entirely my own.
So my prediction of the health care law being thrown out did not come to pass. But what will pass is the space probe Voyager 1 out of the solar system in the very near future. (Don’t worry unlike Voyager, I will return—albeit to the original subject matter next week.) So from the National Post we have an infographic that details just what is Voyager 1. (And no, it is not V’ger, that was the fictional Voyager 6.)
Credit for the piece goes to Joshua Rapp Learn, Andrew Barr, and Richard Johnson.
As the Supreme Court is likely to scrap the mandate provision of the health care law—without which sick people are left to pay higher premiums if they can get coverage at all—later today, the New York Times looks at the impact of removing the health care law changes the number of people without health insurance.
From the Sydney Morning Herald, we have a link to an interactive infographic published by the Cancer Council of Australia, a non-profit that seeks to reduce the impact of cancer upon Australia. It is not the most graphical by way of charts, but offers the user “playful” interactions with statistics to better inform him or her about the causes and impacts of cancer. The format is also interesting in that it mimics the fad in infographics of the long, vertical scroll page. But here it is done to much better and ostensibly more useful effect. Useful in the sense of trying to help people.
From the New York Times we have a graphic that looks at homicides across several different US cities. And in Chicago, they are up significantly from this point last year. So too is Philly, but I like to think of that as an outpouring of brotherly love.
The Washington Post brings us a look at the mess that is our Congressional representatives buying and selling stocks affected by the legislation they write, discuss, and upon which they vote. None of the charts in this piece are of themselves particularly complex—we are looking at a pie chart after all—but they do come together to tell a story of…wholly ethical behaviour…
Credit for the piece goes to Wilson Andrews, Emily Chow, David Fallis, Dan Keating, Laura Stanton, Sisi Wei, and Karen Yourish.
Sometimes an infographic needs to put us in our place. Humanity is but one of many species on one of many planets in one solar system. Over at xkcd, we can see how only now are we beginning to expand our knowledge of how many other solar systems and planets there are (and that are just waiting to be discovered).