China’s Secret Nuclear Missile Tunnel System

I do not often get the chance to post illustrative works. But, the Washington Post reported on the work of Georgetown students that shows how China has tunneled thousands of miles of, well, tunnels to create a secret labyrinth for their nuclear weapons programme. The result is that instead of the few dozen warheads that China is thought to have, they could have many more times that. They included this graphic, cropping below, with the article.

Cropping of a Nuclear Tunnel
Cropping of a Nuclear Tunnel

The BRICs a Decade Later

The BRICs are ten years old. Well, not really. But the concept of Brazil, Russia, India, and China becoming some of the world’s largest economies is. Well, not even that necessarily. But the coining of the term BRIC is a decade old. So the BBC has a small interactive piece showing why the BRICs matter.

BRIC GDP Growth compared to that of the US
BRIC GDP Growth compared to that of the US

They do some interesting things with the use of hues and tints to group lines in the line charts and provide consistent groupings throughout the piece. And they have photos of leaders. Just in case you do not know what the finance minister of Italy looked like back in 2001…just do not ask me to remember his name.

The New York City Marathon

Something I’ve been meaning to put up for a little while, the New York Times’ coverage of that city’s marathon and changes in the socioeconomic composition of the neighbourhoods through which the course winds.

The piece includes a narrated motion graphic explaining the changes along a map of the course, while a series of charts look at those factors from a static perspective. The horizontal axis being the route of the course.

Brooklyn segment of the NYC Marathon
Brooklyn segment of the NYC Marathon

Credit for the piece goes to Graham Roberts, Alan McLean, Archie Tse, Lisa Waananen, Timothy Wallace, Xaquin G.V., Joe Burgess, and Joe Ward.

Curiosity

In just a few days, NASA’s next Martian rover, Curiosity, will lift off for a 2012 date with the Martian surface. The Washington Post has a two-part motion graphic piece to look at the rover’s landing and scientific components.

A look at Curiosity and its mission
A look at Curiosity and its mission

Credit for the piece goes to Alberto Cuadra, Sohail Al-Jamea, and Andrew Pergram.

Maps of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is preparing for elections at the end of the month. For decades since independence from Belgium, the country has been beset by insurrection and civil war. Eastern portions of the country are all lawless and beyond the control of the government in the capital Kinshasa. Yet, DR Congo, which is almost the size of all of Western Europe, holds vast mineral and energy reserves.

Much like with the independence of South Sudan, the BBC has released a small interactive piece detailing DR Congo through maps. While not as extensive and lacking in visualising anything about the warfare and bloodshed, the piece is useful to gain a brief insight into the complexities of the country and the sheer scale of its problems. But that is not wholly surprising as the title of the piece is Failed State: Can DR Congo Recover?.

Screenshot of a guide to DR Congo
Screenshot of a guide to DR Congo

The European Debt Crisis. Again.

Nearly a month ago, the New York Times released an interactive piece along with a printed infographic about the European debt crisis in an attempt to explain just what is going on; I wrote about it here.

Now, the BBC has an interactive graphic showing how different countries relate to each other. The width of the lines relates to the amount of debt and the colours fall into three groups: red for high risk, yellow for medium risk, and grey for low risk. These are all fairly sensible and are echoed in the New York Times piece.

The BBC's explanation of the European debt crisis
The BBC's explanation of the European debt crisis

However, one advantage of the diagram used by the BBC is that the arrows emerge from an arc and show the total amount of debt going to the selected European (and US) economies. At least, I hope they do. That is how I read it, but it is not explicitly stated. I hope that I am correct. If so, this is better than the Times version which simply has a proportionally wide line starting from a circle. But without other lines, one cannot see the useful supplemental information about how much total trade the country has.

One element that sticks out is the selected state of the diagram. This uses a blue line that is rather crudely drawn atop the arc. Distractingly so. The colour choice works as blue contrasts with the reds, yellows, and greys, but the execution of the line drawing is simply poor.

Overall, the data is interesting, and if my assumption is correct, and presents a more meaningful picture of trade relations between the chosen countries. However, the execution of the piece’s design does leave me wanting more. And that, given the need to tell this story both completely and correctly, is unfortunate.

Much Improved Mapping of American Migration

Forbes released Jon Bruner’s latest map of migration in the United States. It uses IRS figures to show inbound and outbound movement from counties across the United States. The work itself is an improvement from his map from last year, which was a bit more difficult to read. Beneath is the new version, and at the end, for comparison, the old.

This year's migration map
This year's migration map

Firstly, the colour palette is far more sophisticated. Secondly, and most crucially, the user can hide the lines on the map, which obscures a key part of the story of migration in urban areas—higher income people moving out of the city and into the suburbs. Thirdly, the map data now includes additional years, which are available by clicking the small chart in the upper right—a welcome addition that allows the data from last year’s map to become accessible this year. Fourthly, and to be fair this may have existed previously but not that I can recall, the new map is accompanied by essays.

These essays use the map and its data to tell stories and explain what one sees going on with the data. It is (relatively) easy for one to put together a piece of data visualisation from a data set. But, without knowing where to look, users may not actually find anything valuable in the visualisation. By pointing to these essays, the map—already much improved from a design perspective—takes on a much more rounded and mature character and becomes more about generating information and knowledge than simply figures and statistics.

Last year's migration map
Last year's migration map

Income Segregation in the Philadelphia Metro Area

In an area very close to me…quite literally…the New York Times published an article about increasing segregation between the rich and the poor via the areas where they live. The study by Stanford University found that the Philadelphia metropolitan area saw the “sharpest rise” in segregation since the 1970s—the study used census data available through 2007. The accompanying graphic highlights the growth of the segregation from 1970, using small multiples of choropleths to compare 1970 to 1990 to 2007.

In 1970, much of the metro area was middle-income neighbourhoods. Certainly, the central core of Philadelphia was depressed. So too was Chester and rural southwestern Chester County. The upper-income neighbourhoods were in the close suburbs, note the townships stretching due west of the city and you see the Main Line, one of the most affluent areas of the United States, while other veins of wealth extend along other old rail lines leaving the city.

Neighbourhoods by Income in 1970
Neighbourhoods by Income in 1970

Those such as myself who are familiar with both the area and recent history should note that places like Coatesville and Downingtown are shown as middle-income. In the 1970s, areas like this and in similar places like Falls Township in Bucks County had robust steel and manufacturing sectors that employed a substantial portion of the local population.

But, compare this to 2007 and you will begin to see how many old factory towns of middle-income areas became dense pockets of depression while the city of Philadelphia itself saw a flight of wealth to the rest of the suburbs. The rural parts of Chester, Montgomery, and Bucks have seen high growth by means of new developments of upper-middle- and upper-income homes.

The Case Against Jerry Sandusky

Penn State is going through some rough times. The charges against Jerry Sandusky are most serious and the failure to do more than the legal requirement in reporting him has cost the university president his job and head coach Joe Paterno his job. Anyone familiar with the school or Paterno’s prior standing in the state—as I am as both a former student at Penn State and nearly life-long resident of Pennsylvania—is shocked/gutted/upset about what has happened.

The Washington Post, in an attempt to make sense of the charges against Sandusky, created this graphic explaining the timeline of the allegations and actions taken by principle players.

An infographic outlining the allegations made against Jerry Sandusky
An infographic outlining the allegations made against Jerry Sandusky

Credit for the piece goes to Bonnie Berkowitz and Laura Stanton of the Washington Post.