Oil.

Oil, sweet oil. How we depend upon you for modern civilisation. BP published a report on world energy that Craig Bloodworth visualised using Tableau.

Oil production
Oil production

The piece has three tabs; one is for production, another consumption, and a third for reserves. (The screenshot above is for production.) But when I look at each view I wonder whether all the data views are truly necessary?

In production for example, is a map of a few countries truly informative? The usual problem of Russia, Canada, the US, and China dominating the map simply because they are geographically large countries reappears. Furthermore the map projection does not particularly help the issue because it expands the area of Siberia and the Canadian arctic at the expense of regions near the Equator, i.e. the Middle East. That strikes me as counter-intuitive since some of the largest oil producers are actually located within the Middle East.

A map could very well be useful if it showed more precisely where oil is produced. Where in the vastness of Russia is oil being sucked out of the ground? Where in Saudia Arabia? In the US? Leave the numbers to the charts. They are far more useful in comparing those countries like Kuwait that are major producers but tiny geographies.

Lastly about the maps (and the charts), the colour is a bit confusing because nowhere that I have found in my quick exploration of the application does the piece specify what the colours mean. That would be quite useful.

Finally, about the data, the total amount of oil produced, but more importantly consumed, is useful and valuable data. But seeing that China is the second largest consumer after the US is a bit misleading. Per capita consumption would add nuance to the consumption view, because China is over three-times as large as the US in population. Consequently, the average Chinese is not a major consumer. The problem is more that there are so many more Chinese consumers than consumers in any other nation—except India.

A bit of a hit and miss piece. I think the organisation and the idea is there: compare and contrast producers and consumers of oil (and consumers of other energy forms). Alas the execution does not quite match the idea.

Credit for the piece goes to Craig Bloodworth, via the Guardian.

Frack You, Gas Hole.

And not in the polite Galactica way, but more in the let’s drill you, rocks, and split you open. I could go in further detail about the injection of fracking fluids, but let’s leave the double entendre alone and talk about Marcellus Shale. It’s a layer of rocks in the dirt that contain natural gas. It’s a pain in the gas production industry (sorry) and thus is only economically viable when fuel prices are high.

So in the 21st century with high fuel prices, energy companies are hydraulically fracturing (fracking) the rock to suck out all the natural gas. But this might be (probably is) causing environmental problems and thus human health problems. Ergo the controversy. This has now reached New York and so the New York Times created a simple map with some key layers of information to explain the controversy there.

NY Marcellus
NY Marcellus

Note the useful layers of depth of the shale and where those intersect (or do not) with areas that have banned or endorsed fracking.

Western Pennsylvania has had similar problems, and the Philadelphia Inquirer has had an interactive special on their website up for a little while now. And by interactive infographic I mean largely just a play-through of static images. Unfortunately, the online content is not of the best resolution and leaves much to be desired. Fortunately the graphics would appear to be quite informative especially as part of a series. A pity they are not entirely legible.

Location
Location

Credit for the Inquirer piece goes to John Tierno.

God Save the Queen

For the Queen’s Jubilee I had been looking for a good infographic or two about how the United Kingdom had changed over the length of her reign, at least thus far. Alas, I found not a great deal of substantial work. This is an infographic from the Guardian that looks at quite a few single figures.

But it also has a map looking at the decline/unravelling of the British Empire.

Decline of the British Empire
Decline of the British Empire

God Save the Queen.

The Education Gap

Last week, the New York Times looked at the growing education gap amongst this country’s largest metropolitan areas. The infographic, click the image below to go to the full version, is perhaps a bit more layered, nuanced, and complex than it looks at first. In about forty years, the number of adults with college degrees has doubled, good, but so too has the spread of those numbers across the set of cities, bad. And then to look at any geographic spread, the two datasets are mapped geospatially. By my eye, the Northeast and Pacific Northwest seem to be doing fairly well. Not so much around the rest of the country.

The education gap
The education gap

Credit for the piece goes to Haeyoun Park.

The Golden Gate Turns 75. Time for Gravity Assisted Suicide.

A few days ago the Golden Gate Bridge turned 75. I had been hoping to see an interesting infographic or two about the bridge and its history appear. Alas, none worthy of posting have made their way to my digital desk. So instead I am stepping into the time machine, really just a cardboard box with some drawn-on dials, and pulling out this piece from the San Francisco Chronicle.

It looks at suicides from the bridge by location over its history—up until the graphic was made obviously. I’ve linked to a larger version of the graphic rather than the Chronicle’s site, because their graphic is shrunk too small to be legible.

Suicides by location
Suicides by location

Credit for the piece goes to Todd Trumbull.

New York Times Lies About Science

In a rare infographic misstep, the New York Times published an incorrect diagram detailing the centre of the Earth.

Centre of the Earth
Centre of the Earth

Clearly, anyone who knows anything about science knows that it is not a solid core of iron at the centre of the Earth, but dinosaurs. And I see no dinosaurs in this diagram.

Credit for the piece goes to Jonathan Corum, Ritchie S. King, and Frank O’Connell.

Economic Development in Africa

This falls under the just-because-it’s-about-geographies-doesn’t-mean-it-should-necessarily-be-visualised-as-a-map category. The Guardian has taken data from the African Economic Outlook, specifically real GDP growth rates, and charted them as a map. This caught my interest initially because of some work I have been doing that required me to read a report on African economic development in coming years. So I figured this could be interesting.

African GDP growth
African GDP growth

But it’s a map. That’s not to say there is anything inherently wrong about the map. Though the arrangement of the legend and size of each ‘bin’ of percentage values is a bit odd. I would have placed the positive at the top of the list and tried to provide an equal distribution of the data, e.g. 3–10 for both positive and negative values. But, without looking in any depth at the data, the designer may have had valid reasons for such a distribution.

That said, two finer points stick out to me. The first is Western Sahara. Long story short, it is a disputed territory claimed by different factions. I am not accustomed to ever seeing any real economic data coming out of there. But, according to the map, its growth is 0–3%. When one looks at the data, however, one finds that as I would have expected the data says “no data”. Ergo the green colour on the map is misleading. Not necessarily incorrect, for the growth could have been between those two points, but without any data one cannot say for sure.

The second concern for me is South Sudan—remember that story? For starters one cannot find it on the map; South Sudanese territory is depicted as part of Sudan. While South Sudan is one of the poorest countries on the earth, its split from Sudan is rather important. Looking at the data, one can see Sudan’s growth went from 8 to 4.5 to 5 to 2.8. Why the sudden drop? Probably because Sudan’s economic boom has largely been built on the boom in oil prices over the past decade or so. But, most of that oil is no longer in Sudan, Not because its been pumped dry, but rather most of the oil fields can now be found in South Sudan.

These are some of the contextual stories that make sense of a data set. But these are the stories lost in a simple, interactive map.

Credit for the piece goes to Nick Mead.

How to Salvage a Ship

You might recall that back in January an Italian cruise ship sank after striking submerged rocks. In case you were wondering, the ship is still there. But the plan is to refloat the ship and then tow it to a harbour on the Italian mainland and scrap the ship. The Guardian put together a nice interactive infographic explaining just how the process will work.

How to salvage a ship
How to salvage a ship

Credit for the piece goes to Paddy Allen.

Congratulations, College Grads. Now Pay Up.

It’s that time of year when young men and women step outside into the big, real world and realise just how much money they owe to various creditors. Yay. The problem, however, has continued to get worse for students. This interactive infographic by the New York Times explains just how so by comparing student debt to costs.

The overall view of indebtedness
The overall view of indebtedness

While the bubble chart is also available in map form—though I don’t find that particularly useful myself—the more interesting added layer of complexity comes from the data displayed when the user selects a specific university.

Debt at Penn State, which I attended for all of two semesters
Debt at Penn State, which I attended for all of two semesters

Credit for the piece goes to Jeremy White, Andrew Martin, Andrew W. Lehren, and Archie Tse.

School Segregation in New York

This weekend the New York Times looked at segregation in New York City schools by mapping the least (and most) diverse and offering quick comparisons to other large cities. (Is it really a surprise that the country’s largest cities also would need the largest demographic shifts to create diverse education environments?) Probably the best thing, seemingly as always, in the piece is the annotations that provide stories and context and explain the outliers that are all otherwise visualised in the infographic.

School segregation in New York
School segregation in New York

Credit for the piece goes to Ford Fessenden.