Data Displays

This past weekend I saw the film Darkest Hour with one of my mates. The film focuses on Winston Churchill at the very beginning of his term as prime minister. Coincidentally I was walking through some of the very rooms and corridors depicted in the film—and rather accurately I should say—just one week prior.

One of the things in the real place that caught my eye in particular was the Map Room Annex. Most people know about the Map Room proper, from which the British Empire’s war effort was coordinated, but the annex contained data on wartime casualties, material production, &c. Consequently the walls were lined with displays of that data. But this was also the early 1940s and so none of it was computerised. Instead, we had handmade charts.

Alas, the space is quite narrow and the museum was quite crowded. So I only managed a snapshot or two, but I think this one does some justice to the hardworking folks producing charts about the war.

They were not made to be mobile-friendly or responsive…
They were not made to be mobile-friendly or responsive…

Credit for the piece goes to some junior officer/staffer back in the day.

The Sinking of the Vasa

In 1628, Sweden launched one of its largest and most powerful warships not just in Sweden, but in all of Europe. She was to participate in the wars with Poland and Lithuania as Sweden sought to expand her growing empire. After two years of construction in Stockholm’s naval yard she set sail into a calm day with a light breeze.

After a strong gust pushed her hard to port, she righted herself and continued to set sail to a fortress to load 300 troops for the war. But only 20 minutes into her maiden voyage, a second gust of wind pushed her again hard to port so much so that water began to flood in via her open lower gunports. As the continued to rush in, she never righted herself and sank, not to be recovered for 300 years.

The recovery itself is a great story, but the question was why did she sink? This model in the large Vasa museum, built to host the recovered and preserved ship, shows just how dangerously she was designed. Take careful note of the faint blue waves signifying the waterline of the ship and how close they are to the lower gunports.

Note the waterline on the lower crossbeam of the barrel to which the model is connected
Note the waterline on the lower crossbeam of the barrel to which the model is connected

The short takeaway is that the ship was top-heavy and she needed to be both wider and deeper to support her displacement. I like the model here, but my one complaint with it is the waterline. Even when I was standing in front of it, I did not notice the waves at first. A little bit more emphasis or paint, perhaps to show the water beneath the ship, would really help to convey just how little of the ship was below the waterline.

Credit for the piece goes to the Vasa Museum design staff.

Missile Defence Systems

North Korea tested another missile yesterday. And while we do not have the precise details, I happened to come across this video from the New York Times exploring the different means by which the United States defends against missile threats. It makes use of some nice illustrations and motion graphics to explain ballistic missiles and missile defence systems.

The Patriot, shown here, defends against theatre-level weapons
The Patriot, shown here, defends against theatre-level weapons

Credit for the piece goes to Robin Stein and Drew Jordan.

The Missing Argentinian Sub

A story over the last several days you  may not have heard about concerns the disappearance of the ARA San Juan, an Argentinian Navy submarine. Here in the US and over in the UK, we use rather large nuclear-powered submarines. They can travel the world underwater without ever coming up for air. But most of the rest of the world uses much smaller diesel-electric submarines. They have to come up for air every couple days, like in all those World War II submarine movies.

As you know, these kind of stories are right up my alley and I wanted to try and explain the story visually. Unfortunately, it took me way too long to illustrate the two submarines you will see. So instead, we have more of a comparison of the San Juan, a Type 1700 submarine, and the movie-famous American Los Angeles class attack submarine.

The Argentinian sub is just over half the size of the American sub. It's rather small.
The Argentinian sub is just over half the size of the American sub. It’s rather small.

I had a lot of other things planned, but had to drop them. The point is that the Argentinian submarine is a lot smaller, has fewer crew, but needs to come to the surface in the next day or two, most likely. Time is beginning to run out.

Credit for the piece is mine.

The Demilitarised Zone

Over the weekend, the American and North Korean leaders got into an argument with the North Korean leader calling President Trump old and the American leader calling Kim Jong Un short and fat. High class diplomacy.

So what holds the North Korean army, by numbers likely not quality one of the largest armed forces in the world, back from sweeping down the Korean coastlines and overrunning Seoul? Well, that would be the role of the Demilitarised Zone, or DMZ. And thankfully yesterday, whilst your humble author was out sick, the Washington Post published a piece looking at the DMZ.

The title of the piece
The title of the piece

The piece uses a giant, illustrated in the background to provide context to the words and imagery sitting in the foreground. (That is how I justified covering it in the blog: map.) Overall the experience was smooth and informative about the sheer amount of destructive power waiting just miles north of Seoul.

Credit for the piece goes to Armand Emamdjomeh, Laris Karklis, and Tim Meko.

North Korea’s Missile Programme

Another week, another batch of news and posturing from North Korea. So I was delighted to see last week a post from Politico exploring the history of the North Korean missile programme with data visualisation.

Shall we play a game?
Shall we play a game?

This kind of maps are my favourite for these types of stories. So often people get locked into this idea of a Mercator or Robinson projection and lines moving right/left or east/west on a map. Instead the world is a globe and the missiles or airplanes or birds or whatever will fly in circles over the poles if it’s easier.

Credit for the piece goes to the Politico graphics department.

The World’s Fighter Jets

As you know, I am a sucker for military-related things. So here we have a piece from the Wall Street Journal on the leading fighter jets of the world. If you have a bone to pick on which jets were included, please take that up with them and not me.

Of course, speed isn't everything…
Of course, speed isn’t everything…

The screenshot is from the end of an animation where they depict the maximum range and the relative speed of each aircraft against each other.

Credit for the piece goes to Andrew Barnett, Jason French, and Robert Wall.

North Korea’s Latest Missile Test

If you missed it—and these days that is entirely possible—over the weekend, North Korea tested yet another missile. It did land very far away as it fell just off the coast of North Korea near Russia.

But it did travel far enough away to be of concern. Why? Well, this print graphic from the New York Times does a great job showing what that missile test really tested.

Creeping towards the West Coast
Creeping towards the West Coast

I want to end on a geography lesson for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Those little dots in the upper right part of the circle? Those are the Aleutian Islands. They are like that island in the Pacific known as Oahu, which is part of the state of Hawaii. The Aleutians are part of the state of Alaska, which is, you know, one of the 50 states. Just trying to help you out, sir. So if you ask why we care about defending those islands in the Pacific, well now you know.

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

The Mother Of All Bombs

Yesterday the United States dropped a GBU.43 on a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. The bomb is better known by its nickname MOAB, Mother Of All Bombs. But just how does the GBU.43 compare to some of the more common—and not so common—weapons in the US arsenal?

What we do know is that yesterday was the detonation of the largest non-nuclear bomb in warfare. We do have an even larger conventional weapon called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator—phrasing?—but its size and warhead are not as large as the MOAB. MOP is instead intended to be used as a super bunker buster.

I'm not even going to try to put Tsar Bomba on here
I’m not even going to try to put Tsar Bomba on here

Credit for the piece is mine.