Tag Archives: science

New Horizons

So this is generally a more serious post than usual for a Friday. Because, it is about New Horizons, the probe we launched almost a decade ago to explore Pluto, which at that point was still technically a planet. Anyway, the Washington Post has a nice illustration detailing the various sensors and orbits and trajectories. But what gets it a Friday post? Its sense of scale.

You always need a sense of scale

You always need a sense of scale

Credit for the piece goes to Richard Johnson.

Failing to Whack the Mole

The story and data behind today’s graphic are worth telling. But, the execution leaves me feeling a bit empty. The piece kicks off a new series called Data Points from National Geographic. But, here in this piece we are looking for clear communication of data. So what do we get? Circles. Circles within circles within circles. My problem?

The overview view

The overview view

Well you can see from the first screenshot that we are missing the gap space, i.e. the space between the container circle and the data circle. The gap makes the container look larger than it really is. Granted, area is not a great way of comparing data points, but that aside, something like a tree map would probably be more accurate and still allow for the nesting that occurs, see below.

A nested view looking at snakes

A nested view looking at snakes

The overall display includes nice ancillary data about top importers and exporters along with how the animals in question are used. Some animals even have trade notes that offer more context on how particular animals are used.

On the plus side, the piece’s title is great: Space Monkeys and Tiger Wine. I mean, how can you not read that? While they missed lots of the moles popping out of circles on this one, they did nail the title.

Credit for the piece goes to Katilin Yarnall and Fathom Information Design.

Aquifers Around the World

It has rained quite a bit in the south the last couple of days, thanks to tropical weather systems. But, as some new data from NASA shows us, the world is running out of water. That is largely because we drain large underground water systems called aquifers faster than the natural environment replenishes them. The Washington Post has a small interactive map that looks at the world’s largest aquifers and respective trend towards either being recharged or drained.

Aquifers are being drained around the world

Aquifers are being drained around the world

Credit for the piece goes to Todd Frankel.

Rotting Wooden Beams

Earlier this week a balcony collapse in Berkeley, California killed six Irish students. The building had only been finished in 2007 and was barely ten years old. While the investigation is ongoing, the Los Angeles Times reported on what might have been the cause: dry rot.

Dry rot

Dry rot

Credit for the piece goes to Rong Gong-Lin II.

Aircraft Cabin Flow

Today’s post looks at an illustration from the BBC about aircraft cabin flow. As I have flown on four aircraft in the last month—quite a lot for me—I do recall thinking during one particular flight just where the air intakes were on the aircraft. It never dawned on me that they were in the actual engines themselves.

Air flow diagram for an aircraft

Air flow diagram for an aircraft

I think from a design side the only thing I would change is the width of the line for the airflow. That would show how while some is released, replacement air comes from the air mixing unit.

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

Tornadoes

I just returned from my trip to Kansas City last night. Kansas, if you did not know it, exists within what people call Tornado Alley. That means they receive a lot of tornadoes. But what are tornadoes beyond the plot points of mid-90s action films? Basically complicated micro-weather systems. So complicated we still don’t entirely understand them. But the National Post looks at explaining what we do know.

Inside a tornado

Inside a tornado

Credit for the piece goes to Andrew Barr and Mike Faille.

The Coal Century

The other day I misread a poster on the road that “The Cool Century” for “The Coal Century”. That is the origin of today’s title. The origin of today’s piece, however, is Bloomberg, which looked at the impact of some new environmental regulations on the coal industry vis-a-vis dozens of coal power plants.

Coal plants

Coal plants

Basically, you have a map with plant size indicated by the dot size, and the type of plant by the colour of the dot. The line chart to the right shows total coal capacity. Overall, it’s a nice, clear, concise graphic. Two buttons give the user immediate access to the story: the pre-regulated environment—see what I did there?—and then then post-regulated one.

Credit for the piece goes to Eric Roston and Blacki Migliozzi.

Nepal’s Earthquake

If you missed it this weekend, Nepal suffered both loss of life and significant damage from an earthquake Saturday morning. The Washington Post quickly had a graphic up that explored the story.

Where and how severely the quake was felt

Where and how severely the quake was felt

Credit for the piece goes to Bonnie Berkowitz, Darla Cameron, Samuel Granados, Richard Johnson, Laris Karklis, and Gene Thorp.

It’s Melting! It’s Melting!

Spring has finally arrived. And that means that far to your humble author’s north, the sea ice in the Arctic is beginning to recede from its annual maximum coverage. However, this year’s coverage was the smallest since satellite records began in 1979. The New York Times covers the story in a nice article with two big data pieces. The first is a really nice map—not shown—that looks at this year’s coverage compared to average extents.

The really nice part, however, is a line chart of historical ice coverage from 1979 through to the current date. While the piece is not interactive, the annotations in the graphic do a nice job explaining the different lines and outliers. Overall, a solid piece.

Annual cycle of Arctic ice coverage

Annual cycle of Arctic ice coverage

Credit for the piece goes to Derek Watkins.

Germanwings Flight 4U 9525

Yesterday an Airbus A320 operated by Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, crashed in the French Alps with no survivors. This morning, I am showing the two best graphics I have come across thus far attempting to explain just what happened.

The first is from the New York Times. In a series of maps, it points out through satellite photography the roughness of the terrain and therefore the difficulty likely to be experienced by recovery crews. The final line chart plots the altitude of the flight, which fell from a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet to just over 6,000 feet in eight minutes. Overall, especially given the limited amount of information that we currently possess, not a bad piece.

The New York Times' explainer map

The New York Times’ explainer map

The second comes to us from the Washington Post. What I enjoy about this piece is that it combines the altitude chart with the map. This gives a bit context to the fact that despite being still 6,000 feet above sea level, the aircraft was in fact flying into the high mountains of the Alps.

The Washington Post's explainer map

The Washington Post’s explainer map

Credit for the New York Times piece goes to the New York Times graphics department. And credit for the Washington Post piece goes to Gene Thorp and Richard Johnson.