Earth-sized Planets

Kepler 20 System
Kepler 20 System

We have finally discovered two planets outside our solar system that have roughly the same size as Earth. Unfortunately, unless we learn that life can exist in the form of fire beings, these two planets are too close to their sun to support life. Their temperatures are in the hundreds and thousands of degrees. A bit balmy.

The New York Times has a small but interesting chart that fits inline with its article, at least on its website—presumably it fits similarly in its printed form. Seen here to the left, it plots the orbital distance of the planets that are known to orbit the star Kepler 20. (Unfortunately these planets have less than creative names: Kepler 20e and Kepler 20f.) The other planets are gas giants.

The use of scale of orbits and the gap between 20f and 20d allow for an annotation within the image. And then with a little bit more vertical space, to drive hom the point of these new planets’ nearness to their sun, the orbit of Mercury, the planet nearest our sun, is plotted for comparison.

Exporting the Sun

Plans are afoot to harness the power of the sun in the deserts across northern Africa. The electricity generated in Morocco is planned to turn on light switches in Madrid and throughout the rest of Europe.

The Guardian created a map to show how the solar facilities could be connected to each other and to other renewable power sources in Europe—from Icelandic geothermal plants to North Sea wind turbines to Alpine hydroelectric plants.

Renewable Power Map
Renewable Power Map

Credit for the piece goes to Christine Oliver.

The Bottom of the Ocean (and the World)

There have been a lot of interesting maps of late that map out continents and planets, but today is one for the sea—the bottom of which we know less about than the surface of the Moon.

According to a story covered by the BBC, the US State Department backed an exploration of the Mariana Trench, a subduction zone where one oceanic plate is slipping underneath another. The result is an inward-folding crumple and then a bunch of volcanos—the Mariana Islands. The US wants to know if it can extend its economic zone further, but can only do so if certain geographic conditions are met. Hence, the study.

The topography of the Mariana Trench at Challenger Deep
The topography of the Mariana Trench at Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep is the deepest, lowest point on the planet. Though one can argue that because the Earth is not a perfect sphere, points in the Arctic and Antarctic may yet be deeper/nearer the centre of the Earth. If one were to Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on the planet, inside the Mariana Trench at Challenger Deep, the very tip of the mountain would still not break the surface of the ocean.

Returning to Fukushima. Someday.

Earlier this year, the earthquake and tsunami that damaged Japan also brought about failures in a nuclear plant at Fukushima. As we near the end of the year, the New York Times reports on how it might take many years for those who had to—or chose to—move away to return to a safe Fukushima.

Radioactive Contamination
Radioactive Contamination

Technology Today

Technology changes and changes rapidly. The United States led the way with cabled phone networks. Now, countries in Africa are skipping landlines and moving straight to mobile phones. The New York Times has an piece on the changes in technology and accompanies that piece with small multiples of choropleth maps that showcase different technologies and their prevalence.

Mobile Phone Subscriptions
Mobile Phone Subscriptions

What is interesting about these maps is that the Times eschewed the conventional Mercator or Robinson map projections and went with a slightly more unusual layout. But, a layout that saves some space by its contortion of the world’s oceans. Was their reason spatial or something more about maintaining consistent area? I would be curious to see the piece in print to see if it needed to fit a narrow column.

All in all, an interesting set of maps.

We Want to (Quell a) Riot (with Military Grade Hardware)

The New York Times had a piece in the Sunday paper asking whether American police have gone military, especially in the wake of the images of the police response to Occupy Oakland and Occupy Wall Street with police/troops deployed in tactical body armour, armoured vehicles, &c. The Times piece was accompanied by an Op-Art piece that took three key protests and illustrated the type of police officer responding to the unrest.

Evolution of Riot Gear
Evolution of Riot Gear

Credit for the illustration goes to Chi Birmingham. The title of this post comes from a British publication about the Brixton riot of 1981 where an individual was asked about why he was rioting was quoted as saying “We want to riot, not to work.”

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

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.

Random is the New Orderly

Ever been on a flight where there is not enough overhead luggage capacity for everyone? Then they make you stow your bag anyway? Well, apparently that’s what’s happening in these days of baggage fees—which make airlines quite profitable.

This diagram in the New York Times shows how American Airlines is changing from the more common front-to-back seating of passengers to a random assignment of seats in an attempt to reduce the time spent boarding the plane. After all, not only are baggage fees money, but so is time.

Boarding Diagram
Boarding Diagram

7 Billion Is a Big Number

We have seven billion living on the planet today. Or at least we think we do. Really, who knows? But for the sake of this blog post and many others like it along with news stories and water cooler conversations, let’s just say we’re at seven billion, okay?

So where do you fit into the giant seven billion-ness of the world?

The BBC can tell you.

You enter a few data points such as your birthday and the country in which you live, and you get a customised you-are-a-unique-snowflake report on how special you are.

The graphs are not particularly fancy, but they work. More interesting of the whole set is the world population where you are placed in the context of the global population.

Where You Fit Within the World Population
Where You Fit Within the World Population
Where Your Country of Residence Fits Within the World
Where Your Country of Residence Fits Within the World

Less interesting are the maps, which serve only to show you where in the world your country is located and then those of the greatest and least population growth or life expectancy. The secondary cases could be useful if the countries were small and relatively unknown. But in terms of life expectancy the highest growth is Japan most people know where Japan is located. The other countries noted, Qatar, Moldova, and the Central African Republic are probably less well-known by some, but could the data be better represented? Probably.