Analysing the Urban Environment

Via the Guardian comes an interactive piece from researchers at MIT and the Technical University of Lisbon that allows users to examine urban environments to compare population, energy use, and building material intensity for a select set of 42 different cities. The screenshots below are of neighbourhoods in Philadelphia.

Population density
Population density

Once the user has chosen an area, he or she can move on and analyse a different section of the city. This behaviour generates a comparison on the right of the current area to the previous area.

Energy use
Energy use

After the user has found an area of particular interest, he or she can generate a graphical report that summarises the findings for the selected area and compares that to other areas of similar scale in the city.

Graphical report
Graphical report

Credit for the piece goes to David Quinn and Daniel Wiesmann.

North Korean Missile Technology (Or Lack Thereof)

North Korea wanted to launch a missile, but failed miserably in doing it. Richard Johnson at the National Post created an infographic, prior to the missile’s launch, that looked at what the North Koreans wanted to do.

Unha-3 plan
Unha-3 plan

Today is a Happy Happy Joy Joy Story

For the past two posts I focused on the sinking of the RMS Titanic, an historical event that has always been of some interest to me, but is not always the most uplifting of subjects. When in high-school, I once had an English teacher who took to heart our complaints that our literature selection was rather dark and depressing. So after finishing yet another such story, he had us turn to a specific page in our reader. The title of that day’s story was To the Gas Chambers, Ladies and Gentlemen; it was a story about the Holocaust.

Here is today’s uplifting story. What would happen if a dirty bomb was detonated in lower Manhattan. Courtesy of the National Post.

A dirty bomb in New York
A dirty bomb in New York

Credit for the piece goes to Richard Johnson.

Comparing Surgeries

We have an obesity problem in the United States. And in some cases, obesity leads to diabetes. A study was commissioned to discover whether surgery is more effective than the usual prescription of drugs, diet, and exercise. It turns out that surgery may very well be more effective.

The New York Times produced an infographic to explain the three types of surgery investigated in the study.

Comparing surgeries
Comparing surgeries

Busting Bunkers

There is quite a lot of talk these days about the possibility of Israel, either with or without American assistance, launching an attack on Iran to halt the further development of its nuclear programme. The trouble is that Israel may not have the weapons necessary to carry out a successful attack, but the US has quite the arsenal. And one of the most useful, for just such a task is the Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

The National Post created an infographic to look at the bomb and just how it might be used if the US should decide to use it.

Bomb options
Bomb options

Credit for the piece goes to Mike Faille and Richard Johnson.

A Not So Smart Smartphone Chart

This piece in the Globe and Mail of Toronto looks at smartphone usage by operating system through a comparison of Canada to both the United States and Japan.

Smartphone use in Canada
Smartphone use in Canada

While I understand the need for aesthetic distinction from having an entire page of bar charts, these ring or donut charts are a touch misleading. Because of the space between rings, the radius of each circle from the central Android icon is significantly increased. This of course proportionally scales up the length of each segment within the rings. In short, it becomes difficult to compare segments of each ring to the corresponding segments on the other rings without looking at the datapoint. And if you need to look at the datapoint, one could argue that the infographic has failed from the standpoint of communication of the data.

Beneath is the original (with the legend edited to fit into my cropping) with two very simple (and hasty) reproductions of the data as straight pie charts placed next to each other and then as clusters of bar charts grouped beneath each other. I leave it to you the audience to decide which is easiest to decode.

The original ring chart with legend moved
The original ring chart with legend moved
Alternate visualisation types
Alternate visualisation types

Credit for the Globe and Mail piece goes to Carrie Cockburn.

Replacing the Bay Bridge for the Long Term

Bridges are vital parts of infrastructure networks connecting two separate pieces of territory, but often they can be choke points. Damage to a bridge can result to isolation at worst and at best long, circuitous reroutes that add significant time to travel. In the San Francisco area authorities are building a new bridge to replace the current Bay Bridge. But as everyone knows, buildings and infrastructure in that area can be significantly damaged during earthquakes. And the area is waiting for the ‘Big One’ that shall come some day or another.

So how to build a new bridge for the long-term that will also survive a major earthquake? The New York Times explains it in an interactive piece accompanying an article. The interactive piece includes an animation with voiceover explaining the details of the design, with diagrams illustrating the components placed next to the video player. At the bottom, anchoring the piece (pun intended), is a photo-illustration of the new bridge’s design.

Diagram explaining the Bay Bridge replacement
Diagram explaining the Bay Bridge replacement

Credit for the piece goes to Mika Gröndahl and Xaquín G.V.

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.

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.

What’s In a Tweet?

Tweeting in 140 characters would seem to give one little information, aside from interesting ways of shortening and truncating the English language. However, if you dig just a little deeper than the blurb of text, one can find a whole lot more information that companies—surprise—find valuable.

This graphic, originally by Raffi Krikorian at Twitter, is via the Economist as part of the Daily Chart blog. Certainly the topic is interesting and the diagram useful, but it could probably a bit more structure and clarity in terms of arranging the information. But, if one takes the time to read through it, the breakdown of a single Tweet is quite fascinating.

Breaking Down a Tweet
Breaking Down a Tweet