In the last 18 months of looking at the data behind Covid-19 and the vaccines, I’ve had a lot of conversations with people, maybe even some of you, about the pandemic and the vaccines we’re using to combat it. Unfortunately, I’m just one person. Seth MacFarlane, however, has himself and the crew behind Family Guy to produce an advert for the Ad Council. The advert explains how vaccines work, why you should get them, and does so with some really nice animation. Animation that tops any illustrations I could do.
Last month on another Friday I shared some graphics from a video by CCP Grey that looked at the origin and history of the name Tiffany. It’s a great video and I highly recommend it. But last week he published…an addendum I guess you could call it.
The piece takes a look at a research path he took for the video. It happened to involve some history and genealogy, two things I personally enjoy, and found it to be a fascinating insight into his research process.
The screenshot above hints at the idea that sometimes work is not linear and, especially when I’m doing genealogy work, there are often tangents and dead ends. In other words, to an extent, I can relate.
Well, it’s the end of another week. I’ll save the bigger posts I have planned for next week and instead end with this little astronomy/geometry gem from xkcd. It takes a look at Saturn’s polar storm that takes the shape of a hexagon, not a circle or anything else.
We’re back and there’s a lot to touch on this week. But first, as a prelude to some of the Hurricane Ida coverage, I wanted to briefly point our attention to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer from about two or three weeks before Ida struck.
The article focused on the US Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect the back bay areas of the South Jersey shore, i.e. the areas between the outer barrier islands and the mainland. The article chose a few graphics from the report to draw attention to some of the proposed solutions, e.g. massive gates, new levee systems, and wetland restoration.
I wanted to focus on a different graphic in the report. This functioned more as an illustrated guide to the whole suite of solutions available to mitigating flood and storm surge disasters. Because, in the future, rising sea levels will threaten coastal communities. And as we saw just last week here in the Northeast, warmer seas plus warmer skies increase the potential for storms with crippling deluges.
The graphic shows how we can try to deal with surge waters from out beyond the barrier islands through to the back bay to communities inland both by protecting, adapting, and in some cases relocating.
All need to be on the table, because if last week showed us anything—not that many hadn’t been saying this for decades—it’s not just the bayous of New Orleans and Florida’s beaches that are at risk from environments and weather patterns altered by a changing climate, but even those areas more local (to the Northeast).
Credit for the piece goes to the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Happy Friday, all. We made it through another week of Covid, vaccinations, asteroids, and all that pleasant stuff. So let’s end with an upbeat note.
Over on YouTube there’s a channel I have long enjoyed, CCP Grey, who creates videos about, well lots of things, but sometimes really interesting historical, geographical, and political topics.
This week he released a video about Tiffany. As in the name Tiffany.
In addition to some great 80s aesthetics, the video touches on a couple of things that particularly interest me.
You see names are an important part of genealogical research. After all, almost all of us have names. (Some infants died without names.) Now in my family, on both my mother’s and father’s side I have a lot of Johns. In fact, I broke a line of five consecutive John Barrys. But occasionally a family will have a rarer or more uncommon name that allows you to trace that individual and therefore his or her family through time and space/place.
Grey tracks the history of the name Tiffany from its possible origin to some reasons for its popularity in the 1980s. And that includes some great graphics like this chart tracking the number of children with the name.
In the screenshot above you can see one thought he has on why the name took off in the latter half of the 20th century after languishing for centuries.
But he also examined the family history of one Tiffany and how that became important in the cultural zeitgeist. And to do so he used a family tree.
It’s a nine-minute long video and well worth your time.
I think what’s interesting to consider, however, is how this story could be told for many if not most names. There’s a reason they exist and how, by pure happenstance, they survive and get passed down family lines.
Though I have to say I did a quick search in my family tree and I have not a single Tiffany.
Of course the inside threat are those little bodies of coronavirus causing Covid-19. We cover them a lot here. But there are also threats from little bodies outside, way outside. Like asteroids impacting us. And that was the news yesterday when NASA announced improved data from a mission to the asteroid Bennu allowed it to refine its orbital model.
And we have reason to ever just so very slightly worry. Because there is a very slight chance that Bennu will impact Earth. In 2182. The New York Timesarticle where I read the news included a motion graphic produced by NASA to explain that the determining factor will be a near pass in 2135.
Essentially, the exact course Bennu takes as it passes Earth in 2135 will determine its path in 2182. But just a few slight variations could send it colliding into Earth. Though, to be clear, it’s only a 1-in-1750 chance.
NASA used the metaphor of keyholes to explain the concept. The potential orbits in 2135 function as keyholes and should Bennu pass into the right keyhole, it will setup a collision with Earth in 2182. Hence the use of little keyholes in the motion graphic that accompanied the article.
But who knows, if we’re lucky the United Federation of Planets will still be formed in 2161 and the starship Enterprise will gently nudge Bennu back into a non-threatening orbit.
I’ve heard a lot about vaccine hesitancy and resistance lately and I mentioned this on Monday. Subsequently, I thought I would try to make a graphic to try and help people understand where some of these excuses fit on the spectrum of rational to irrational—with claims of people being magnetised off the chart in the land of kooky.
But I also realised there’s a second spectrum, albeit far more limited in range, of selfishness vs altruism. And there is an interesting shift in how those who waited for the most vulnerable to receive their shots first were, initially, altruistic and rational. But now that those populations have received their vaccines, it’s shifted into an irrational selfish behaviour.
Anyway, I made a few sketches and as I was working on it, there was something in the aesthetic quality of the sketches that I couldn’t quite replicate digitally. And so I present the unpolished rough cut of my graphic.
For the fuller explanations, I refer you to my aforementioned post earlier this week. This was just an attempt to visualise the two spectrums.
I did not create this, but rather I saw it on a friend’s social media feed. But I didn’t take a screenshot instead I sketched it my sketchbook. So if anybody knows who actually created this I’d like to get the credit correctly attributed.
Anyway, it was just a Venn diagram that made me laugh. And after yesterday’s Covid data update, I feel like we need to at least try to end the week on a laugh.
Yesterday I mentioned more about revolutions, well today we’re talking about Mars, a planet that revolves around the Sun. Late last week scientists working with the InSight lander on the Red Planet published their findings. Turns out we need to rethink what we know about Mars.
First, the planet is probably much older than Earth. Mars’ composition also differs from Earth in some significant ways. InSight mapped the interior of Mars by studying the seismic waves (think like sound waves but through the inside of planets) of marsquakes.
The Wall Street Journal published a great article spelling out the findings in detail that is well worth the read. It also included some nice graphics helping to support the piece. The one I wanted to highlight, however, was a brilliant comparison of Mars to Earth.
Conceptually this is important, because many diagrams and graphics I’ve seen about these findings only detail the interior of Mars. But what makes Mars important is how it differs from Earth, and let’s be honest, how many of us remember our Earth science classes at school and can diagram out the interior of Earth?
And right here the designer compares the smaller—and now older—brother of Earth. Again, read the article for the details, but in short, some of the key findings are that the core is larger, but also lighter, than we thought. Our planet’s core differs because Earth has two parts: a solid and heavy ball of iron and nickel surrounded by a liquid core that spins. That spinning core creates the magnetic fields that protect our planet from the Sun and have kept our atmosphere intact. Mars doesn’t have that. And that’s in part because, given the core is larger than we thought, the mantle is smaller.
A smaller mantle means that certain materials couldn’t form that insulate the Earth’s core. So while Earth’s core has been prevented from cooling and slowing down, Mars was not. And so while it did have a magnetic field at one point, that slowing, cooling core slowly dissipated the magnetic field. That may be why the planet, once rich in water, now is a barren rock exposed to the Sun.
Again, this is a big deal in terms of planetary science. Consider that Earth and Mars are broadly made of the same materials that orbited the Sun billions of years ago. But Mars took those same ingredients and made itself into a very different planet. And now we know quite a good deal more about the Red Planet.
One last point to make about the graphic above. Again, many illustrations will increase the size of the crust to make it more visible. Here the designer chose to keep it more in proportion to the scale of the planets’ interiors. (Even though Mars’ crust is quite a bit thicker than Earth’s.) I think that’s important because it puts us into perspective. We can build monuments like the Pyramids that last thousands of years and dig bore holes miles deep and tunnel out connections through mountain ranges, but that also just scratches the surface of the crust. But that crust is the thinnest of shells over the mantle and cores of these planets.
That life began and took hold on Earth, on that thinnest of shells protected by a magnetic field because of a spinning molten core buried at the centre of the planet…something to think about sometimes.
For the last two days Philadelphia and much of the East Coast suffered from a heavy haze of smoke that blanketed the region. This wasn’t just any smoke, however, but smoke from the wildfires on the West Coast. This post isn’t about the wildfires, but rather something that exacerbated them. We are talking about the heat domes that formed earlier this summer. The ones that melted trolley cables in Portland.
This was a nice print graphic in the Guardian Weekly, a magazine to such I subscribe that had several articles about the domes.
It does a nice job of showing the main components of the story and sufficiently simplifying them to make them digestible. One quibble, however, is how in the second map how oddly specific the heat dome is depicted.
The first graphic in particular is more of an abstraction and simplified illustration. But here we have contours and shapes that seem to speak with precision about the location of this heat dome. It also contains shades of red that presumably indicate the severity of the heat.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but it stuck me as odd juxtaposed against the top illustration.
Credit for the piece goes to the Guardian Weekly graphics department.