Earlier this month the Economist published an article that looked at a different way of measuring the economic output of North Korea. The state is so secretive that the publicly available data we all rely on for almost every country is not available. Nor would we necessarily believe their figures. So we have to rely on other measures to estimate the North Korean economy.
The article is about how luminosity, i.e. the lights on seen from space at night, can be used as a proxy for economic activity in the reclusive state.
The article is a fascinating read and uses a scatter plot to show the correlation between luminosity and GDP per capita then how that translates to North Korea, comparing it to older models.
Credit for the piece goes to the Economist graphics department.
This piece from the BBC is a few years old, but it provides some interesting nuggets about North Korea. Unsurprisingly it appeared on my radar because of the coverage of the Trump–Kim summit in Vietnam. The article says it is nine charts that tell you all you need to know about North Korea. Now, I do not think that is quite true, but it does contain the following graphic—I hesitate to call it a chart—that illustrates one of my favourite details.
The two figures illustrate the average height of a person from North Korea and then South Korea. What do you see? That the North Korean is shorter. This is despite the fact that the populations were the same just a few decades ago. The impact of years of malnutrition, undernourishment, and general lack of well-being have manifested themselves in the physical reduction of size of human beings compared to their nearly identical population to the south.
Thankfully the rest of the piece contains data on things like GDP, birth rates, and life expectancy. So there are some things in there that one should know about North Korea. As much as I find the story of height interesting, I struggle to think it is one of the nine things you should really know about the state.
Credit for the piece goes to Mark Bryson, Gerry Fletcher, and Prina Shah.
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.
Credit for the piece goes to Robin Stein and Drew Jordan.
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 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.
Donald Trump and I have one thing in common today. Boy are we both glad today is finally Friday—what a week.
So in that vein, let us keep it semi-light today with a piece from the New York Times that I saw earlier this week. Before we share the screenshot, however, I should point out that there have been studies showing a relationship between knowing who is where in the world and an understanding that geopolitics are complex and messy. From the article:
Geographic knowledge itself may contribute to an increased appreciation of the complexity of geopolitical events.
So when it comes to North Korea, there are interesting correlations between policy options and people who could either find or not find North Korea on a map. The article is really worth the read.
But enough, where did users click to identify the location of North Korea?
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.
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.
So here’s how this week was supposed to go. I was going to write about the Northern Irish election Monday and then Tuesday was going to be a piece from the New York Times that looked at the public’s concerns facing an incoming president. This piece I was going to save for later. But then Sunday night North Korea tested several missiles and flew them into the Sea of Japan. Sort of felt appropriate to move this one up a couple of days.
As you know, I like infographics and diagrams about military things. And in an article about the US cyberwar against North Korea, the New York Times included these graphics to provide context about the scale and scope of the North Korean missile programme.
I don’t have the URL for the page on-hand, but if you can find it. The article is well worth the read.
When I was in high school I began to listen to music. To find music. To find artists. A guy who owned and operated the store next to where I worked recommended David Bowie, that guy whose songs I had heard on Philly’s classic rock radio stations. Back in those days we still had record stores—not that I knew what a record was—and I found a few used CDs—now that kids today would know what a CD is. Over that summer, I picked up a lot of new music. But what struck me about this David Bowie guy is that Space Oddity, Tonight, and Heathen all sounded so different from each other. He was a great one. And while I’m certain there will be some graphic in the future about his timeline—how can there not—today I am going to follow up once more on the North Korean nuclear test after coming across this graphic from Reuters.
You will recall how last week I looked at a New York Times post that explained the differences between a few different types of nuclear weapons. Well, here Reuters illustrates those differences.
Yesterday we looked at the sites and timeline of nuclear weapons tests. Today, however, as we learn more about North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test, some are wondering whether it really was a hydrogen bomb or something else. After all, there are different ways to build the bomb. Some suggest North Korea tested an atom bomb on steroids, more properly called boosted fission. Anyway, the New York Times does a nice job explaining the differences between the atom bomb, the hydrogen bomb, and how we can infer what North Korea tested from the calculated size of the blast.
Credit for the piece goes to Josh Keller, Ford Fessenden, and Tim Wallace.
Last night, in the States’ time at least, North Korea purportedly tested a hydrogen bomb. How does this differ from their previous tests? Well, those were all nuclear fission bombs, this is a nuclear fusion bomb. (Admittedly, I am simplifying a lot here.) Hydrogen bombs, the H-bomb, are more powerful and more efficient in that they emit less radiation. They are still pretty bad news, though. That bit has not changed.
Anyway, the Washington Post put together a nice piece about nuclear weapons testing. The big feature piece is a map of test sites over time. What I really like about it, however, is that they chose to split the world at a different point—the Pacific Ocean opposite the Prime Meridian. I have occasionally argued for using such maps more often given the increasing relevance of Asia and the relative decline of Western Europe. So it is nice to see it put to good use here.