Science

158 posts
The what of visualization, beyond the how

A long-time reader sent me the following chart from a Nature article, pointing out that it is rather worthless. The simple bar chart plots the number of downloads, organized by country, from the website called Sci-Hub, which I've just learned is where one can download scientific articles for free - working around the exorbitant paywalls of scientific journals. The bar chart is a good example of a Type D chart...

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Speaking to the choir

A friend found the following chart about the "carbon cycle", and sent me an exasperated note, having given up on figuring it out. The chart came from a report, and was reprinted in Ars Technica (link). The problem with the chart is that the designer is speaking to the choir. One must know a lot about the carbon cycle already to make sense of everything that's going on. We see...

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Illustrating coronavirus waves with moving images

The New York Times put out a master class in visualizing space and time data recently, in a visualization of five waves of Covid-19 that have torched the U.S. thus far (link). The project displays one dataset using three designs, which provides an opportunity to compare and contrast them. *** The first design - above the headline - is an animated choropleth map. This is a straightforward presentation of space...

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Scientists with bad data

Tim Harford warns against bad data in science: Some frauds seem comical. In the 1970s, a researcher named William Summerlin claimed to have found a way to prevent skin grafts from being rejected by the recipient. He demonstrated his results by showing a white mouse with a dark patch of fur, apparently a graft from a black mouse. It transpired that the dark patch had been coloured with a felt-tip...

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Visually displaying multipliers

As I'm preparing a blog about another real-world study of Covid-19 vaccines, I came across the following chart (the chart title is mine). As background, this is the trend in Covid-19 cases in the U.K. in the last couple of months, courtesy of OurWorldinData.org. The React-1 Study sends swab kits to randomly selected people in England in order to assess the prevalence of Covid-19. Every month, there is a new...

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Check your presumptions while you’re reading this chart about Israel’s vaccination campaign

On July 30, Israel began administering third doses of mRNA vaccines to targeted groups of people. This decision was controversial since there is no science to support it. The policymakers do have educated guesses by experts based on best-available information. By science, I mean actual evidence. Since no one has previously been given three shots, there can be no data on which anyone can root such a decision. Nevertheless, the...

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What metaphors give, they take away

Aleks pointed me to the following graphic making the rounds on Twitter: It's being passed around as an example of great dataviz. The entire attraction rests on a risque metaphor. The designer is illustrating a claim that Covid-19 causes erectile dysfunction in men. That's a well-formed question so in using the Trifecta Checkup, that's a pass on the Q corner. What about the visual metaphor? I advise people to think...

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Vaccine researchers discard the start-at-zero rule

I struggled to decide on which blog to put this post. The reality is it bridges the graphical and analytical sides of me. But I ultimately placed it on the dataviz blog because that's where today's story starts. Data visualization has few set-in-stone rules. If pressed for one, I'd likely cite the "start-at-zero" rule, which has featured regularly on Junk Charts (here, here, and here, for example). This rule only...

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Illustrating differential growth rates

Reader Mirko was concerned about a video published in Germany that shows why the new coronavirus variant is dangerous. He helpfully provided a summary of the transcript: The South African and the British mutations of the SARS-COV-2 virus are spreading faster than the original virus. On average, one infected person infects more people than before. Researchers believe the new variant is 50 to 70 % more transmissible. Here are two...

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Reading an infographic about our climate crisis

Let's explore an infographic by SCMP, which draws attention to the alarming temperature recorded at Verkhoyansk in Russia on June 20, 2020. The original work was on the back page of the printed newspaper, referred to in this tweet. This view of the globe brings out the two key pieces of evidence presented in the infographic: the rise in temperature in unexpected places, and the shrinkage of the Arctic ice....

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