Ever wondered how fast the rivers are flowing in the UK? Me neither, but it’s an interesting presentation from Matt Gluf, reminiscent of Cameron Beccario’s visualisation of the globe’s wind speeds and ocean currents.
Tag: data visualisation
Another Monday, another coffee
The start of another week. But what is a week, really? Here’s an essay on how we came to depend on the week despite its artificiality.
How we became weekly – Aeon
Weeks serve as powerful mnemonic anchors because they are fundamentally artificial. Unlike days, months and years, all of which track, approximate, mimic or at least allude to some natural process (with hours, minutes and seconds representing neat fractions of those larger units), the week finds its foundation entirely in history. To say ‘today is Tuesday’ is to make a claim about the past rather than about the stars or the tides or the weather. We are asserting that a certain number of days, reckoned by uninterrupted counts of seven, separate today from some earlier moment. And because those counts have no prospect of astronomical confirmation or alignment, weeks depend in some sense on meticulous historical recordkeeping. But practically speaking, weekly counts are reinforced by the habits and rituals of other people. When those habits and rituals were radically obscured or altered in 2020, the week itself seemed to unravel.
History professor David Henkin explores the background of this man-made construction and highlights the impact the pandemic has had on our experience of it. Though it’s mainly from a US perspective, they’ve chosen to head up the article with a glorious photo from my own county in the north of England.
Wherever the week has come from, it starts with coffee for most of us. But how many, that’s the question. Let Judit Bekker and David Lynch answer that for you.
Live-blogging a new project – Data muggle
I might sound like a broken record, but this year I got super crazy about Twin Peaks, and I can only viz about the things that interest me. So here it is: I’m gonna count all the damn fine coffees that were drunk in all 3 series. It’s 50+ hours of content, so my mind might just go to the Black Lodge by the time I finish. But there are not that many Twin Peaks data sets lurking around to be downloaded from the internet.
And here’s the final data visualisation of the 258 damn fine coffees she saw being enjoyed in Twin Peaks, which you can also see and interact with on Tableau Public.
Lucy in the sky with asteroids
Well done to the data team at The Economist, having to visualise a 12-year journey of a space probe as it makes a flying visit to eight different asteroids. They’ve made a very complicated journey look quite straightforward and elegant.
A probe intended to study the Trojan asteroids takes off – The Economist
Lucy, as this planetary-ancestor-investigating mission is dubbed, after a well-known specimen of Australopithecus, an early hominid, blasted off from Cape Canaveral, in Florida, and will now follow one of the most complex paths around the solar system yet devised by NASA’s orbital navigators. The diagram which shows Lucy’s journey, indicates how the craft will first pick up speed using two velocity-boosting fly-bys of Earth. It will then head for the Greek camp, passing, for a practice run at observation, by way of a convenient main-belt asteroid that the mission’s scientists have named Donaldjohanson, in honour of the discoverer of Lucy the Australopithecine. When it arrives at L4 in 2027, it will encounter five bodies: Eurybates and its tiny satellite Queta, Polymele, Leucus and Orus. Having examined each of these, it will leave the Greek camp in 2028 and cross, via another velocity-boosting fly-by of Earth, to the Trojan camp at L5. Its final planned encounter, when it reaches L5 in 2033, is with Patroclus and Menoetius.
Fortunately, they were able to call on the team at NASA’s Scientific Visualisation Studio for help.
Lucy mission trajectory – NASA Scientific Visualization Studio
Lucy will launch in October 2021 and, with boosts from Earth’s gravity, will complete a twelve-year journey to eight different asteroids — a Main Belt asteroid and seven Jupiter Trojans, the last two members of a “two-for-the-price-of-one” binary system. Lucy’s complex path will take it to both clusters of Trojans and give us our first close-up view of all three major types of bodies in the swarms (so-called C-, P- and D-types).
Misunderstanding our past, present and future
It’s obvious, when you think about it. Of course not all Neanderthals were ‘cavemen’ — half were women.
Sheanderthal – Aeon Essays
Archaeology is no exception to biases against women’s interests across science and the humanities. Since the early days, a tendency to conceptualise humanity’s deep origins as populated literally by ‘cavemen’ has led to presumed male activities being presented as most visible and interesting. … In fact, for most of the subsequent 160 years, female Neanderthals – if featured at all – tend to be fewer in number, peripherally located, and limited to ‘domesticated’ activities including childcare and skin-working. They are essentially scenery, in the words of the anthropologist Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, rather than active providers working on stone knapping or hunting and, in addition, they’re often fearfully lurking, hidden in dark grottos.
The world is a very different place now.
Why eye-catching graphics are vital for getting to grips with climate change – The Conversation
One misconception about the climate crisis is that warming will be uniform across the world. Deniers cite cold fronts or blizzards as evidence that warming is exaggerated, or hark back to past heatwaves – such as that experienced by the UK in 1976 when temperatures exceeded 35°C – as proof that the scientists have got it wrong. Apart from this misleading conflation of weather (daily conditions) and climate (long-term conditions), this kind of argument misses the complex patchwork of effects that interact to create what gets reported in the headline figures. Maps can be an invaluable weapon against this misunderstanding. … [W]hat is needed are more universally accessible visualisations that are able to show where we’re heading in no uncertain terms.
How on earth would you protect future generations from something with a half-life of over 700 million years? Use your imagination.
The art of pondering Earth’s distant future – Scientific American
We do not, of course, live in these imagined worlds. In this sense, they are unreal—merely fictions. However, our capacities to envision potential futures, and to feel empathy for those who may inhabit them, are very real. Depictions of tomorrow can have powerful, concrete effects on the world today. This is why deep time thought experiments are not playful games, but serious acts of intellectual problem-solving. It is why the safety case experts’ models of far future nuclear waste risks are uniquely valuable, even if they are, at the end of the day, mere approximations.
Scrolling to Mars
The South China Morning Post has a fun, animated visualisation of the Zhu Rong rover’s seven month journey to Mars and the three months spent orbiting the planet before finally landing. It makes it all look very simple, but it’s such a long way away.
Another striking data visualisation from Mona Chalabi, this time a simple bar chart showing what happens to US police officers after they have killed someone.
The past, present and future of data analysis
Some interesting reads, courtesy of The Economist’s data analysis newsletter, Off The Charts. Let’s start with this question — are glasses-wearers really less conscientiousness than those who wear a headscarf?
Objective or Biased: On the questionable use of Artificial Intelligence for job applications – BR24
Software programs promise to identify the personality traits of job candidates based on short videos. With the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) they are supposed to make the selection process of candidates more objective and faster. An exclusive data analysis shows that an AI scrutinized by BR (Bavarian Broadcasting) journalists can be swayed by appearances. This might perpetuate stereotypes while potentially costing candidates the job.
Here, Stephanie Evergreen makes a solid, essential case for broadening our view of data visualisation and its history. I’ve mentioned khipus here before, but not within this context.
Decolonizing Data Viz – Evergreen Data
When we talked about these khipu and other forms of indigenous data visualization in a recent panel (with January O’Connor (Tlingit, Kake, Alaska), Mark Parman (Cherokee), & Nicky Bowman (Lunaape/Mohican)), someone in the audience commented, “It made me reflect on traditional Hmong clothing and how my ancestors have embroidered certain motifs on traditional clothing to communicate one’s clanship, what dialect of Hmong one spoke, marital status, everyday life, etc.” And this is one reason why it is so critically important to decolonize data visualization. When white men decide what counts (and doesn’t count) in terms of data, and what counts (and doesn’t count) as data visualization, and what counts (and doesn’t count) as data visualization history, they are actively gaslighting Black and Brown people about their legacy as data visualizers. When we shine a light on indigenous data visualization, we are intentionally saying the circle is much much wider and, as Nicky Bowman said, “There’s room for everyone in the lodge.”
After reconciling the past, let’s look to the future.
Who will shape the future of data visualization? Today’s kids! – Nightingale
Graphs are everywhere. So, with the proper instruction, I’d expect today’s kids to become adults that are more proficient at visualizing and interpreting data than today’s adults. Besides parents, teachers, or friends, news organizations also play a role in shaping today’s kids. As Jon pointed out, news organizations can do a great job explaining to us how to read more advanced graphs.
On the other hand, as Sharon and Michael mentioned, because graphs are everywhere, there’s a danger for kids to start thinking that graphs are objective. So it is important for adults to start teaching kids how to think critically, to not necessarily accept the graph and the data at face value. In other words, it’s essential for kids to develop a toolbox. This is good for them and good for democracy — eventually, today’s kids will become more informed citizens.
Something I’m sure Jonathan Schwabish would agree with.
Everything, all at once #2
You could say that Matan Stauber’s final year project at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design took millions and millions of years to create.
Histography – Timeline of History
“Histography” is interactive timeline that spans across 14 billion years of history, from the Big Bang to 2015. The site draws historical events from Wikipedia and self-updates daily with new recorded events. The interface allows for users to view between decades to millions of years.
And off we go
The US Presidential election is just around the corner, and here, via FlowingData, are a couple of links to get us started.
FiveThirtyEight launches 2020 election forecast – FlowingData
The election is coming. FiveThirtyEight just launched their forecast with a look at the numbers from several angles. Maps, histograms, beeswarms, and line charts, oh my.
Who can vote by mail – FlowingData
There’s going to be a lot more voting by mail this year. The New York Times shows what each state is doing. It’s a cartogram. So it must be election season.
Where’s the harm?
Lots of talk about masks and where we should be wearing them. David McCandless and the Information is Beautiful team have updated their set of coronavirus infographics (previously) with this presentation of the risks involved with certain activities.
COVID-19 CoronaVirus infographic datapack – Information is Beautiful
Created by David McCandless, Omid Kashan, Fabio Bergamaschi, Dr Stephanie Starling, Univers Labs, Tom Evans.
It doesn’t quite line up with this infographic from the Texas Medical Association, but I’d say it’s close enough, you get the point.
How risky is visiting a museum? This graphic about COVID-19 transmission provides come answers – Hyperallergic
TexMed characterizes things like getting restaurant takeout, getting gas, and even playing tennis as low-risk activities (two on a scale of one to 10). Grocery shopping, going on a walk with others, visiting a library or museum, and playing golf all fall in the moderate-low range (three to four) — that last is of course great news for the president! Highest-risk activities (eight or more) include, unsurprisingly, sports stadium events and concerts, going to a movie theater, attending religious services with 500+ worshippers, and going to a bar — which was a major cause of outbreak in Michigan last week. Texans shouldn’t despair, though! Based on this graphic, it is still safe to shoot guns in the air (at least with respect to COVID-19 complications), do outdoor line dances in rigid six-feet distance grids, and ride the open range.
Here are some other ways of looking at.
COVID Risk Chart – xkcd
First prize is a free ticket to the kissing booth.
Handy chart – The New Yorker Cartoons on Instagram
A cartoon by @rozchast.
Lots of reasons to wear a mask. But then again…
Why You Don’t Need A Mask – COVID-19
You don’t need a mask because…
We’re all in this together #3
Here’s an interesting way of visualising the scale of all this. As in real life, it starts slowly then builds up. And up, and up.
A time-lapse map of every death from the Coronavirus pandemic – YouTube
This is an audio-visual time-lapse of every death from the Coronavirus pandemic from January to June 2020. Inspired by Isao Hashimoto’s “A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945”; each country is represented by a tone and an expanding blip on the map when a death from Covid-19 is recorded. Each day is 4 seconds long, and at the top of the screen is the date and a counter showing the total numbers of deaths. Every country that has had a fatality is included. (via Kottke)
It’s very easy to criticise other countries’ responses to this global crisis. For instance:
Angry folks throw an anti-mask rally in Florida, the state that just broke a Covid-19 record – Boing Boing
Rather than give up their “freedom” by simply wearing a mask, they’d rather risk losing a bigger freedom by filling hospitals to full capacity (as they did in, er, Florida), shutting down international travel (because other countries are turning Americans away who try to enter), shutting down cities and states with a high coronavirus caseload, and obliterating our economy. With that kind of logic, Americans should be permitted the freedom to drive drunk or race cars on public streets.
Jimmy Fallon predicts Trump will say he was the first to wear a mask – The New York Times
After the president finally wore a face mask in public, the “Tonight Show” host called it “a really smart move — if today were March 13th.”
Sweden ‘literally gained nothing’ from staying open during COVID-19, including ‘no economic gains’ – The Week
Ironically, Bloomberg News reports, the social distancing requirements in Sweden are now more stringent than in Denmark, Norway, and Finland, all of which opted for strict lockdowns early on. Sweden’s 5,420 COVID-19 deaths may not seem like much compared with 130,000 in the U.S., but per capita that works out to 40 percent more fatalities than in the U.S. and 12 times more than Norway, seven times more than Finland, and six times more than Denmark, the Times notes.
But we’re far from getting everything right here. For instance:
UK among highest COVID-19 health worker deaths in the world – Amnesty International UK
The 61-page report – Exposed, Silenced, Attacked: Failures to protect health and essential workers during the pandemic – shows that, with at least 540 health and social workers having died from COVID-19 in England and Wales alone, the UK is second only to Russia, which has recorded 545 health worker deaths. […]
Healthcare professionals across the UK were also warned not to talk about shortages in protective equipment. Almost half of healthcare workers questioned as part of a major survey by the Doctors Association UK said they had effectively been gagged and prevented from raising concerns.
Revealed: 20 areas of England at most risk of coronavirus resurgence – The Guardian
The government has drawn up a list of 20 councils facing the worst coronavirus outbreaks in England, with Bradford, Sheffield and Kirklees identified as areas needing “enhanced support”, according to a classified document leaked to the Observer and the Guardian.
Perhaps there’s not much to choose between them.
The pandemic is the world’s long overdue reality check – Foreign Policy
Three of the four largest democracies run by illiberal populists—the United States, Brazil, and the U.K.—now rank one, two, and three in deaths from the coronavirus. (India currently lags behind but is moving up with frightening speed.) That is not a coincidence, for the leaders in each country have tried to minimize the gravity of the disease or—in Bolsonaro’s case—deny it altogether. Populist leaders deny COVID-19 for the same reasons they deny climate change: first, because acknowledging a force beyond their control might break the spell of omniscience in which they have bound their followers; and second, because deference to science and logic undermines the emotional sources of their appeal. If Anthony Fauci is right, Trump must be wrong.
Staying safe, then and now
Are things getting better? It doesn’t feel like it.
Paris salons, Shanghai Disney reopen despite global alarm over second coronavirus wave – Reuters
News that the “reproduction rate” – the number of people each person with the disease goes on to infect – had surged back to 1.1 in Germany cast a shadow over the reopening of businesses ranging from Paris hair salons to Shanghai Disneyland. A rate that stays above 1 means the virus is spreading exponentially.
Look at the numbers, they say. But I’ve seen so many I’m becoming curve-blind.
COVID-19 CoronaVirus infographic datapack – Information is Beautiful
COVID-19 #Coronavirus latest data visualized. Updated 11th May. Created by David McCandless, Omid Kashan, Fabio Bergamaschi, Dr Stephanie Starling, Univers Labs
Some are saying we’ve been here before, but this time’s different. Thankfully.
Coronavirus is very different from the Spanish Flu of 1918. Here’s how. – The New York Times
In 1918, the world was a very different place, even without the disruptive influence of World War I. Doctors knew viruses existed but had never seen one — there were no electron microscopes, and the genetic material of viruses had not yet been discovered. Today, however, researchers not only know how to isolate a virus but can find its genetic sequence, test antiviral drugs and develop a vaccine.
Virus-afflicted 2020 looks like 1918 despite science’s march – AP News
As in 1918, people are again hearing hollow assurances at odds with the reality of hospitals and morgues filling up and bank accounts draining. The ancient common sense of quarantining is back. So is quackery: Rub raw onions on your chest, they said in 1918. How about disinfectant in your veins now? mused President Donald Trump, drawing gasps instead of laughs over what he weakly tried to pass off as a joke.
There are so many coronavirus myths that even Snopes can’t keep up – The Washington Post
“The fact-checking industry is so undervalued and underinvested,” he said, “that even with this traffic boom and the rise in prominence and responsibility at this moment when people are relying so heavily on fact-checkers for credible information, we have no hopes for scaling up our businesses.”
1918 feels too distant now, it’s hard to relate to it. But perhaps we should count ourselves lucky that we find it hard to relate to.
The 1918 flu pandemic killed millions. So why does its cultural memory feel so faint? – Slate
Reading letters from survivors of the flu pandemic, one of the things that strikes me over and over again, that’s so moving, is that almost every one of them says, “I never forgot; I never forgot; I never forgot.” [Researching the book], I interviewed one 105-year-old woman who had the flu in Richmond, when she was 8. And in my cheery way, I said something like “Why do you think people forgot the flu?” And she looked at me like I was crazy. “We didn’t forget! We didn’t ignore it! We didn’t forget.” She’s 105, right? And she was like, “It never faded—not for us.”
Meet the 107-year-old woman who survived the coronavirus and Spanish flu – The Jerusalem Post
“It’s remarkable,” Shapiro said. “That’s all I can say. It’s just unbelievable. I think perhaps it’s because of her art that she’s still involved in.”
The numbers are crazy, “6 percent of the Earth’s population in just over a year,” according to this collection of images from the time.
Historical photos of the 1918 Spanish Flu that show what a global pandemic looked like in the 1910s – Design You Trust
The speed of the pandemic was shocking; the numbers of dead bodies overwhelmed hospitals and cemeteries. Quarantine centers, emergency hospitals, public use of gauze masks, and awareness campaigns were all undertaken swiftly to halt the spread. But as World War I was coming to a close, millions of soldiers were still traveling across the globe, aiding the spread of the disease.
The flu was first observed in Europe, the US and parts of Asia before it quickly spread throughout the world. It was wrongly named the Spanish flu because it was first reported in the Madrid daily newspaper ABC. However, modern scientists now believe the virus could have started in Kansas, US.
Kansas, you say? Hmm.
Face masks, then. So what are our options (apart from using socks)?
Face Shield: How do we encourage mass adoption of an unwanted necessity? – Joe Doucet
To try and create a face shield that people would actually want to wear rather than simply put up with, Joe Doucet has designed a shield with integrated sunglass lenses and arms that make them more practical and feel less alien and intrusive on the wearer than a typical face shield would. It is hoped that improving the basic face shield design will encourage far greater uptake of its usage and help everyone adjust to the “new normal” that awaits us.
The Micrashell Futuresuit lets you party like it’s 2099 – Design Milk
Taking design cues from sportswear brands like Yohji Yamamoto and Nike Lab, the Production Club Micrashell wraps an array of speculative environmental technologies within a futuristic athleisure design straight out of the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer. The Micrashell is intended to allow for human-to-human interaction in group settings with a virus-shielded and disinfectable air-tight suit, specifically for attendees of “nightlife and entertainment industries”.
Plastique Fantastique’s iSphere mask is informed by 1950s sci-fi comics – Dezeen
Berlin-based art collective Plastique Fantastique has created an open-source, retro-futuristic face shield shaped like a fish bowl to protect wearers against coronavirus. The helmet-like design, called the iSphere, comprises two transparent, hollow hemispheres that have been secured together and cut to create a hole for the user to fit their head through.
Canevacci and Young wanted to bring an element of humour to a serious object for non-medical users.
Get your point across by flattening it
As an example of the power of effective data visualisation, it’s hard to beat. Here’s a little background on the diagram that’s all over the internet.
The story behind the coronavirus ‘flatten the curve’ chart – Fast Company
The first instance of Flatten the Curve can be found in a paper called Interim pre-pandemic planning guidance: community strategy for pandemic influenza mitigation in the United States: early, targeted, layered use of nonpharmaceutical interventions, and no, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Published in 2007 by the CDC, the paper was a preview to a pandemic like COVID-19, and it suggested simple interventions like social distancing and keeping kids home from school in order to slow the spread of a disease so that the healthcare system could keep up. […]
Pearce breathed new life into the CDC graphic. Then Harris added an anchor, a single line, that articulated its significance. But it was Dr. Siouxsie Wiles who took the final step: She demonstrated the possibility that everyday people really could make a meaningful difference in slowing the spread of COVID-19. To do this, she transformed the graphic into two futures, each caused by a mentality: ignore it or take precautions. Wiles transformed the graphic into the perfect response to the polarized nature of COVID-19 across social media, in which people were either in full prep mode or far too skeptical that the pandemic was even real.
It’s not the first of its kind, though.
This chart of the 1918 Spanish flu shows why social distancing works – Quartz
The extreme measures—now known as social distancing, which is being called for by global health agencies to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus—kept per capita flu-related deaths in St. Louis to less than half of those in Philadelphia, according to a 2007 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Putting Covid-19 into perspective
Here’s another way of visualising the numbers connected with the coronavirus.
Just how contagious is COVID-19? This chart puts it in perspective – Popular Science
One quantity scientists use to measure how a disease spreads through a population is the “basic reproduction number,” otherwise known as R0 (pronounced “R naught,” or, if you hate pirates, “arr not”). This number tells us how many people, on average, each infected person will in turn infect. While it doesn’t tell us how deadly an epidemic is, R0 is a measure of how infectious a new disease is, and helps guide epidemic control strategies implemented by governments and health organizations.
If R0 is less than 1, the disease will typically die out: Each infected person has a low chance of passing the infection along to even one additional individual. An R0 larger than 1 means each sick person infects at least one other person on average, who then could infect others, until the disease spreads through the population. For instance, a typical seasonal flu strain has an R0 of around 1.2, which means for every five infected people, the disease will spread to six new people on average, who pass it along to others.
Here’s more on that.
What is the coronavirus’s R0 and why does it matter? – Life Hacker
R0 is one of the numbers epidemiologists use to describe how an infectious agent spreads through a population. But it’s important to remember that it’s simply a statistic that describes some of the numbers we see. It’s not a rating of how scary a virus is, nor does it dictate how deadly a disease is or how difficult it might be to contain. We need more information for that.
And another way of comparing such things, from 2014.
Visualised: how Ebola compares to other infectious diseases – The Guardian
Every disease has a basic reproduction number but the numbers are scattered across the literature. We’ve web-crawled and gathered them all here in one graphic, plotting them against the average case fatality rate – the % of infectees who die. This hopefully gives us a data-centric way to understand the most infectious and deadly diseases and contextualise current events.
Time is money
Here’s a simple but effective way of getting across the differences in salaries and incomes from Neal Agarwal.
Visualizing rates from minimum wage to the national deficit.
Another one of his constructions that caught my eye was Who Was Alive? Enter the year you’re interested in, and the page will list dozens of famous figures throughout history, with their ages and portraits. In 1944, for instance, Marilyn Monroe, Fidel Castro and Miles Davis all turned 18. Imagine that party.
Mapping the outbreak
Here’s a new tool, updated daily, to help us visualise the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
[H]eadlines can be hard to interpret. How fast is the virus spreading? Are efforts to control the disease working? How does the situation compare with previous epidemics? This site is updated daily based on the number of confirmed cases reported by the WHO. By looking beyond the daily headlines, we hope it is possible to get a deeper understanding of this unfolding epidemic.
You can overlay the data from previous epidemics, too, as this summary from The Conversation explains.
Coronavirus outbreak: a new mapping tool that lets you scroll through timeline – The Conversation
Comparisons with other recent outbreaks are also revealing. At one end of the spectrum, the 2014 Ebola epidemic can be distinguished by its devastating virulence (killing nearly 40% of the 28,600 people infected) but narrow geographic range (the virus was largely confined to three countries in West Africa). On the other hand, the 2009 swine flu pandemic was far less virulent (with an estimated mortality rate of less than 0.1%), but reached every corner of the globe.
A very useful resource. This is exactly the kind of context our news needs to be providing.
|Cases||Deaths||Countries affected||Case fatality rate|
|2009 H1N1 (swine flu)||60,800,000||18,499||214||0.1%|
Thanks to China’s fast response, are we about to turn the corner?
A ray of hope in the coronavirus curve – The Economist
Trying to forecast the trajectory of a new virus is complex, with scant initial information about how infectious it is. Several scientists made valiant attempts based on early data from China. Some warned that it might not peak until May, but that was before China implemented strict containment measures. The more pessimistic ones now look too gloomy. Cheng-Chih Hsu, a chemist at National Taiwan University, plugged different scenarios into a simple model for estimating the spread of epidemics (the incidence of daily infections typically resemble bell curves, with slightly fatter tails as transmissions peter out). The tally of confirmed cases so far closely fits a seemingly optimistic forecast by Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese respiratory expert, who said on January 28th that transmissions would peak within two weeks.
The end can’t come soon enough.
The coronavirus is the first true social-media “infodemic” – MIT Technology Review
On February 2, the World Health Organization dubbed the new coronavirus “a massive ‘infodemic,’” referring to “an overabundance of information—some accurate and some not—that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.” It’s a distinction that sets the coronavirus apart from previous viral outbreaks. While SARS, MERS, and Zika all caused global panic, fears around the coronavirus have been especially amplified by social media. It has allowed disinformation to spread and flourish at unprecedented speeds, creating an environment of heightened uncertainty that has fueled anxiety and racism in person and online.
I’ve updated the figures in the table above, using data from the tracker. Whilst the numbers of new cases in China is slowing down, they’re increasing everywhere else. And so too is the fatality rate, worryingly.
And still climbing.
Visualising our plastic problem
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has difficulty visualising large numbers. It can make the significance of some news stories hard to grasp, especially environmental ones.
By comparing the number of plastic bottles sold around the world to such things as a rubbish truck, the Eiffel Tower, and even Manhattan, Reuters have published a very effective way of getting across ridiculous statistics like 54,900,000 bottles sold every hour, 1,300,000,000 sold every day, and 481,600,000,000 sold every year. (via Cool Infographics)
Drowning in plastic: Visualising the world’s addiction to plastic bottles – Reuters
Around the world, almost 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute. As the environmental impact of that tide of plastic becomes a growing political issue, major packaged goods sellers and retailers are under pressure to cut the flow of the single-use bottles and containers that are clogging the world’s waterways.
The long and the short of it
From Amelia Wattenberger, a simple but very effective way of visualising an aspect of some famous texts from a variety of classical authors, such as Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Jane Austin.
How do different writers vary their sentence length? See how some authors play with different lengths, while others stick with one.
It’s not all bad news
I think I might not bother keeping up with current affairs for a while, it’s all too ridiculous. Basically, another prime minister, another deal, another vote.
How much of Johnson’s ‘great new deal’ is actually new?
As MPs prepare to vote on Boris Johnson’s EU withdrawal agreement, Guardian analysis shows that less than 5% of the original deal has been renegotiated, despite it being rejected by parliament three times.
Another lost vote.
‘House of fools’: how the papers covered Johnson’s latest Brexit defeat
Newspapers cast prime minister as either a fighter or a loser, with plenty of anger directed at Parliament, too.
This current prime minister seems as prime ministerial as that president is presidential, i.e. not much.
Boris Johnson’s three letters to Brussels: what do they mean for Brexit?
Rather than writing one letter to the European Union, Johnson has sent three – almost. The first is less of a letter: rather an unsigned photocopy of a portion of of the Benn Act. Rather than asking for an extension on behalf of Johnson, the text merely points out that the Benn Act requires the government to seek an extension. After this, it adds that “if the parties are able to ratify before this date, the government proposes that the period should be terminated early”. In what seems a fit of pique, and reinforcing his determination simultaneously to write and refuse to write to Brussels, the prime minister declined to actually sign the missive.
Remember all those flow charts trying to explain how we might leave, back in March and April? Back to the drawing board with all those.
Brexit: What happens now?
It’s not clear that the whole process will be completed by 31 October. The government will seek to pass a “programme motion” to limit the length of debates in the House of Commons. MPs could reject that, though, and the bill must also pass through the House of Lords.
And it’s not just the British press that’s struggling with politics.
Why Australia’s media front pages were blacked out today
Australia’s major media organisations blacked out their newspaper front pages and websites on Monday in a coordinated push for legislative change to protect press freedom and force the government to increase transparency.
According to the organisations – which include SBS, the ABC, Nine, News Corp Australia and The Guardian – a slew of laws introduced over the past 20 years have hindered the media’s capacity to act as the fourth estate and hold the government and other powerful figures to account.
But what we need to remember is, if we step back from all this, it’s not all bad news. We just need to look in the right places.
A collection of good news, positive trends, uplifting statistics and facts — all beautifully visualized by Information is Beautiful.
We’ll be releasing a chart every day for a year to move our attention beyond dramatic news headlines to the slow developments and quiet trends that go unseen, uncelebrated.
Amazing things are happening in the world, thanks to human ingenuity, endeavour and collaboration.
It’s the new initiative from David McCandless and his Information is Beautiful team. Here’s an example.
Everyone, everywhere is living longer
One of the greatest achievements of humanity is the increase in life expectancy. In 1960, the average life span was 52.6 years. Today it’s an impressive 72 years. The reasons are simple: improvements in child survival, expanded access to healthcare (including widespread vaccination), and people being lifted out of extreme, grinding poverty.
More Afghan girls are being educated
Educating girls is probably the single most impactful thing we can do to make the world a better place. Women who spend longer in school have fewer, healthier and better-fed children, are less likely to die in childbirth, contribute more towards a country’s economy, participate more in politics, and are less likely to marry young or against their will.
Just two of dozens of uplifting stories. I know which news website I’d rather read.
I should, of course, have added some links to Hans Rosling’s work after that.
Bill Gates on Factfulness
Bill Gates recently read Hans Rosling’s new book “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.” In it, Hans offers a new framework for how to think about the world.
And here’s Hans in his own words about the need for fact-based optimism.
Good news at last: the world isn’t as horrific as you think
Things are bad, and it feels like they are getting worse, right? War, violence, natural disasters, corruption. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer; and we will soon run out of resources unless something drastic is done. That’s the picture most people in the west see in the media and carry around in their heads.
I call it the overdramatic worldview. It’s stressful and misleading. In fact, the vast majority of the world’s population live somewhere in the middle of the income scale. Perhaps they are not what we think of as middle class, but they are not living in extreme poverty. Their girls go to school, their children get vaccinated. Perhaps not on every single measure, or every single year, but step by step, year by year, the world is improving. In the past two centuries, life expectancy has more than doubled. Although the world faces huge challenges, we have made tremendous progress.
It’s rarely black and white
Taking statistics out of context to push a particular agenda is nothing new. But it’s nice to see a pushback.
Fixing the ‘impeach this’ map with a transition to a cartogram
As discussed previously, the “impeach this” map has some issues. Mainly, it equates land area to votes, which makes for a lot of visual attention to counties that are big even though not many people live in them. So, Karim Douïeb used a clever transition to change the bivariate map to a cartogram. Now you can have a dual view.
We just need more of this kind of thing over here. For instance:
Show this chart to anyone who says Brexit is the ‘will of the British people’
This chart is not an entirely convincing argument against Leave or Remain, but it does illustrate that ‘the 52 per cent’ and ‘the 48 per cent’ actually constitute much smaller proportions of the UK population than the figure might imply.