More Communicating Science Through Context: Visualizations


This recent blog post by Rhett Allain from WIRED demonstrates the power of illustration when putting science into context for the lay audience.  Here, Allain is illustrating how big one mole of sodium chloride would be, as a tribute to “Mole Day” coming up on, of course, 10/23…

How big one mole of salt would be. Image credit: Rhett Allain/WIRED

It’s especially powerful, if you live in Florida. Another good example is from Gary Robbins and Cindy O’Dell, which appeared in the Orange County Register.  Here, it’s a visualization of the tallest building in the world — compared to local weather in Southern California. That’s a stroke of genius, I have to say, incorporating both visual context and hyperlocal context:

The Burj Khalifa (Burj Dubai) tower compared to the altitude of Southern California marine layer and coastal haze. Image credit: Cindy O’Dell/The Register

And finally, here’s one for more recent events. This web tool superimposes the estimated size of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill over a Google Map of your home state:  http://www.ifitweremyhome.com/disasters/bp

(NOTE: The script on the page is not working at the moment, so I can’t take a decent screenshot. I should also disclaim that I cannot vouch for the validity of the size of the spill as depicted — I am only highlighting the merit of the visualization method, not the data used.)

Just some ideas to consider when explaining your particular topic of research!  It pays to learn the basics of Photoshop or a similar graphic design software.

(h/t to @BoraZ for the link to the WIRED piece. I need to h/t someone as well for the Gulf Oil site, but can’t remember who tweeted it…)

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7 thoughts on “More Communicating Science Through Context: Visualizations

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  2. The Gulf Map was all over the blogs, Twitter and Facebook a couple of months ago, no idea who got it started, so no need to h/t anyone – it was viral enough to be considered “common”.

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