Posts Tagged ‘infographics’
It’s tempting to consider information visualization a relatively new field that rose in response to the demands of the Internet generation. “But,” argues Manual Lima in The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge, “as with any domain of knowledge, visualizing is built on a prolonged succession of efforts and events.”
While it’s tempting to look at the recent work, it’s critical we understand the long history. Lima’s stunning book helps, covering the fascinating 800-year history of the seemingly simple tree diagram.
Trees are some of the oldest living things in the world. The sequoias in Northern California, for example, can reach a height of nearly 400 feet, with a trunk diameter of 26 feet and live to more than 3,500 years. “These grandiose, mesmerizing lifeforms are a remarkable example of longevity and stability and, ultimately, are the crowning embodiment of the powerful qualities humans have always associated with trees.”
Such an important part of natural life on earth, tree metaphors have become deeply embedded in the English language, as in the “root” of the problem or “branches” of knowledge. In the Renaissance, the philosophers Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes, for example, used tree diagrams to describe dense classification arrangements. As we shall see, trees really became popular as a method of communicating and changing minds with Charles Darwin…
More on the highly-recommended Farnum Street blog.
* Rodney Dangerfield
As we look to our roots, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that Capitol Records released what it claimed to be (and what surely was) the shortest “song” ever recorded. Earlier in the year, Les Paul and Mary Ford has released a single, “Magic Melody,” that concluded with the well-known “shave and a hair cut” musical phrase– sans the traditional “two bits” sting. Disc jockeys around the country complained that the track ended too abruptly, that it left the listener hanging. So Les Paul went back into the studio to record “Magic Melody- Part 2″– which consisted solely of the two “missing” notes. It ran for about one second.
From Google Maps, an altogether-engrossing geographical trivia game: Smarty Pins.
* Terry Pratchett
As we find our bearings, we might spare a thought for Florence Nightingale; she died on this date in 1910. Famed for her work as a nurse in the Crimean War, she went on to found training facilities and nursing homes– pioneering both medical training for women and what is now known as Social Entrepreneuring. Less well-known are Nightingale’s contributions to epidemiology, statistics, and the visual communication of data in the field of public health. Always good at math, she pioneered the use of the polar area chart (the equivalent to a modern circular histogram or rose diagram) and popularized the pie chart (which had been developed in 1801 by William Playfair).
In 1813, Isaac Eddy and James Wilson created a “Chronology Delineated,” a history from 4000 BC to 1813 AD in the form of a large, living tree on which each branch representing an empire or state.
* Percy Bysshe Shelley
As we get down with Gibbon, we might note that this, the first day of July, kicks off National Blueberry Month, National Cell Phone Courtesy Month, National Hot Dog Month, National Ice Cream Month– and perhaps most saliently, National Anti-Boredom Month.
* George William Russell (AE)
As we bird-dog Beatrice, we might send sardonic birthday greetings to Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce; he was born on this date in 1842. A journalist, editor, short story writer, fabulist, and satirist, Bierce is probably best remembered for his short-story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (which Kurt Vonnegut considered the greatest American short story, a “work of flawless genius”) and, pace Dante, for his scathingly satirical lexicon The Devil’s Dictionary…
- Advice, n. The smallest current coin…
- Boundary, n. In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other…
- Year, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments…
Danish duo Mikael Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler create visuals depicting the everyday struggles, irritations, and insights of their fellow Westerners. Their official-looking graphs illuminate the unofficial statistics of our daily lives, offering insights that are at once unexpected and glaringly obvious.
They publish their work every day on Wumo, their webcomic and newspaper cartoon strip (formerly known as Wulffmorgenthaler); they’re archived at Kind of Normal.
* Friedrich Nietzsche
As we exult in explication, we might send consoling birthday greetings to Rufus Porter; he was born on this date in 1792. A visionary and prolific inventor, Porter had painfully little business sense. He held over 100 patents, including a fire alarm, a signal telegraph, a fog whistle, a washing machine, and a revolving firearm… He sold his patent for the lattermost to Samuel Colt for $100 in 1844. With those proceeds, Porter published the first issue of Scientific American (on August 28, 1845)– but sold that business 10 months later.
How meta is this?! An infographic on infographics…
* When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
As we ponder pictograms, we might spare a grateful thought for the man who wrote the book on perspective, Leon Battista Alberti; he died on this date in 1472. The archetypical Renaissance humanist polymath, Alberti was an author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, cartographer, and cryptographer. He collaborated with Toscanelli on the maps used by Columbus on his first voyage, and he published the the first book on cryptography that contained a frequency table.
But he is surely best remembered as the author of the first general treatise– Della Pictura (1434)– on the the laws of perspective, which built on and extended Brunelleschi’s work to describe the approach and technique that established the science of projective geometry… and fueled the progress of painting, sculpture, and architecture from the Greek- and Arabic-influenced formalism of the High Middle Ages to the more naturalistic (and Latinate) styles of Renaissance.
* Carl Sagan
As we ponder Pluto’s planethood, we might recall that it was on this date in 1965 that the Soviet space program stunned the world, as it had with the first satellite (Sputnik) and the first man in space (Yuri Gagarin), when cosmonaut Alexey Leonov performed the first spacewalk (and the first EVA) from the Voskhod 2 spacecraft; Leonov was outside his spacecraft for 12 minutes.