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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

SHOW, not tell; Bird and Dinosaur chromosomes; and To(o) funny

         SHOW, not tell; Bird and Dinosaur chromosomes; and To(o) funny

    NPR's Science Friday discusses the art of displaying data in a user friendly and fascinating way in the article "Show, not Tell." The "infographic age" is here.


     Above, New York's carbon emissions are shown in real time. Clear, dramatic, understandable: data you can sweep right up ;-). 

     And 85 dog breeds are shown below based on four categories of herder, hunter, mastiff-like or wolf-like. Showing large amounts of data in a way that is quickly understandable has moved leaps and bounds from bar graph and pie chart days.

      On Fridays I leave the fascinating world of oil and gas and environmental geology for a few hours to work with 14 brilliant kindergarteners doing hands-on science. We made giant dinosaur nests and edible coconut bird nests and talked about clades. We made our own infographics last week showing bird and dinosaurs differing by a chromosome (simplified but effective as the kids ran around on the playground after looking at the chromosome bracelets saying "You're a bird!" or "You're a dinosaur!")

      If a had a really good infographic person I'd make these data into a fascinating SHOW:

 Organism                                   Number of Chromosomes

  Adder's Tongue (plant)                                   1260              
  Dogs                                                               78               
  Cats                                                                38               
  Birds                                                               78 - 80              
  Humans                                                           46               

    ...And tell you that none of the kids were at all concerned that the plant has so many chromosomes and that, (whew!) no one asked HOW the mom gives the X chromosome to her kid or the dad gives the X or Y to his kid.

       The kids in kindergarten don't do show and tell any more. They just DO.

       And finally, I believe I will need to sign off now. I am on a quest to find funny:

As always (4 whole weeks!), I enjoy hearing from you.

On the Quest,

Word Woman (aka Scientific Steph)


  1. Here's an interesting chart:

    I notice the tiny mammalian footprint (which shares an endpoint with the reptilian); birds and mammals occupy distinct ranges; worms 'pick up' where algae 'leave off'; all kinds of things.

    Oh well, life goes on:

    1. Thanks for both the graphic and the reminder that life goes on, Ricky, er, Paul. I enjoyed both. . .

  2. You can't have a page on infographics without a link to a Hans Rosling presentation. He's done 9 TED talks; here's one:

    1. Quite amazing, Jan. Thanks for the heads up on Hans Rosling.

    2. Check out this infographic by Reuben Fischer-Baum:

  3. That graphic about CO2 emissions in NYC is a little disingenuous. Those blue-grey balls are supposed to represent the volume of carbon dioxide GAS, not the solid carbon granules they misleadingly resemble. And, despite the honking taxi sound effects and graphics, the text admits that most CO2 emissions are from buildings, not vehicles.