When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

12 May 2006

New Scientist: Change the way you see the world

From the latest issue of New Scientist magazine (subscription required) comes an article entitled "Change the way you see the world" (and it will):

We love our maps. At first glance, people are shocked by them: the shapes look familiar, yet everything is absurdly distorted. Without even thinking, they have learned something about the world they live in.

Most of our data comes from sources such as United Nations reports and is often tucked away in appendices. No one wants to look at those figures, and it would be hard to provoke any excitement by confronting someone with spreadsheets filled with numbers. But you just can't help looking at these pictures. After all, a new view of the world, rather like the famous Earthrise photo taken by Apollo astronauts, is a compelling sight.

The maps referred to here are produced by the statisticians and cartographers at Worldmapper.org, and they use a simple but powerfully effective method to convey information: they shrink or swell portions of the world map to indicate the magnitude of the statistics being shown.

Here's a pair of maps that speak volumes:

patents granted per year
Patents granted per year

children 10-14 in the workforce
Children aged 10-14 in the workforce

New Scientist: Change the way you see the world (subscription required)

If you don't subscribe to New Scientist--and you should; it's a very readable weekly that wipes the floor with every other magazine that even attempts to communicate with a lay audience--you can go directly to Worldmapper.org and groove on the mappage therein.

Related: Worldmapper.org

Hat Tip: BLDG BLOG via Althouse

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