Empty Mass

Posted by – December 7, 2015

For your Monday morning commute, I repost the Washington DC Metro System Map, re-labelled with anagrams. My daily commute on the No Rage Line from Faux Van Magnifier to Hemp Scorn Sq. will never be the same:
Kudos to CharonX, via Reddit

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Planning for Space Weather

Posted by – November 15, 2015

Capping off a year-long interagency collaboration, the White House has released the National Space Weather Action Plan to improve national resilience to the potentially devastating effects of major solar flares.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center provides a useful summary of current conditions and predictions, including a series of dashboards summarizing information targeted at specific user communities, such as Emergency Managers.

Thanks to AGU for the tip!


World’s Most Accurate Pie Chart

Posted by – September 1, 2015

I am not a fan of pie charts, which to me add no understanding, but this is one that works:
Via I F**king Love Science, with thanks to Ed for the tip!

Unleashing Climate Data

Posted by – June 25, 2015

Freight tonnage by various modes of transportation, 2007

On June 17, the White House released over 90 data sets to help the transportation sector account for the impacts of climate change when examining and developing U.S. infrastructure. These include case studies, visualizations, tools and a compilation of key reports and websites from across the Federal government. One very well done example is above, a map of tonnage shipped by various modes of transportation, where the thickness of the lines varies by tonnage. Interesting to see how important the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers are for transport, and how much oil apparently is shipped via the Kinder Morgan Express from South Dakota to pipelines in Missouri and Illinois.

Thanks to AAAS for the tip!


Emergency App

Posted by – May 17, 2015

The American Red Cross has released a smartphone app that helps you check on family and friends during emergencies, appropriately called Emergency:

The app is easy to use and has options for monitoring hazards in your area and for pinging loved ones that may be in the vicinity of an emergency. Load it on your kids’ phones so you can quickly check on them, too. Available for free download (Android or iOS) – ahora disponible en español también!



Posted by – May 4, 2015

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has his own Twitter stream, @CraigatFEMA, and often tweets useful information on disasters, conferences, and policies. One of his most recent was to highlight a map of the potential for wildland fires across the US:
Map of fire potential for U.S.

Visualizing Hurricane Track Uncertainty

Posted by – April 19, 2015

The National Hurricane Center has steadily improved hurricane models over the past 25 years, as shown in this animation of uncertainties in the 48-hour predicted location of a hurricane’s center (mp4 video):
NHC 48 hr forecast uncertainty

NHC is also prototyping
storm surge mapping tools and conducting in-house (non-public) experiments with extending tropical cyclone track and intensity forecasts to seven days from the current five-day period; creating track and intensity forecasts for disturbances with a high chance of formation; and issuing tropical cyclone watches and warnings before cyclones form.


P.S. Although I like seeing how uncertainty declines with time, I don’t think the animation adds much to this over the simple contours labelled by year.

Virtual Trek

Posted by – March 14, 2015

This week Google announced it had collaborated with accomplished Nepalese mountaineer Apa Sherpa to create a virtual trek through Nepal using Google Map’s Streetview. Apa Sherpa, who has summited Mt. Everest 20 times, spent 10 days with Google last year to capture the images, which are now available on Google Maps. The effect is stunning, allowing you to virtually hike through valleys and towns near Mt. Everest, such as Thame, Khumjung and Phortse.

And for those of you hoping for a virtual tour of that other Trek, you might try here or here.


For Some, the Tribe is More Important Than the Truth

Posted by – February 22, 2015

There are large differences between how scientists and the public perceive evolution, climate change, vaccination, and more. I have usually attributed this to scientists’ failure to communicate as much as the public’s misunderstanding, but Joel Achenbach’s recent WaPo editorial suggests the real reason is that people tend to choose positions that best align with their social group, regardless of scientific evidence. Achenbach cites a research paper by Dan Kahan, whose abstract states:

Seeming public apathy over climate change is often attributed to a deficit in comprehension. The public knows too little science, it is claimed, to understand the evidence or avoid being misled. Widespread limits on technical reasoning aggravate the problem by forcing citizens to use unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk. An empirical study found no support for this position. Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest. This result suggests that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest: between the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties and the collective one they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare.

Or, as former USGS head and current editor of the journal Science, Marcia McNutt, put it, it’s as if:

We’ve never left high school. People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science.

This suggests that, in addition to stating the evidence, scientists might also try pointing out how fellow group members accept the conclusions of scientific research – e.g., noting that Pope Francis has no problem with evolution.


Bitter Christmas

Posted by – December 20, 2014

The HappyPlace blog at eCards provides the Christmas Graphic for 2014:

Just Who is This Guy?

And remember: always leave cookies out for the stoned burgler; the crumbs provide DNA evidence. Want more? Well, here are xAnalytica’s Christmas Graphics from previous years:

Happy Holidays!