Heroes

Sometimes there's nothing like a great infographic for showing what data only says.

Making scientific data a visual thing can really drive home a truth. It's amazing how saying something without words can be this powerful.

Sometimes there's nothing like a great infographic for showing what data only says.

Cold, hard numbers are nice for experts. But how can the rest of us understand them?

Visualizations and infographics are everywhere these days — TV, mobile devices, wherever you look. They seem like a very modern, friendly way of getting a science-y point across. But as the Nature video below explains, they actually have a long history that includes some surprises, including a historical name you may recognize.

Remember Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing, the “lady with the lamp"?


She was actually an eminent statistician. Who knew?

Nightingale translated war statistics into something regular folks could understand.

This infographic is her most famous work:

It made its point about the benefits of sanitary practices so eloquently that it changed the way science was done in the 1880s. Even politicians could understand it. (Joke. Well, they could.)

It's easy to understand what it says, once you realize the picture on the right is "before" and the one on the left is “after." The blue area shows preventable diseases that could be controlled by more sanitary practices. “Before" shows the original amount these illnesses, and “after" shows what happened after things got cleaned up. Simple and powerful evidence for her cause.

Another example? The Human Genome Project.

Mapping human and animal genes has involved the collection of a gargantuan amount of data. Infographics to the rescue.

Here's an example. To show the genetic material that a person has in common with a chimp, a dog, a chicken, and a platypus, scientists spun the data into circles that show a human chromosome in the bottom half and any genetic material the animal has in common in the top.

Here, doggie!

Each of the 22 chromosomes has its own colored circle, and there are also circles for the male and female X and Y chromosomes. These circles are used all the time in scientific literature because they make it so easy for scientists to see what they've got.

And check out this more hypnotic, lovely way to show ocean currents.

This beautiful animation of ocean-current data collected by satellites and buoys speaks for itself. This isn't made-up movement. It shows what the data actually says. Wow.

Turning data into animations — OK, cartoons — like this doesn't make light of it.

It just lets more people in on the wonder of discovery.

And now, the video:

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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Biden asked who Hixon's parents were as the clip begins, and is directed to his right. Hixon's wife introduces herself, and Biden says, "God love you." As he starts to walk away, a voice off-camera says something and Biden immediately turns around. The voice came from Hixon's son, Corey, and the moments that followed are what have people feeling all their feelings.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

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Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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