Mike Dickison

Beach Mouse Pelt Map - Pictures of Numbers

Feb 06, 2013

UC San Diego biologist Hopi Hoekstra and her co-authors found that differences between the light-colored beach mice of Florida and their darker cousins can be traced to a mutation in just one gene—at least, it can for the beach mice in Western Florida. Eastern beach mice seem to have evolved their colour some other way. She produced this very nice graphic mapping coat colour and the frequency of light and dark alleles. Her colleague Bill Lynn drew the mouse pelts in Photoshop. Doesn’t this lay out their argument well? You can read the story they’re telling right off the graphic, even without the surrounding text. I couldn’t resist making a few changes, of course, because I’m fussy: Fading back the thick black coastline and the black pointers, so the data stood out better Choosing colours for the mouse … Read More

A Tufte Library - Pictures of Numbers

Feb 01, 2013

To me, the most important books on presenting data graphics are by Edward Tufte. People who create charts as part of their job should keep one or more of them close by, and regularly reread them. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd ed. Edward R. Tufte Graphics Press, 2001 (orig. 1983) • ISBN: 0961392142 This is the most essential Tufte book, published 30 years ago but so far ahead of its time it looks absolutely contemporary. (Compare it with some of the other data graphics books from the mid-1980s and you’ll see). Tufte here introduces his recurring themes: maximizing the data–ink ratio, stripping away unnecessary furniture and “chartjunk”, showing all the data, and greying out what’s less important. There’s elegant discussions of how readers perceive changes in area, why we shouldn’t think of … Read More

Welcome to Pictures of Numbers - Pictures of Numbers

Feb 01, 2013

I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to write about scientific data presentation here at New Zealand Sciblogs—I hope these weekly posts will be as useful for you as your comments and feedback will be for me. What is Pictures of Numbers? I’m interested in the practicalities of visually communicating scientific data. Years of academic training favours people who are good with words and numbers, until verbal and math skills become the default means of solving problems. But pictures, and visual thinking in general, can be powerful tools both for doing science and, especially, for communicating it. There used to be whole professions of artists, designers, and publishers who worked alongside researchers translating numbers into pictures, but scientists are increasingly having to do this (along with everything else) themselves. To help with this I have a website, also called … Read More