That Is Not A Bookmark

Loranne's Adventures in Librarying

Remember when “Powers of Ten” was the best thing ever?

I wanted to find a way to share this with you all. It’s very similar to “Powers of Ten” (which those of you who took Information Design with me may remember from Day One of class) in purpose, I think, in that it shows the scale of things on numerous orders of magnitude, and is designed to give the viewer an impression of relative size. However, despite it’s comparatively non-realistic visual style, I find this interactive piece much more compelling and more effective.

Firstly, the animation style simplifies things, and yet is still true-to-life enough to accurately depict its intended subjects. There’s no grass between elements–no background of any kind. I think the strongest argument in favor of this model, however, is the fact that it allows the designer to compare elements that are very distant from each other on the space-time continuum in real life. Where else could you see the Apollo Lunar lander sandwiched between an oak tree and a dinosaur?

Which is bigger? An oak tree or the average US house?

Which is bigger? An oak tree or the average US house?

The biggest success in this interactive info-graphic, by far, is the presence of descriptions for each element. If you click on any one of the illustrations, a brief description of that item appears, in case the viewer is unfamiliar with the thing being represented.

The occasional animated element is a nice surprise, too. The incessant beating of the hummingbird’s wings creates interest, and draws the eye (and viewer) into the center of the pane, and encourages zooming in to investigate. Here is where I discovered what I see as the piece’s biggest weakness. Once we zoom in to about the yoctometer level–that’s 0.000000000000000000000001 meters; about where we find the neutrino–the pane is much less busy than before. There is even a span where we see nothing for a few orders of magnitude until we reach Planck Length and quantum foam. While I was certainly still interested enough to keep going, if only to see what lay at the end, it’s not hard to imagine the viewer getting bored, waiting for there to be something to look at again.

Planck Length is...

Planck Length is…

I find this graphic interactive to be extremely enjoyable to navigate, even to the point that today is probably the fifth time I’ve sought out the link since discovering it through NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day” site on March 12. For me, it is information that behaves like a toy, more than it does an informative text.

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This entry was posted on March 23, 2012 by in hazards and tagged .
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