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SA Visual


Illustrating science since 1845
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    The world of science visuals has become a large and varied place. In this blog we call out great art and design from our hallowed pages and elsewhere.

    The SA Visual writers:
    Michael Mrak, Jen Christiansen, Monica Bradley, Jason Mischka, Ryan Reid, Jason Arias, Liz Tormes and Bernard Lee.
  • Visualizing 4-Dimensional Asteroids

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    Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Jake VanderPlas, a data scientist who worked on the Graphic Science illustration in the October issue of Scientific American magazine. One of the largest treasure troves of astronomical data comes from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), an ongoing scan of the firmament that began 15 [...]

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    Art and Science of the Moiré

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    I’m a bit obsessed with Scientific American covers, but my knowledge of the archive during the years before my time on staff is broad rather than deep. Artist Philippe Decrauzat, on the other hand, has developed an intense connection with a very specific cover image: May 1963. It was the inspiration point for his series [...]

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    A Monkey’s Blueprint

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    Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Martin Krzywinski, a contributing artist who designed the Graphic Science illustration in the September issue of Scientific American magazine. For a graphic in the September 2014 issue of Scientific American, the editors challenged me to visually support the statement that we’re more like chimps and bonobos [...]

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    Beyond Classic Brain Illustrations That Make Us Drool

    From The Anatomy of the Brain Explained in a Series of Engravings, by Sir Charles Bell, 1802 (Courtesy of Wellcome Library, London)

    I threw down a bit of a challenge last month at the Association of Medical Illustrators Conference in Minnesota. But first, I had to—somewhat unexpectedly—accept some challenges presented by others. And face the reality that some of us simply do not have the constitution of an anatomist. I love classic anatomical illustrations such as the [...]

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    A Look under the Hood of Online Data Visualization

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    Andy Kirk (of Visualising Data) recently published a clever image-driven post in which he uses automobiles to make a series of points about the practice of data visualization. Interestingly, cars also came to my mind when reflecting upon a data visualization gathering held a few weeks ago. OpenVis Conference is an annual event (now in [...]

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    On Climate Surveys, the People Agree—Mostly [Interactive]

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    It’s interesting to see how different points can pique the interest of different people looking at the same data set. My colleague Mark Fischetti (senior editor and partner-in-crime for many of the Graphic Science items in the magazine) was intrigued by bipartisan agreement on questions related to global warming in the survey results shown in [...]

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    How Do You Visualize the Brain? [Contest]

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    Here at Scientific American, we develop lots of infographics about the brain. From classic neural pathway diagrams, depictions of medical breakthroughs, and maps of the brain’s genetic activity, there are as many solutions for visualizing the brain as there are questions about how it works. Now it’s your turn. MIT’s EyeWire, FEI and Visually are [...]

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    Scientific American Graphics Win 2 Medals at Malofiej

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    The 22nd annual Malofiej International Infographics Summit (hosted in Pamplona, Spain by the Spanish chapter of the Society for News Design) concluded today with award announcements. I’m thrilled to report that Scientific American won a silver medal in the online category for Jan Willem Tulp’s flavor connection interactive, and a bronze medal in the print [...]

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    Evolution of the Scientific American Logo

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    Scientific American’s logotype has undergone subtle shifts, large leaps and occasional bouts of nostalgia. The image series below outlines the history of the publication’s identity, starting with its debut in August 1845 as weekly devoted primarily to inventions. For more on the history of the magazine, check out this graphic to see how cover topics [...]

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    Don’t Just Visualize Data—Visceralize It

    Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew (December 7, 1972). Image courtesy of NASA Johnson Space Center

    The title of this post borrows from ideas presented by Sha Hwang at the Visualized conference in New York City several weeks ago: He kicked off the data-visualization event with a talk that—in effect—challenged the audience to take a step back. Way back. And then to look again, with fresh unblinking eyes. What does a [...]

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