Visualizing the Center of the Earth

18 Dec 2005|Terri Ducay

While scanning a Slashdot New Technology online news listing, I found a story entitled Journey Towards the Center of the Earth. Visions of Jules Verne popped into my head. It turns out that there is a Japanese-led deep-sea drilling project to begin in 2007 called Chikyu, which means ‘Earth’ in Japanese.

Chikyu the project is an attempt to collect the first samples of the Earth’s mantle. It seeks clues on primitive organisms and will use information gathered to help detect earthquakes.

If the story was not interesting enough, what surprised me for a scientific/academic article was the simple yet informative way the article explained the mechanics of the drilling vessel. A PDF containing the story used visualization to communicate complex information in a user-friendly way.

I am confident that if this same information was presented in a narrative format it would have made it harder to understand and taken much more time to read it. In my case, I did not have the time, so I would not have read it.

What the authors understood was:

1. Use of an appropriate graphic style. In this case the use of simple graphics is powerful as it allows information to be conveyed clearly. No need for fancy colors, graphics, etc. that could have been distracting.

2. Keep the story simple. The story was edited to tell only a few compelling facts. It did not try to tell everything to everyone.

This presentation showed the power of visualization by understanding that sometimes the best way to communicate is to keep it simple.

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