nature graphics



THE LONG VIEW
Background. This week we published a paper that maps our home supercluster of galaxies, named Laniakea (from the Hawaiian words lani, meaning heaven, and akea, meaning spacious or immeasurable). The paper essentially describes a new way to define where one supercluster ends and another begins, and maps our home supercluster.
 (For an excellent animated explanation, see this fab video.)
Design challenge. We decided this would make an excellent cover, based on their extended data Fig 3 (second image). There are several key elements to the figure: the rainbow colour scale indicates density (with high density regions in green and red, and low density in blue); velocity flow streams are indicated by the blue and white lines; and the orange band indicates the border of the Laniakea supercluster.
While these visual elements combine to make a very informative figure, I felt that we should create something fresh for the cover that would appeal to a wider audience. Working closely with authors Brent Tully and Daniel Pomarede, we requested a few modifications from which we could build a striking artist conception based on their data.
We initially requested an image from Pomarede that shifted the rainbow density scale to a single dark gradient (bottom image), to more clearly put the scene in space. We took that information and gave it to artist Mark A. Garlick, who polished the image and changed the Laniakea velocity flow streams to a warm glowing colour that would be instantly recognised as light from the many galaxies in the cluster. We also removed the orange line that indicated the Laniakea border and replaced it with a more subtle approach, giving the supercluster a clear shape and with a visible border but in a layered, translucent style.
And finally, we decided to locate ourselves on the map with some fun language (‘you are here’) to draw readers in and inspire a bit of awe.
-Kelly Krause 

THE LONG VIEW
Background. This week we published a paper that maps our home supercluster of galaxies, named Laniakea (from the Hawaiian words lani, meaning heaven, and akea, meaning spacious or immeasurable). The paper essentially describes a new way to define where one supercluster ends and another begins, and maps our home supercluster.
 (For an excellent animated explanation, see this fab video.)
Design challenge. We decided this would make an excellent cover, based on their extended data Fig 3 (second image). There are several key elements to the figure: the rainbow colour scale indicates density (with high density regions in green and red, and low density in blue); velocity flow streams are indicated by the blue and white lines; and the orange band indicates the border of the Laniakea supercluster.
While these visual elements combine to make a very informative figure, I felt that we should create something fresh for the cover that would appeal to a wider audience. Working closely with authors Brent Tully and Daniel Pomarede, we requested a few modifications from which we could build a striking artist conception based on their data.
We initially requested an image from Pomarede that shifted the rainbow density scale to a single dark gradient (bottom image), to more clearly put the scene in space. We took that information and gave it to artist Mark A. Garlick, who polished the image and changed the Laniakea velocity flow streams to a warm glowing colour that would be instantly recognised as light from the many galaxies in the cluster. We also removed the orange line that indicated the Laniakea border and replaced it with a more subtle approach, giving the supercluster a clear shape and with a visible border but in a layered, translucent style.
And finally, we decided to locate ourselves on the map with some fun language (‘you are here’) to draw readers in and inspire a bit of awe.
-Kelly Krause 

THE LONG VIEW
Background. This week we published a paper that maps our home supercluster of galaxies, named Laniakea (from the Hawaiian words lani, meaning heaven, and akea, meaning spacious or immeasurable). The paper essentially describes a new way to define where one supercluster ends and another begins, and maps our home supercluster.
 (For an excellent animated explanation, see this fab video.)
Design challenge. We decided this would make an excellent cover, based on their extended data Fig 3 (second image). There are several key elements to the figure: the rainbow colour scale indicates density (with high density regions in green and red, and low density in blue); velocity flow streams are indicated by the blue and white lines; and the orange band indicates the border of the Laniakea supercluster.
While these visual elements combine to make a very informative figure, I felt that we should create something fresh for the cover that would appeal to a wider audience. Working closely with authors Brent Tully and Daniel Pomarede, we requested a few modifications from which we could build a striking artist conception based on their data.
We initially requested an image from Pomarede that shifted the rainbow density scale to a single dark gradient (bottom image), to more clearly put the scene in space. We took that information and gave it to artist Mark A. Garlick, who polished the image and changed the Laniakea velocity flow streams to a warm glowing colour that would be instantly recognised as light from the many galaxies in the cluster. We also removed the orange line that indicated the Laniakea border and replaced it with a more subtle approach, giving the supercluster a clear shape and with a visible border but in a layered, translucent style.
And finally, we decided to locate ourselves on the map with some fun language (‘you are here’) to draw readers in and inspire a bit of awe.
-Kelly Krause

THE LONG VIEW

Background. This week we published a paper that maps our home supercluster of galaxies, named Laniakea (from the Hawaiian words lani, meaning heaven, and akea, meaning spacious or immeasurable). The paper essentially describes a new way to define where one supercluster ends and another begins, and maps our home supercluster.

 (For an excellent animated explanation, see this fab video.)

Design challenge. We decided this would make an excellent cover, based on their extended data Fig 3 (second image). There are several key elements to the figure: the rainbow colour scale indicates density (with high density regions in green and red, and low density in blue); velocity flow streams are indicated by the blue and white lines; and the orange band indicates the border of the Laniakea supercluster.

While these visual elements combine to make a very informative figure, I felt that we should create something fresh for the cover that would appeal to a wider audience. Working closely with authors Brent Tully and Daniel Pomarede, we requested a few modifications from which we could build a striking artist conception based on their data.

We initially requested an image from Pomarede that shifted the rainbow density scale to a single dark gradient (bottom image), to more clearly put the scene in space. We took that information and gave it to artist Mark A. Garlick, who polished the image and changed the Laniakea velocity flow streams to a warm glowing colour that would be instantly recognised as light from the many galaxies in the cluster. We also removed the orange line that indicated the Laniakea border and replaced it with a more subtle approach, giving the supercluster a clear shape and with a visible border but in a layered, translucent style.

And finally, we decided to locate ourselves on the map with some fun language (‘you are here’) to draw readers in and inspire a bit of awe.

-Kelly Krause

IN THE LOOP
Background: This week we published a paper on neural constraints on learning. The research explores how adaptable the brain is during learning and finds that some new neural activity patterns are easier to generate than others — corresponding to more easily learned tasks — and that these can be predicted at the start of the experiment.
This finding could form a basis for a neural explanation for the balance between adaptability and persistence in action and thought.
Design challenge: The cover is obviously a highly conceptual, artistic interpretation of the research. As with most creative endeavors, the final image is the result of many stages of ideas and iteration.
It all started with a fantastic idea from author Aaron Batista, who saw the work of Escher as a good visual metaphor for his work. This from Batista:
 “Escher’s art involves covering space (his tessellations) and playing with dimensionality. His themes resonate with our work. We tile a mathematical space with distinct patterns of neural population activity, and we define two spaces of neural activity, which appear identical, yet one is unreachable from the other. Our idea for this illustration would be a tessellation at the bottom of the page. The design elements which tessellate might be a cortical hemisphere and a 3D geometrical space with a 2D plane within it. Then, out of the tessellation would emerge an impossible staircase - that is, one of those that keeps going up but ends up where it started. This conveys the idea of a self-contained manifold. Above it, upside-down, is a second staircase that looks the same as the first, but is clearly not reachable from it. It’s perhaps hard to make out all that in the second attached illustration, but we think the idea might have some promise.”
(See original sketch, second image, from Amanda Crossen and Jordan Bush in CMU’s art department, as a result of a brainstorm with Batista and co-authors Patrick Sadtler and Byron Yu.)
From us to Monument Valley, with love. I was taken with the idea, and after some conversation around the office we decided to build on the idea of creating an Escher themed world by making an image inspired by the new hit game Monument Valley. We pitched this idea to Batista and team and they embraced that direction, as Batista had actually been playing Monument Valley when the Escher idea occurred to him in the first place!
We then gave the brief to Jasiek Krzysztofiak in the Nature art team, who created this memorable and transporting cover art. It shows two people on different planes, to convey the idea of ‘neural manifolds beyond reach’. The purple platform corresponds to the manifold that is visited as the monkey from the study explores neural activity space. (It appears like the others, but it’s the only that that is reachable, thus the stairs). As a finishing touch, Jasiek created some gorgeous breezy neurons to firmly set the scene in the brain.
 -Kelly Krause IN THE LOOP
Background: This week we published a paper on neural constraints on learning. The research explores how adaptable the brain is during learning and finds that some new neural activity patterns are easier to generate than others — corresponding to more easily learned tasks — and that these can be predicted at the start of the experiment.
This finding could form a basis for a neural explanation for the balance between adaptability and persistence in action and thought.
Design challenge: The cover is obviously a highly conceptual, artistic interpretation of the research. As with most creative endeavors, the final image is the result of many stages of ideas and iteration.
It all started with a fantastic idea from author Aaron Batista, who saw the work of Escher as a good visual metaphor for his work. This from Batista:
 “Escher’s art involves covering space (his tessellations) and playing with dimensionality. His themes resonate with our work. We tile a mathematical space with distinct patterns of neural population activity, and we define two spaces of neural activity, which appear identical, yet one is unreachable from the other. Our idea for this illustration would be a tessellation at the bottom of the page. The design elements which tessellate might be a cortical hemisphere and a 3D geometrical space with a 2D plane within it. Then, out of the tessellation would emerge an impossible staircase - that is, one of those that keeps going up but ends up where it started. This conveys the idea of a self-contained manifold. Above it, upside-down, is a second staircase that looks the same as the first, but is clearly not reachable from it. It’s perhaps hard to make out all that in the second attached illustration, but we think the idea might have some promise.”
(See original sketch, second image, from Amanda Crossen and Jordan Bush in CMU’s art department, as a result of a brainstorm with Batista and co-authors Patrick Sadtler and Byron Yu.)
From us to Monument Valley, with love. I was taken with the idea, and after some conversation around the office we decided to build on the idea of creating an Escher themed world by making an image inspired by the new hit game Monument Valley. We pitched this idea to Batista and team and they embraced that direction, as Batista had actually been playing Monument Valley when the Escher idea occurred to him in the first place!
We then gave the brief to Jasiek Krzysztofiak in the Nature art team, who created this memorable and transporting cover art. It shows two people on different planes, to convey the idea of ‘neural manifolds beyond reach’. The purple platform corresponds to the manifold that is visited as the monkey from the study explores neural activity space. (It appears like the others, but it’s the only that that is reachable, thus the stairs). As a finishing touch, Jasiek created some gorgeous breezy neurons to firmly set the scene in the brain.
 -Kelly Krause

IN THE LOOP

Background: This week we published a paper on neural constraints on learning. The research explores how adaptable the brain is during learning and finds that some new neural activity patterns are easier to generate than others — corresponding to more easily learned tasks — and that these can be predicted at the start of the experiment.

This finding could form a basis for a neural explanation for the balance between adaptability and persistence in action and thought.

Design challenge: The cover is obviously a highly conceptual, artistic interpretation of the research. As with most creative endeavors, the final image is the result of many stages of ideas and iteration.

It all started with a fantastic idea from author Aaron Batista, who saw the work of Escher as a good visual metaphor for his work. This from Batista:

 “Escher’s art involves covering space (his tessellations) and playing with dimensionality. His themes resonate with our work. We tile a mathematical space with distinct patterns of neural population activity, and we define two spaces of neural activity, which appear identical, yet one is unreachable from the other. Our idea for this illustration would be a tessellation at the bottom of the page. The design elements which tessellate might be a cortical hemisphere and a 3D geometrical space with a 2D plane within it. Then, out of the tessellation would emerge an impossible staircase - that is, one of those that keeps going up but ends up where it started. This conveys the idea of a self-contained manifold. Above it, upside-down, is a second staircase that looks the same as the first, but is clearly not reachable from it. It’s perhaps hard to make out all that in the second attached illustration, but we think the idea might have some promise.”

(See original sketch, second image, from Amanda Crossen and Jordan Bush in CMU’s art department, as a result of a brainstorm with Batista and co-authors Patrick Sadtler and Byron Yu.)

From us to Monument Valley, with love. I was taken with the idea, and after some conversation around the office we decided to build on the idea of creating an Escher themed world by making an image inspired by the new hit game Monument Valley. We pitched this idea to Batista and team and they embraced that direction, as Batista had actually been playing Monument Valley when the Escher idea occurred to him in the first place!

We then gave the brief to Jasiek Krzysztofiak in the Nature art team, who created this memorable and transporting cover art. It shows two people on different planes, to convey the idea of ‘neural manifolds beyond reach’. The purple platform corresponds to the manifold that is visited as the monkey from the study explores neural activity space. (It appears like the others, but it’s the only that that is reachable, thus the stairs). As a finishing touch, Jasiek created some gorgeous breezy neurons to firmly set the scene in the brain.

 -Kelly Krause

A rose by any other name

Background: Intrepid Nature reporter Richard Van Noorden recently conducted a survey of 3,600 scientists and academics to learn more about how they make use of social networks in their professional lives.

Once all the results were in the Nature art dept. worked with Richard to present the most interesting discoveries.

Design challenge: If a survey respondent identified as a regular user of a social network they were given more focused questions about their activities on this network. Richard was excited to see the differences in activity between networks and began by plotting this information on radar diagrams in Excel.

image

As you might expect the diagrams showed that respondents did not use Facebook professionally and logged in to LinkedIn to discover jobs.

However the most interesting finding was that respondents appeared to maintain their profiles on Academia.edu, ResearchGate and Mendeley in case someone tried to contact them, rather than to actively post content or follow discussions.

This was contrary to the marketing claims made by these sites so we decided that these radar diagrams could form the basis of an interactive graphic.

First we tried layering six semi transparent rose charts, representing each of the six most popular networks on top of each other. Readers would then be able to add and subtract networks by clicking on the checkboxes below. Unfortunately people didn’t understand the transparency and assumed that the mixed tones represented additional categories.

image

Next we tried reordering each individual segment so that they were stacked in descending order. Our reasoning was that the smallest value would always be visible on top and there would be no need for the confusing transparency. Sadly it was now unclear if the segments were cumulative or layered and the resulting graphic was even more confusing.

image

We then hit upon what would be the final layout. By showing only one network at a time and allowing readers to transition between them with the checkboxes we achieved our aim of allowing easy comparison between each network.

image

This layout had the added bonus of allowing us to incorporate some of the 1,000s of revealing comments left by survey respondents about their networks of choice.

What’s next? Check out the finish print and online graphics here.

The survey data is freely available on Figshare and the code used to build the interactive graphic is available on Github.

I’m sure you’ll be able to make many more discoveries by examining the survey results. Be sure to let us know what you come up with!

- Chris Ryan

THE ROAD MOST TAKEN
Background: This week we published a paper that defines the optimal path through quantum space. In short: classical systems are unmoved when a measurement is performed. Not so quantum systems, where continuous monitoring can direct the quantum state along a random path. The authors have tracked the quantum trajectories in a qubit, consisting of two aluminum paddles connected by a tunable Josephson junction deposited on silicon.
The team managed to determine which of the possible paths between an initial and a final quantum state is the most probable and show that these ‘optimal paths’ are in agreement with the route predicted by theory, a quantum relative of the principle of least action that defines the correct path linking two points in space and time in classical mechanics. 
As well as giving insights into the interplay between measurement dynamics and evolution of a system, this work opens up new possibilities for first-principles synthesis of control sequences for complex quantum systems and in information processing. 
Design challenge: This striking visualisation was created by Kater Murch, one of the authors of the paper. It shows individual quantum trajectories, with the whole showing ‘optimal paths.’ The starkness of the many white trajectory lines on a black background immediately drew our attention, and we asked the team to work with us on a cover.
Specifically, we asked Murch if he wouldn’t mind experimenting with various colour patterns, to see how it might affect the ability to see the optimal paths (see bottom image) but in the end we decided that the random colours actually made it more difficult to see the overall result, and stayed with the original black and white.
-Kelly Krause THE ROAD MOST TAKEN
Background: This week we published a paper that defines the optimal path through quantum space. In short: classical systems are unmoved when a measurement is performed. Not so quantum systems, where continuous monitoring can direct the quantum state along a random path. The authors have tracked the quantum trajectories in a qubit, consisting of two aluminum paddles connected by a tunable Josephson junction deposited on silicon.
The team managed to determine which of the possible paths between an initial and a final quantum state is the most probable and show that these ‘optimal paths’ are in agreement with the route predicted by theory, a quantum relative of the principle of least action that defines the correct path linking two points in space and time in classical mechanics. 
As well as giving insights into the interplay between measurement dynamics and evolution of a system, this work opens up new possibilities for first-principles synthesis of control sequences for complex quantum systems and in information processing. 
Design challenge: This striking visualisation was created by Kater Murch, one of the authors of the paper. It shows individual quantum trajectories, with the whole showing ‘optimal paths.’ The starkness of the many white trajectory lines on a black background immediately drew our attention, and we asked the team to work with us on a cover.
Specifically, we asked Murch if he wouldn’t mind experimenting with various colour patterns, to see how it might affect the ability to see the optimal paths (see bottom image) but in the end we decided that the random colours actually made it more difficult to see the overall result, and stayed with the original black and white.
-Kelly Krause

THE ROAD MOST TAKEN

Background: This week we published a paper that defines the optimal path through quantum space. In short: classical systems are unmoved when a measurement is performed. Not so quantum systems, where continuous monitoring can direct the quantum state along a random path. The authors have tracked the quantum trajectories in a qubit, consisting of two aluminum paddles connected by a tunable Josephson junction deposited on silicon.

The team managed to determine which of the possible paths between an initial and a final quantum state is the most probable and show that these ‘optimal paths’ are in agreement with the route predicted by theory, a quantum relative of the principle of least action that defines the correct path linking two points in space and time in classical mechanics.

As well as giving insights into the interplay between measurement dynamics and evolution of a system, this work opens up new possibilities for first-principles synthesis of control sequences for complex quantum systems and in information processing. 

Design challenge: This striking visualisation was created by Kater Murch, one of the authors of the paper. It shows individual quantum trajectories, with the whole showing ‘optimal paths.’ The starkness of the many white trajectory lines on a black background immediately drew our attention, and we asked the team to work with us on a cover.

Specifically, we asked Murch if he wouldn’t mind experimenting with various colour patterns, to see how it might affect the ability to see the optimal paths (see bottom image) but in the end we decided that the random colours actually made it more difficult to see the overall result, and stayed with the original black and white.

-Kelly Krause

FUSION UPSTARTS

Background: Over the past decade and half, physicists in United States and Canada have launched at least half a dozen companies to pursue alternative designs for fusion reactors. This week’s news feature looks into the most promising technologies and technical struggles scientists need to face.
Design challenge: The aim for the graphic was to explain the design of three basic fusion reactor alternatives: tokamak, spheromak and colliding beam reactor. Editors believed it would be also helpful for the reader to include simple diagrams showing main nuclear fusion processes that are mentioned in the story.
Since some of these reactors are still in the concept stage it was important for the illustration not to go into too much detail and instead explain the technology in a very schematic way. We also wanted to make sure these illustrations would be visually uniform and work together as a set.
The final graphic shows a simplified 3D cutout of each reactor in white with plasma inside colored yellow. Additionally, hot metal has been marked red, magnet coils in light blue and fuel injection as blue arrows.
We considered showing the direction of magnetic fields (that trap hot plasma) but it proved to be a challenge. Magnetic field lines would need to spiral around the plasma vortex (or hot metal vortex in general fusion) and we soon realised they would clash with other important information. We decided that showing the direction of plasma movement is more crucial whereas magnetic field can be easier included in the caption text. 
-Jasiek Krzysztofiak FUSION UPSTARTS

Background: Over the past decade and half, physicists in United States and Canada have launched at least half a dozen companies to pursue alternative designs for fusion reactors. This week’s news feature looks into the most promising technologies and technical struggles scientists need to face.
Design challenge: The aim for the graphic was to explain the design of three basic fusion reactor alternatives: tokamak, spheromak and colliding beam reactor. Editors believed it would be also helpful for the reader to include simple diagrams showing main nuclear fusion processes that are mentioned in the story.
Since some of these reactors are still in the concept stage it was important for the illustration not to go into too much detail and instead explain the technology in a very schematic way. We also wanted to make sure these illustrations would be visually uniform and work together as a set.
The final graphic shows a simplified 3D cutout of each reactor in white with plasma inside colored yellow. Additionally, hot metal has been marked red, magnet coils in light blue and fuel injection as blue arrows.
We considered showing the direction of magnetic fields (that trap hot plasma) but it proved to be a challenge. Magnetic field lines would need to spiral around the plasma vortex (or hot metal vortex in general fusion) and we soon realised they would clash with other important information. We decided that showing the direction of plasma movement is more crucial whereas magnetic field can be easier included in the caption text. 
-Jasiek Krzysztofiak

FUSION UPSTARTS

Background: Over the past decade and half, physicists in United States and Canada have launched at least half a dozen companies to pursue alternative designs for fusion reactors. This week’s news feature looks into the most promising technologies and technical struggles scientists need to face.

Design challenge: The aim for the graphic was to explain the design of three basic fusion reactor alternatives: tokamak, spheromak and colliding beam reactor. Editors believed it would be also helpful for the reader to include simple diagrams showing main nuclear fusion processes that are mentioned in the story.

Since some of these reactors are still in the concept stage it was important for the illustration not to go into too much detail and instead explain the technology in a very schematic way. We also wanted to make sure these illustrations would be visually uniform and work together as a set.

The final graphic shows a simplified 3D cutout of each reactor in white with plasma inside colored yellow. Additionally, hot metal has been marked red, magnet coils in light blue and fuel injection as blue arrows.

We considered showing the direction of magnetic fields (that trap hot plasma) but it proved to be a challenge. Magnetic field lines would need to spiral around the plasma vortex (or hot metal vortex in general fusion) and we soon realised they would clash with other important information. We decided that showing the direction of plasma movement is more crucial whereas magnetic field can be easier included in the caption text. 

-Jasiek Krzysztofiak

SOUTH AMERICA BY THE NUMBERS
Background: With the World Cup upon us, this week’s Nature takes a look at South American science.

Design challenge: The goal was to create a comprehensive graphic that would explore several aspects of South American science: 1) publication output; 2) how it collaborates internationally; and 3) research impact. (High resolution PDF can be found here.)
Data for the region is not readily available and where it is, much is patchy or missing. Journalist Richard Van Noorden did some great data research and pulled together a fairly comprehensive list of numbers and ideas for the graphics. Most were fairly straight forward apart from the collaboration data, which proved tricky to display.
Collaboration map challenge: Our goal was to visualise how the countries of South America collaborate with one another and with the rest of the world. The proportion of collaborative research compared with the totals also told an interesting story and highlighted that while Brazil dominated South America in term of overall papers published, its international collaboration rate as a percentage of output was the lowest. This was challenging to show in a way that did not diminish the overall numbers.
I went through several variants (see second image above):
1) The first was a network diagram with the lines connecting countries displaying the total collaborative publications between countries. I had to bracket out the numbers into ranges for this to work but it gave a general understanding of where the biggest collaborations occur. This version also used scaled volume bubbles to display the total papers for each country and gave a snapshot of how South America collaborates with the rest of the world. However, it did not show the collaboration rates effectively, and the rest of world aspect was confusing.
2) For the next version I tried pie charts. This helped drive home one of the main messages – that the smaller countries generally collaborate more readily beyond South America. This also proved confusing, and on a data visualisation level was not as robust, as pies are not easily compared to each other.
3) Finally, I reverted back to showing whole numbers, and instead of pie charts used a stacked, 100% bar chart to display the collaboration rates, making the message much clearer and making the countries easily comparable.
-Wes Fernandes SOUTH AMERICA BY THE NUMBERS
Background: With the World Cup upon us, this week’s Nature takes a look at South American science.

Design challenge: The goal was to create a comprehensive graphic that would explore several aspects of South American science: 1) publication output; 2) how it collaborates internationally; and 3) research impact. (High resolution PDF can be found here.)
Data for the region is not readily available and where it is, much is patchy or missing. Journalist Richard Van Noorden did some great data research and pulled together a fairly comprehensive list of numbers and ideas for the graphics. Most were fairly straight forward apart from the collaboration data, which proved tricky to display.
Collaboration map challenge: Our goal was to visualise how the countries of South America collaborate with one another and with the rest of the world. The proportion of collaborative research compared with the totals also told an interesting story and highlighted that while Brazil dominated South America in term of overall papers published, its international collaboration rate as a percentage of output was the lowest. This was challenging to show in a way that did not diminish the overall numbers.
I went through several variants (see second image above):
1) The first was a network diagram with the lines connecting countries displaying the total collaborative publications between countries. I had to bracket out the numbers into ranges for this to work but it gave a general understanding of where the biggest collaborations occur. This version also used scaled volume bubbles to display the total papers for each country and gave a snapshot of how South America collaborates with the rest of the world. However, it did not show the collaboration rates effectively, and the rest of world aspect was confusing.
2) For the next version I tried pie charts. This helped drive home one of the main messages – that the smaller countries generally collaborate more readily beyond South America. This also proved confusing, and on a data visualisation level was not as robust, as pies are not easily compared to each other.
3) Finally, I reverted back to showing whole numbers, and instead of pie charts used a stacked, 100% bar chart to display the collaboration rates, making the message much clearer and making the countries easily comparable.
-Wes Fernandes

SOUTH AMERICA BY THE NUMBERS

Background: With the World Cup upon us, this week’s Nature takes a look at South American science.

Design challenge: The goal was to create a comprehensive graphic that would explore several aspects of South American science: 1) publication output; 2) how it collaborates internationally; and 3) research impact. (High resolution PDF can be found here.)

Data for the region is not readily available and where it is, much is patchy or missing. Journalist Richard Van Noorden did some great data research and pulled together a fairly comprehensive list of numbers and ideas for the graphics. Most were fairly straight forward apart from the collaboration data, which proved tricky to display.

Collaboration map challenge: Our goal was to visualise how the countries of South America collaborate with one another and with the rest of the world. The proportion of collaborative research compared with the totals also told an interesting story and highlighted that while Brazil dominated South America in term of overall papers published, its international collaboration rate as a percentage of output was the lowest. This was challenging to show in a way that did not diminish the overall numbers.

I went through several variants (see second image above):

1) The first was a network diagram with the lines connecting countries displaying the total collaborative publications between countries. I had to bracket out the numbers into ranges for this to work but it gave a general understanding of where the biggest collaborations occur. This version also used scaled volume bubbles to display the total papers for each country and gave a snapshot of how South America collaborates with the rest of the world. However, it did not show the collaboration rates effectively, and the rest of world aspect was confusing.

2) For the next version I tried pie charts. This helped drive home one of the main messages – that the smaller countries generally collaborate more readily beyond South America. This also proved confusing, and on a data visualisation level was not as robust, as pies are not easily compared to each other.

3) Finally, I reverted back to showing whole numbers, and instead of pie charts used a stacked, 100% bar chart to display the collaboration rates, making the message much clearer and making the countries easily comparable.

-Wes Fernandes

FUN WITH LIPIDS
We’ve just published our Insight on Lipids and Disease, with a fun cover by Jasiek Krzysztofiak (of the Nature art team).
It’s a really lovely bit of abstract art. (Fans of anthropomorphism can imagine the lipids at an 80’s dance night. Not that I am endorsing this view!) 
-Kelly Krause

FUN WITH LIPIDS

We’ve just published our Insight on Lipids and Disease, with a fun cover by Jasiek Krzysztofiak (of the Nature art team).

It’s a really lovely bit of abstract art. (Fans of anthropomorphism can imagine the lipids at an 80’s dance night. Not that I am endorsing this view!) 

-Kelly Krause

TIDAL POWER
Background: After years in the doldrums, the quest to harvest energy from the oceans is gathering speed. We recently published a story that examines a few emerging tidal power technologies.
Design challenge: We decided to create an explanatory graphic that would compare the various methods of generating power from the sea.
We chose two wave and two tidal power systems (four total), with the editor providing links to source material.
Tidal:
http://www.openhydro.com/images.html
http://www.marineturbines.com/SeaGen-Products
Wave:
http://www.carnegiewave.com/index.php?url=/ceto/ceto-overview
http://www.pelamiswave.com/pelamis-technology

The main challenge was to show these large machines in the simplest possible way, conveying the basic principles without getting too technical. I also wanted to give a sense of scale for each, with tiny human figures added for context.
I chose a blue colour scheme, to give the sense of ‘under water’ and to also give a blueprint-like feel to the graphic. I chose the bright red arrows to indicate the power-conversion process, whilst avoiding the technical details of how this is done.
-Nik Spencer

TIDAL POWER

Background: After years in the doldrums, the quest to harvest energy from the oceans is gathering speed. We recently published a story that examines a few emerging tidal power technologies.

Design challenge: We decided to create an explanatory graphic that would compare the various methods of generating power from the sea.

We chose two wave and two tidal power systems (four total), with the editor providing links to source material.

Tidal:

http://www.openhydro.com/images.html

http://www.marineturbines.com/SeaGen-Products

Wave:

http://www.carnegiewave.com/index.php?url=/ceto/ceto-overview

http://www.pelamiswave.com/pelamis-technology

The main challenge was to show these large machines in the simplest possible way, conveying the basic principles without getting too technical. I also wanted to give a sense of scale for each, with tiny human figures added for context.

I chose a blue colour scheme, to give the sense of ‘under water’ and to also give a blueprint-like feel to the graphic. I chose the bright red arrows to indicate the power-conversion process, whilst avoiding the technical details of how this is done.

-Nik Spencer



MAKING CONNECTIONS
Background: In our recent issue, Hongkui Zeng and colleagues present the first brain-wide, mesoscale connectome for a mammalian species — the laboratory mouse — based on cell-type-specific tracing of axonal projections.
Design challenge: This amazing visualization obviously took a lot of work. This from Zeng on how it was created:
"This image shows the brain-wide axonal projection patterns from 21 distinct cortical areas (differentially color coded). This represents 21 mapping experiments selected from the Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas to sample the entire cortex. High resolution images from each experiment are quantified and co-registered into a common 3-D reference space using automated methods. Each of the viral tracer injection sites (source regions), which are in the right hemisphere only, is indicated by a cluster of round spheres. The connectivity paths are created by virtual tractography, namely, each sampled target location (squares) is computationally traced through the highest signal density path back to the injection site. The 3-D visualization is generated using the Brain Explorer(r) program."
-Kelly Krause

MAKING CONNECTIONS

Background: In our recent issue, Hongkui Zeng and colleagues present the first brain-wide, mesoscale connectome for a mammalian species — the laboratory mouse — based on cell-type-specific tracing of axonal projections.

Design challenge: This amazing visualization obviously took a lot of work. This from Zeng on how it was created:

"This image shows the brain-wide axonal projection patterns from 21 distinct cortical areas (differentially color coded). This represents 21 mapping experiments selected from the Allen Mouse Brain Connectivity Atlas to sample the entire cortex. High resolution images from each experiment are quantified and co-registered into a common 3-D reference space using automated methods. Each of the viral tracer injection sites (source regions), which are in the right hemisphere only, is indicated by a cluster of round spheres. The connectivity paths are created by virtual tractography, namely, each sampled target location (squares) is computationally traced through the highest signal density path back to the injection site. The 3-D visualization is generated using the Brain Explorer(r) program."

-Kelly Krause

HOW TO KEEP A SECRET
Background: Can you keep secrets safe from eavesdroppers? Yes you can, according to the authors of this paper in our recent issue. 
They argue that recent developments in quantum cryptography, coupled with the fact that we still possess free will, suggest that truly private communication will always be possible, even in a world with access to as yet undiscovered code-breaking technologies.
Design challenge: How to visualize quantum cryptography? We gave this brief to the amazing Andy Potts, who created the stunning cover design (above). The illustration features Alice and Bob (stalwarts of cryptography plots everywhere) and some magic coins, all of which are featured in the piece.
A fascinating read.
-Kelly Krause
 

HOW TO KEEP A SECRET

Background: Can you keep secrets safe from eavesdroppers? Yes you can, according to the authors of this paper in our recent issue. 

They argue that recent developments in quantum cryptography, coupled with the fact that we still possess free will, suggest that truly private communication will always be possible, even in a world with access to as yet undiscovered code-breaking technologies.

Design challenge: How to visualize quantum cryptography? We gave this brief to the amazing Andy Potts, who created the stunning cover design (above). The illustration features Alice and Bob (stalwarts of cryptography plots everywhere) and some magic coins, all of which are featured in the piece.

A fascinating read.

-Kelly Krause