The Infographic Guide to Science is a new book by London-based designer Tom Cabot. Illustrating complex, sometimes overwhelming, scientific concepts in easy-to-read, clean data visualizations, Cabot walks readers through astronomy, Earth science, biology, and chemistry. Purchase a copy from Powell’s, Amazon, or the publisher.
Here are just a couple of the hundreds of things you will learn in this book:
- The names of different types of galaxies, as well as the different pieces of our own Milky Way, from the “center bulge” to “globular clusters”
- Black hole weirdness, which includes facts like spacetime rotating faster than the speed of light inside something called the ergosphere, and gravity being reversed beyond (closer to the singularity) the inner event horizon (there are two event horizons!)
- The size of each kind of virus in nanometers with a to-scale drawing of each virus alongside seemingly giant bacteria and red blood cells
- If you put your arms out at your sides, perpendicular to your body, staring straight ahead, you can see both arms. But other vertebrates don’t have the same vision we do. Rabbits can see all the way around the back of their heads, while owls have even less range of vision than humans do (except that they can swivel their heads farther around, obviously).
- While there is no one language center of the brain, there are different areas that process different things, such as an area for understanding written and spoken language, an area for grammar and syntax, an area for perception, an area for memory retrieval and attention, and more.
- We know from Charlie McDonnell’s Fun Science book that there are more than nine senses, such as sense of balance and temperature, but this book argues that, based on on-going studies, there could be more than that. Like how dogs are better at hearing and smelling than we are, birds are better at magnetoreception, the sense that allows them to detect the magnetic field so that they can migrate. There’s also the ability to detect static electricity, echolocation (which blind people are sometimes better at than sighted people), and a sensitivity to polarized light.
Beyond just the facts, infographics can put your life into perspective. Think of the way that the Pale Blue Dot puts your life in context of the whole universe. What if you saw a timeline of Earth’s climate change history, with mass extinctions mapped out no less than nine times since the dawn of the Cambrian period, like on page 100? Do you see patterns? Does this help with your expectations and preparations for the future?
Infographics are also helpful in illustrating your point with just a glance. You know those people who say that humans evolved from monkeys? Or that say evolution is ridiculous because it says we evolved from monkeys? You’re tired of having to explain over and over that humans did not evolve from monkeys but share a common ancestor with monkeys. This book gives you a handy, easy-to-read family tree that shows where, for example, the spider monkey shows up in our evolutionary chain, where the apes show up (gorillas and chimps are also on a separate branch from humans), and the different time periods when each major species turned up.
Here are just a few infographics from The Infographic Guide to Science (Firefly, 2016):
taken from The Infographic Guide to Science, Firefly, 2016