Computation and Visualization in the Earth Sciences

Reading Discussion


The .pdf copies of the articles we'll read for this week's discussion are downloadable .pdf files in the "Small Projects" module of Canvas.

This week we will read and discuss two chapters from Edward Tufte's book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information:

  • Chapter 1: Graphical Excellence
  • Chapter 8: High-Resolution Data Graphics

The first chapter discusses why data maps, time series plots, and "narrative data graphics" are so valuable and why it pays to think carefully about how to construct them. There are some beautiful examples presented (and a couple of examples of what not to do) along with some how-to points regarding graphic construction best practices.

Chapter 8 I really like because of the baseball sparklines showing how different teams fared throughout a season. There are some other relevant points for us to consider in this chapter, too, because as we have discovered during this semester and in other courses in this master's degree program, Earth science produces really big datasets and usually you have to display all the data for the viewer to get the point.

Questions for discussion

As you read, consider the following questions, which we will discuss as a class:

  1. Study the Graphical Excellence checklist on the first page of Chapter 1. Are there any things you'd add or subtract from this list? Are there points here that are especially often violated by your students or other people?
  2. Why is the plot on p.15 "silly"?
  3. On p.51, Tufte says "Graphical excellence in nearly always multivariate." What does he mean?
  4. What are some Earth science concepts that could be displayed with "sparklines?"

Submitting your work

Once you have finished reading these two chapters, engage in a class discussion in Canvas that will take place over a week (15-21 March 2017). This discussion will require you to participate multiple times over that period.

Grading criteria

You will be graded on the quality of your participation. See the grading rubric for specifics.