[VDS Digest] How Houthi Attacks Rerouted Maritime Trade

In this week digest: Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, the decline of birds, a door that went off, some good news and more.

Houthis must have felt a hint of pride as they made a tonitruous come back in the news cycle this month. The Iranian-backed militia launched attacks with cheap drones on ships from their positions in Yemen in an attempt to circumvent trade with Israel. As a result, these attacks halted traffic in one of the most crowded trading place of the world, the Red Sea.

How Houthi Attacks Have Upended Global Shipping, The New-York Times. By Agnes Chang, Pablo Robles and Keith Bradsher

Shadows are an elegant detail of this heavily annotated timeline:

Commercial vessels are doubly emphasized with luminosity (L = 70, vs 50 for others), and a solid black border

Note: I added the black and white overlay to compare purple and green in shades of grey

Paths and trajectories are traditionally visualized with solid lines, but it is typical in Chang’s maps to use dots instead, which give the display a less cluttered and more organic aspect:

Another map by Agnes Chang in a piece about China’s military in the South-China Sea (Fleets of Force)

I would argue the foundational challenge of our times is not global warming, but the 6th mass extinction that has been happening.

Our species is so central to the actual demise of all living things that this extinction is also called the Anthropocene extinction, by the name of the current geological epoch when human activity started to have a significant impact on ecosystems.

As a detour, it is always enlightening to listen to astrophysicist Aurélien Barreau on the topic, recently questioned on the role science should play in these issues (La science face à la catastrophe écologique, see on Youtube).

Are We in the Midst Of a Sixth Mass Extincton?, Bill Marsh for The New-York Times (2012)

Last week, in his Climate Lab column for the Washington Post, Harry Stevens explored one of the facets of this problem: the decline of birds in the United States, with illustrations, maps, and details-on-demand:

Visual indications directly in the text

Details-on-demand by city (results in a table)

Details-on-demand by bird (results on a map)

The opening image is a powerful and effective way to introduce the article and capture the viewer’s attention, with many visual techniques:

  • Contrast: The image creates a strong contrast between the dark sky and the light horizon skyline, as well as the white plane and text and the dark background. The ground also adds some color and variety to the image, balancing the dark and monochromatic sky,

  • Focal point: The plane is the focal point of the image, as it is the largest and most visible element. It is centered horizontally and draws the viewer’s attention,

  • Movement: The image suggests movement and direction through the use of a dotted line that traces the plane’s trajectory,

  • Depth: The image creates a sense of depth and perspective by showing the textured ground below the plane.

It uses visual elements to create contrast, focus, movement, and depth, and to communicate the main idea and context of the incident. It also balances the visual and textual information, introducing the main elements of the story.

Last week I found out Flourish has a template for “draw the line” charts. Try it out to make your charts interactive!

“The Ebb and Flow of Movies” is a classic 2008 piece by The New-York Times

We thought it was all gone forever, did we not? When Flash was deprecated in 2017, most of the interactive archives from old days went dark.

All of them? Not all, thanks to a recent update in the New-York Times archives website. That means early iconic articles, such as The Ebb and Flow of Movies, which introduced stream graphs back in 2008, or How Different Groups Spend Their Day, are back online and accessible for all to read.

You can check of these other pieces, shared by Robert Kosara:

And before you ago, take a look at the lovely Jefferson High School fuckgraph:

Among interesting answers under the initial tweet was the “periodic table of polycules”, which is a nice use of “graphlets” to describe romantic relationships:

Graphs can describe complex situations effectively, but we’ll talk about that next week when I explore game design patterns.

See you next week,

Mathieu Guglielmino

Join the conversation

or to participate.