Put stuff you don't want to burn on top of lots of stuff that burns, hope it doesn't burn

Does Evan Know What Hes Talking About?
If I could speak intelligently on rocket engineering, wouldn’t I have a real job?

Rockets at 85% propellant and 15% structure and payload are on the extreme edge of our engineering ability to even fabricate (and to pay for!). They require constant engineering to keep flying. The seemingly smallest modifications require monumental analysis and testing of prototypes in vacuum chambers, shaker tables, and sometimes test launches in desert regions.

For a Space Shuttle launch, 3 g’s are the designed limit of acceleration. The stack has been certified (meaning tested to the point that we know it will keep working) to 3.3 g’s. This operation has a 10% envelope for error. Imagine driving your car at 60 mph and then drifting to 66 mph, only to have your car self-destruct. This is life riding rockets.
— http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition30/tryanny.html

A NASA engineer gets lyrical on just why rockets are so insanely fussy to build, test and operate. Remind me of Neal Stephenson's lament on the path dependency of orbital lift, how the need for instant intercontinental annihilation settled us too firmly on this burn-fast-and-try-not-to-detonate style of getting things from here to way, way there.

Well catalyze my actionables, if it ain't Davos

I'm likely blacklisted from WEF caviar potlucks, but strap in for the Talk Like a Dick master class that is Davos.

Unfortunately, we may never know if the galactically rich and erudite membership of the WEF actually hashes out good ideas at their meetings, for those ideas are always cloaked in the most abstruse business jargon. The program for this year’s Davos summit is practically a B-school tone poem. “Sailing Towards a Circular Economy.” “The Values Context.” And, neatly dovetailing with the meeting’s overall theme of ”Dynamic Resilience,” an address by Christine Lagarde is titled, “Resilient Dynamism.”
— http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-25/in-davos-the-world-economic-forums-big-unintelligible-ideas

9:30 editorial meeting

Alright, Markets & Finance is shaking up a bit. For now we are keeping the lede on homebuilder stocks rebounding, but I'm going to bingo it against this old pumpkin that the fourth floor REIT team found. If they can pull it off I'd prefer that one just because of the art possibilities.

For the second story we have that evergeen on big banks' legal bills, but it might switch with the oil exploration consolidation story depending if it comes in on time. There's a slight chance that one might come out if we get a timely draft of that story about the closed-end fund that's only open to livestock that have been hit by trains, but I'm not holding my breath.

Shorting China will hold, as will the one about how no one's buying reverse convertibles, that guy who figured out how to securitize a lover's caress is out, muni defaults stays in. I'd love to close with that story on how you feel like you can't breathe after you eat a baked potato too fast, but the writer is on vacation and her team leader just doesn't have the bandwidth.

Towards the back we have the bearer bonds that turned out to be real fancy napkins, the story on the OCC shakeup, and sadly we're going to cut bait on the Carlyle interview. Andy went over there but he wouldn't talk unless he held his hand real hard. I know, it's never easy with these guys.

Scratch off the one slugged "mixtape_ETF," there's just nothing there. To close we have another real estate story, but it's actually a great yarn about this Miami housing mogul who actually embraced quiet title claims as a way to fall down the stairs real hard and split his head open in front of his terrified family. Jamie, did we get someone down there? Oh, well I'm sure we can get some pick-up. And that's the list for now. At least until we change it.

Illustration completely wrecks "data viz" every time

Does Evan Know What Hes Talking About?
All opinion, I have to vocationally look at “data viz” and I’m usually not impressed.

Jorge Cham of PhD Comics makes the best possible information graphics. Illustration seems antiquated in the data viz age, but treemaps and big blinking interactives don't even approach the engagement and explanatory value that come out of his Wacom. His comic infographics also translate beautifully to animation: the above is a screencap of his drawing process, overlaid with commentary by the grad students he interviewed. It doses the information at a comfortable pace, gently demonstrating to the viewer the importance of stellar physics in understanding the universe.

Data viz can explore trends but can't approach illustration's natural fit for relating concepts. This becomes glaringly obvious when the topic is completely novel to most people: hard science. Let's stack up the fine fists vs. the number pukers.

The neurology graphic above, also by Cham, took the infographics gold at the NSF's 2009 Visualization Challenge. How'd it beat out a big pile of charts? Accessibility. Illustrated infographics speak to us in ways that abstract charts never can; people just like comics. They're intuitive, easier to get into than big colorful visualizations. They literally speak our primitive hindbrain language: pictures! Little people! That looks like me! I'm listening! Way more fun than a big awful tag cloud! What the hell was that trying to tell me anyway!


Jon Chui works in the same vein, making illustrative primers for hardcore chemistry concepts. Way above my head but I'm extremely down with the approach.

Accompanied  this article  on genetics research.

Accompanied this article on genetics research.

In contrast, this science graphic published in the New York Times is a woefully bad fit for a lay audience, using a visualization that works great in the bioinformatics lab but falls flat in a broadsheet. I went so far as to ask the New York Times graphics editor to explain this to me, but he couldn't tell me what this pile of "epigenetics + Circos = ???" was even about.

I'm all about big, impossibly dense graphics, but most readers want nothing to do with this. They want to see the jewelry. Don't hand them the pan and point to the river. That's an awful metaphor but I'm unhealthily attached to it. Anyway in conclusion, when it comes to disseminating information I'll always prefer the skilled illustrator over the R munger. Maybe that's the David Macaulay nostalgia talking, but this just works better.