As the amount and complexity of scientific data increases, the need to better visualize that information becomes more important. In the new book Atlas of Science: Visualizing What We Know, author Katy Börner gathers hundreds of examples of scientific maps, data charts, and timelines that span both geography and history--the book includes Claudius Ptolemy's Cosmographia World Map from 1482. These data-driven graphics aren't always well-designed -- some are simple and direct, others require a PhD to decipher -- but the book does illustrate the way scientific culture is becoming increasingly visual.

Atlas of Science: Visualizing What We Know by Katy Börner

Global Sets of Data

The globes pictured here are not flat. Artist Ingo Günther sculpted nearly one hundred different globes, all representing different sets of data for his exhibition. The image to the left represents TV ownership, fertilizer pollution, and internet users worldwide. Others (see link below) indicate even more culled global data, including car populations, fuel consumers, and energy consumption.

Artist Ingo Günther's aim is to create social and political change through the simple sharing of otherwise unavailable to the public. We imagine a 3D exhibition of this data is pretty arresting.

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The Visual Periodic Table of Elements

There are plenty of illustrated versions of the periodic table of elements. But the table here was created using slightly different methods: The designers of the Visual Elements project used 3D modeling to create images of elements that are more lively and relatable. These images were placed on top of fractal designs--another expression of math and geometry's role in life. An interactive version is available online at chemsoc.org

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Locations of World Oil Reserves

This map illustrates the nations containing oil reserves worldwide. Using only color, the designers show which countries supply the world with crude oil, by billions of barrels.

It's part of a much larger (and much more complex) infographic of the history, growth and profit of oil over the years.

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2003 Scientific Productivity

This map indicates the highest activity "scientific productivity" in 2003. The number of scientific papers published are the variable and the greater the size of the circle, the greater the number of papers published. The locations of top scientific activity are Boston, London, and New York.

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2007 IP Address Ownership

Using the same scheme as the previous graphic, this graph instead charts IP address ownership in 2007. Both images are nearly identical, leading to the conclusion that internet connectivity and access to the outside world at large have some connection with advances in science. The United States, Japan, and Great Britain hold the great number of IP addresses.

Three years have passed, and the nations with the largest numbers of people on the web are still largely the same. However, two billion people are reportedly on the web now, and with those numbers growing, there's a good chance this map will look very different in five years.

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Paradigms of Science

When the creators of this graph mention "scientific paradigms" they are referring to the tools and information already being used by scientists. This chart was created by analyzing over 800,000 scholarly papers in 2003.

Each bubble in graph represents a different scientific paradigm. The darkest red bubbles correspond to the paradigms with the most active and recognized research surrounding it. The lighter reds represent fields with less credence in the scientific community, and the white circles represent fields with the least clout.

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"Abortion" on Wikipedia

This graph creatively displays the edit history of abortion on Wikipedia.com. Authors are listed in the left-side column, while final changes to the entry are shown in the far-right column. Each column break corresponds to a new version of the entry.

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Science-Related Wikipedian Technology

Over 600,000 Wikipedia articles are charted in this map-- they are represented by the grid and corresponding images below the circles. The circles themselves represent different fields of science. Blue circles stand for articles on math, green circles represent science, and yellow circles are for technology. Naturally, there is some overlapping, and this is accounted for by the size of the circles. The larger the circle, the greater the relevance to the field.

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Hypothetical Model of the Evolution and Structure of Science

This illustration is a welcome respite from the data-heavy graphics that fill most of Atlas of Science. Using his own brand of symbols, artist Daniel Zeller mapped a "hypothetical model of the evolution and structure of science." It looks suspiciously like a brain.

Zeller created many drafts of the hypothetical model, adding layer after illustrated layer to represent the exhaustive, often enlightening process of scientific research. The color blue represents new fields of science, brown represents established fields, yellow is for money, and voids are black.

To artist Daniel Zeller, "it is an exploration, an active desire to find what is uncharted or hidden." It's also a pretty cool drawing.

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Atlas of Science: Visualizing What We Know vy Katy Börner

How Scientists See the World: 10 Data Visualizations From the Atlas of Science

As the amount and complexity of scientific data increases, the need to better visualize that information becomes more important. In the new book Atlas of Science: Visualizing What We Know, author Katy Börner gathers hundreds of examples of scientific maps, data charts, and timelines that span both geography and history--the book includes Claudius Ptolemy's Cosmographia World Map from 1482.

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