Even before the invention of the periodic table, which might be the world’s best-known infographic, scientists have known that their complex findings are often best conveyed visually. In contemporary media outlets, data designers use pretty pictures and diagrams to help the non-Einsteins among us understand hairy scientific information, whether it’s the physiology of kissing or genetic differentiation in modern humans.
Many of the best science infographics from the past 40 years are compiled in Understanding the World: An Atlas of Infographics, a dazzling new tome published by Taschen.
The visualizations help unpack some of the most complex ideas facing scientists today. Consider how their design livens up information that could otherwise bring back traumatic memories of your boring 10th-grade science textbooks: they map the Earth (the world’s longest rivers and highest mountains), the body (an anatomical map of the physiology of kissing), and time itself (a geologic time spiral). Another teaches you how to predict the weather from the clouds, which would be beyond tedious without Nigel Holmes’ enchanting visual aids. Still another reveals how to know if you’ve found a meteorite, complete with a picture of a sparkling space-rock.
Click the slideshow above for a selection of the most enlightening science-themed infographics around.
Understanding the World: An Atlas of Infographics is available from Taschen for $70.