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– 1% of the news in infographics …

Exoplanet Atlas full of errors

When you do graphics for print in Wired – and then post on your blog about the process – stressing how much attention you pay to the details, then you’re asking for it. Sorry, David McCandless … (Click the graphic for full-size at Wired and read the blogpost at information is beautiful here)

Your Exoplanet Atlas is full of errors. According to your own description, you have three designers and three researchers working on the project for nine months doing 26 drafts, and yet it takes only a very simple check-up to realize, that this Atlas is not to be trusted.

My advice – Get a proofreader with infographic knowledge and hopefully you’ll put out an error-free graphic next time. I’m sure you’ll agree, that information not only has to be beautiful – it also has to be correct:

1. Size of planets: You specifically tell how much you wanted to get the size of the planets exactly right. And yet – when I took a quick wiki-look at Wasp 14b, labelled as very dense,  I see that it is in fact bigger than Jupiter, but is drawn very small? Also Wasp 7b just below should have been drawn almost the same size as Jupiter. I didn’t check up on rest of the planets.

2. Temperatures (y-axis): An unlucky labelling with -400 degrees celcius. The coldest possible temperature to even exist is -273,15 celcius. And Neptune is placed well below the -400 mark, which adds to the confusion. I would also think it’s a very hard y-axis to defend, when you have tidally locked planets such as Wasp 14b with +2600 celcius on the side facing it’s star and – 220 celcius on the dark side. That’s pretty much the entire spectrum on the same star – which I find very interesting to think about – but that fact is lost, when you insist on a single point of temperature on the y-axis.

3. Distance (x-axis): The first time I have seen a four-labels axis: lightyears, parsec, voyagertime, and vasimr-time. It also ends up ends up confusing you, when you place NGC 2423 3B in the wrong spot, as it should have been only 2498 lightyears out – not 2498 parsec. The conversion between lightyears and parsec seems a bit off too. The correct factor would be 1 lightyear is 0,3066 parsec, which gives us 5023 parsec at the end of the scale rather than the 4915, you have put in.

4. Bargraph: You end with a bargraph about the number of discovered exoplanets, colourcoded by method used to find the stars. But the colourcoding is wrong. What you have labelled with the murky yellow (Direct imaging) should have been clear green (Transit method).

‘No more, no more’. I can hear you – and as you said in your blogpost: ‘The internet police are always ready to pounce if you get a fact wrong’. I’ll leave the rest of the fact-checking to my fellow policemen then.