Visual nouns and star charts

3 August 2006

Edward Tufte, whose books I will have to read one of these days, discusses the concept of ‘visual nouns,’ and provides and example from one of Galileo’s texts. Tufte himself talks about ‘sparklines,’ on his website. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you think about how rare it is. There are so many awful graphs (‘chartjunk,’ in ET parlance) out there, that add essentially nothing to your apprehension of what you are reading.

In reading one of the discussion threads devoted to HA Rey’s superb book about naked eye astronomy, somebody mentioned Guy Ottewell. My dad got me hooked on the Astronomical Calendar some years ago, and I push it on anybody who will listen (despairingly few, but that’s probably due to it being me talking). Guy Ottewell creates absolutely the easiest-to-use, aesthetically pleasing, information-dense graphics about astronomy. Astronomical Companion is also beautiful and informative. The main thing required to get through them is patience–there is so much information there that even compulsive consumers of trivia may find it tough.


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