Visual communication in grayscale

9 January 2007

Pop quiz, hotshot. Which of the following images depicts an aerial picture of Mars’ surface, and which depicts an electron micrograph of a martian meteorite found in Antarctica?

Picture

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 2

In an unfamiliar context, for example a slideware presentation at a public talk, it can be pretty difficult to figure out what you are looking at. Even if we strive to remove jargon from our language, there is still a certain flippancy about figures. Don’t even get me started on chartjunk.

Answers below the fold.

Picture 1 is the electron micrograph that purportedly shows a remnant of bacterial life in a sedimentary Martian rock.

Picture 2 is a Mars Global Surveyor image that purportedly shows water erosion on a crater wall on Mars.

Kind of tricky because these images are pretty famous (at least to geeks). For better examples, check out the book Heaven and Earth.

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