We all have our favorite pieces of information visualization, and many have been presented by Edward Tufte, but I prefer this more than any other, and more for the content than the representation. For those unfamiliar with Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, this particular figure displays the thermal conductivity of tungsten with the thick black line, surrounded by a variety of different proffered values of such thermal conductivity as presented in a series of historical journal articles. Tufte’s main point is that such a data visualization provides highly legible and dense information clearly, but what I continue to be attracted to is the highly visible discussion taking place about a subject that we would think, in the modern age, as inarguable. The strength of formal claims using agreed upon metrics is that they can be readily compared over time in a way that narrative claims do not admit to.
Mapping functions is much more interesting than mapping data.