Posts tagged with ‘explainers’

Middle East Friendship Chart
Via Slate. Read through to select cells for relationship information. Select to embiggen. 

Middle East Friendship Chart

Via Slate. Read through to select cells for relationship information. Select to embiggen. 

True Facts About The Mantis Shrimp

Filed Under: Explainers done right.

For more “True Facts,” say on the octopus, the armadillo and the frog, head this way.

Rwanda, 20 Years Later
Twenty years ago this week, the Rwandan genocide began. It’s estimated 800,000 to a million people were killed over 100 days. Most were Tutsi but tens of thousands were moderate Hutu and others caught in the slaughter.
The country today is commemorating by holding a week of mourning alongside a longer 100-day vigil.
The #Rwanda20yrs hashtag on Twitter is an at times sobering, enlightening and inspiring access point to news, resources and personal accounts of the period.
Here’s some of what we’ve been reading through:
BBC, Rwanda genocide: 100 days of slaughter; a backgrounder on the events.
BBC, A good man in Rwanda; the story of Mbaye Diagne, an unarmed, Senegalese peacekeeper with the UN, who’s credited with saving at least 500 Rwandans.
Thomson Reuters Foundation, Genocide and Justice: Rwanda 20 years on; an immersive site with first person accounts from survivors, perpetrators, diplomats and more.
The Guardian, Genocide in Rwanda was a fork in the road not just for Africa but the world; how the genocide has affected international law and world response to events today.
Slate, Unreconciled Rwanda; can survivors really forgive those that murdered family and loved ones, and what policies has the Rwandan government put in place to foster reconciliation attempts.
Image: Via National Geographic, “A man tries to unlock a cell door at a hospital in Kigali, Rwanda in 1994. As the genocide spread across the country, doctors and staff of the main psychological hospital in Kigali fled or were killed leaving the patients to care for themselves.” Photo by David Guttenfelder. Revisiting the Rwandan Genocide: Origin Stories From The Associated Press. Select to embiggen.

Rwanda, 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago this week, the Rwandan genocide began. It’s estimated 800,000 to a million people were killed over 100 days. Most were Tutsi but tens of thousands were moderate Hutu and others caught in the slaughter.

The country today is commemorating by holding a week of mourning alongside a longer 100-day vigil.

The #Rwanda20yrs hashtag on Twitter is an at times sobering, enlightening and inspiring access point to news, resources and personal accounts of the period.

Here’s some of what we’ve been reading through:

Image: Via National Geographic, “A man tries to unlock a cell door at a hospital in Kigali, Rwanda in 1994. As the genocide spread across the country, doctors and staff of the main psychological hospital in Kigali fled or were killed leaving the patients to care for themselves.” Photo by David Guttenfelder. Revisiting the Rwandan Genocide: Origin Stories From The Associated Press. Select to embiggen.

At this stage, we can’t rule anything out: not crew interference with the transponders, not a catastrophic electrical failure, not the emergence of a complex topological feature of space-time such as an Einstein-Rosen bridge that could have deposited the flight at any location in the universe or a different time period altogether, nothing…

Could a parallel universe have immediately swelled up from random cosmological fluctuation according to the multiverse theory and swallowed the flight into its folds, or could ice have built up on an airspeed sensor? Those are both options we are currently considering… Everything’s on the table. That is, insofar as anything exists at all, which we’re also looking into.

— "Azharuddin Abdul Rahman," Civil Aviation Chief of Malayasia. The Onion, Malaysia Airlines Expands Investigation To Include General Scope Of Space, Time.

The Power of Empathy

Via Fast Company:

Dr. Brene Brown’s 2010 TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” has gotten nearly 12.5 million views online. And it’s no wonder: Brown delivers insights into human connection, vulnerability, authenticity, and shame with humor and deeply personal stories that avoid the kind of platitudes and sugarcoating that self-help skeptics love to hate. Now, a clever new animation from RSA shorts, animated by Bristol-based Katy Davis (AKA Gobblynne), brings Brown’s wise words to life with cartoons of a sad fox, an empathetic bear, and a judgmental reindeer.

Important for reporters and their interactions with subjects. More important for all of us and our interactions in life.

Explainer: How We Wipe our Butts
Never underestimate my puerile instincts — or a love of a good explainer — this time triggered by Scientific American:

“Toilet Hygiene in the Classical Era,” by French anthropologist and forensic medicine researcher Philippe Charlier and his colleagues… examines tidying techniques used way back — and the resultant medical issues…
…The toilet hygiene piece reminds us that practices considered routine in one place or time may be unknown elsewhere or elsetime. The first known reference to toilet paper in the West does not appear until the 16th century, when satirist François Rabelais mentions that it doesn’t work particularly well at its assigned task. Of course, the ready availability of paper of any kind is a relatively recent development. And so, the study’s authors say, “anal cleaning can be carried out in various ways according to local customs and climate, including with water (using a bidet, for example), leaves, grass, stones, corn cobs, animal furs, sticks, snow, seashells, and, lastly, hands.” Sure, aesthetic sensibility insists on hands being the choice of last resort, but reason marks seashells as the choice to pull up the rear. “Squeezably soft” is the last thing to come to mind about, say, razor clams.
Charlier et al. cite no less an authority than philosopher Seneca to inform us that “during the Greco-Roman period, a sponge fixed to a stick (tersorium) was used to clean the buttocks after defecation; the sponge was then replaced in a bucket filled with salt water or vinegar water.” Talk about your low-flow toilets. The authors go on to note the use of rounded “fragments of ceramic known as ‘pessoi’ (meaning pebbles), a term also used to denote an ancient board game.”…
…Putting shards of a hard substance, however polished, in one’s delicate places has some obvious medical risks. “The abrasive characteristics of ceramic,” the authors write, “suggest that long term use of pessoi could have resulted in local irritation, skin or mucosal damage, or complications of external haemorrhoids.”

Explainers, scientific knowledge and general anthropology: always a good thing. — Michael
Scientific American, Toilet Issue: Anthropologists Uncover All the Ways We’ve Wiped reviews the British Medical Journal, Toilet hygiene in the classical era (you’ll need a university subscription to get in).
Image: Roman Butt Wiping Tools, via Flush.

Explainer: How We Wipe our Butts

Never underestimate my puerile instincts — or a love of a good explainer — this time triggered by Scientific American:

“Toilet Hygiene in the Classical Era,” by French anthropologist and forensic medicine researcher Philippe Charlier and his colleagues… examines tidying techniques used way back — and the resultant medical issues…

…The toilet hygiene piece reminds us that practices considered routine in one place or time may be unknown elsewhere or elsetime. The first known reference to toilet paper in the West does not appear until the 16th century, when satirist François Rabelais mentions that it doesn’t work particularly well at its assigned task. Of course, the ready availability of paper of any kind is a relatively recent development. And so, the study’s authors say, “anal cleaning can be carried out in various ways according to local customs and climate, including with water (using a bidet, for example), leaves, grass, stones, corn cobs, animal furs, sticks, snow, seashells, and, lastly, hands.” Sure, aesthetic sensibility insists on hands being the choice of last resort, but reason marks seashells as the choice to pull up the rear. “Squeezably soft” is the last thing to come to mind about, say, razor clams.

Charlier et al. cite no less an authority than philosopher Seneca to inform us that “during the Greco-Roman period, a sponge fixed to a stick (tersorium) was used to clean the buttocks after defecation; the sponge was then replaced in a bucket filled with salt water or vinegar water.” Talk about your low-flow toilets. The authors go on to note the use of rounded “fragments of ceramic known as ‘pessoi’ (meaning pebbles), a term also used to denote an ancient board game.”…

…Putting shards of a hard substance, however polished, in one’s delicate places has some obvious medical risks. “The abrasive characteristics of ceramic,” the authors write, “suggest that long term use of pessoi could have resulted in local irritation, skin or mucosal damage, or complications of external haemorrhoids.”

Explainers, scientific knowledge and general anthropology: always a good thing. — Michael

Scientific American, Toilet Issue: Anthropologists Uncover All the Ways We’ve Wiped reviews the British Medical Journal, Toilet hygiene in the classical era (you’ll need a university subscription to get in).

Image: Roman Butt Wiping Tools, via Flush.

Georgia congressman Paul Broun claimed after Tuesday’s State of the Union address that “There are more people killed with baseball bats and hammers than are killed with guns.” Explainer readers may remember Broun as the congressman who believes the Earth is 9,000 years old. What about his hammer and baseball bat claim?

He’s wrong again, but he’s getting warmer. According to FBI data, 8,583 people were murdered with firearms in 2011. Only 496 people were killed by blunt objects, a category that includes not just hammers and baseball bats but crowbars, rocks, paving stones, statuettes, and electric guitars. Broun was off by a factor of at least 17 this time, a significant improvement on his estimate of the age of the Earth. The blue planet is 4.54 billion years old, or more than 500,000 times older than Broun believes it to be.
What’s in a Kiss: Indian Edition
Via The New York Times:

The Mahabharata, an epic poem written 3,000 years ago, is believed to include the first written description of mouth-to-mouth kissing. But anthropological studies done over the past century in India and elsewhere in Asia showed that kissing was far from universal and even seen as improper by many societies, said Elaine Hatfield, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii.
Sanjay Srivastava, a professor of sociology at the Institute of Economic Growth at Delhi University, said: “Until recently, kissing was seen as Western and not an Indian thing to do. That has changed.”…
…A pivotal screen kiss reflected the changing romantic landscape here. Kissing scenes were banned by Indian film censors until the 1990s, and Shah Rukh Khan, a Bollywood heartthrob who is one of the world’s biggest movie stars, has been teasing Indian audiences in dozens of films since then by bringing his lips achingly close to those of his beautiful co-stars. But his lips never touched any of theirs until he kissed the Bollywood bombshell Katrina Kaif in “Jab Tak Hai Jaan,” which was released in December 2012.
Mr. Khan tried to soften the impact by saying in a published interview that his director made him do it. But the cultural Rubicon had been crossed.
“That kiss was an incredibly important moment,” Dr. Srivastava said. “Shah Rukh Khan defines what is mainstream. If he does it, it becomes acceptable.”
Kissing’s rise here may also reflect the growing power of young women in deciding who to marry, said Debra Lieberman, an assistant professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Miami. In many cases, “women are now able to select mates without having to negotiate as much with family members,” Dr. Lieberman said.
And Dr. Avdesh Sharma, a psychiatrist practicing in New Delhi, said that his younger female patients are far more insistent than their mothers were that their emotional needs be met. That often involves kissing, he said…
…Prakash Kothari, the founder of the department of sexual medicine at Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College in Mumbai, said that his female patients are much more demanding than they once were.
“For years, most Indian men used sex with their partners as a kind of sleeping pill, and few devoted any time to foreplay,” Dr. Kothari said. “Now, many women are able to ask for what they want.”

New York Times, In India, Kisses Are on Rise, Even in Public.
Image: Sculpture from the Khajuraho Group of Monuments in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

What’s in a Kiss: Indian Edition

Via The New York Times:

The Mahabharata, an epic poem written 3,000 years ago, is believed to include the first written description of mouth-to-mouth kissing. But anthropological studies done over the past century in India and elsewhere in Asia showed that kissing was far from universal and even seen as improper by many societies, said Elaine Hatfield, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii.

Sanjay Srivastava, a professor of sociology at the Institute of Economic Growth at Delhi University, said: “Until recently, kissing was seen as Western and not an Indian thing to do. That has changed.”…

…A pivotal screen kiss reflected the changing romantic landscape here. Kissing scenes were banned by Indian film censors until the 1990s, and Shah Rukh Khan, a Bollywood heartthrob who is one of the world’s biggest movie stars, has been teasing Indian audiences in dozens of films since then by bringing his lips achingly close to those of his beautiful co-stars. But his lips never touched any of theirs until he kissed the Bollywood bombshell Katrina Kaif in “Jab Tak Hai Jaan,” which was released in December 2012.

Mr. Khan tried to soften the impact by saying in a published interview that his director made him do it. But the cultural Rubicon had been crossed.

“That kiss was an incredibly important moment,” Dr. Srivastava said. “Shah Rukh Khan defines what is mainstream. If he does it, it becomes acceptable.”

Kissing’s rise here may also reflect the growing power of young women in deciding who to marry, said Debra Lieberman, an assistant professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Miami. In many cases, “women are now able to select mates without having to negotiate as much with family members,” Dr. Lieberman said.

And Dr. Avdesh Sharma, a psychiatrist practicing in New Delhi, said that his younger female patients are far more insistent than their mothers were that their emotional needs be met. That often involves kissing, he said…

…Prakash Kothari, the founder of the department of sexual medicine at Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College in Mumbai, said that his female patients are much more demanding than they once were.

“For years, most Indian men used sex with their partners as a kind of sleeping pill, and few devoted any time to foreplay,” Dr. Kothari said. “Now, many women are able to ask for what they want.”

New York Times, In India, Kisses Are on Rise, Even in Public.

Image: Sculpture from the Khajuraho Group of Monuments in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Analysis and Explainers: Star Wars Edition
Wired has a delightful twofer that any journalist interested in analysis and explainers should read.
The first comes from Spencer Ackerman and explores how the Galactic Empire is such a miserable fighting force. Taking the Battle of Hoth as his case study, Ackerman writes:

From a military perspective, Hoth should have been a total debacle for the Rebel Alliance. Overconfident that they can evade Imperial surveillance, they hole up on unforgiving frigid terrain at the far end of the cosmos. Huddled into the lone Echo Base are all their major players: politically crucial Princess Leia; ace pilot Han Solo; and their game-changer, Luke Skywalker, who isn’t even a Jedi yet.
The defenses the Alliance constructed on Hoth could not be more favorable to Vader if the villain constructed them himself. The single Rebel base (!) is defended by a few artillery pieces on its north slope, protecting its main power generator. An ion cannon is its main anti-aircraft/spacecraft defense. Its outermost perimeter defense is an energy shield that can deflect Imperial laser bombardment. But the shield has two huge flaws: It can’t stop an Imperial landing force from entering the atmosphere, and it can only open in a discrete place for a limited time so the Rebels’ Ion Cannon can protect an evacuation. In essence, the Rebels built a shield that can’t keep an invader out and complicates their own escape.
When Vader enters the Hoth System with the Imperial Fleet, he’s holding a winning hand. What follows next is a reminder of two military truths that apply in our own time and in our own galaxy: Don’t place unaccountable religious fanatics in wartime command, and never underestimate a hegemonic power’s ability to miscalculate against an insurgency.

Ackerman goes on to explore Darth Vader’s “incoherent strategy in outer space,” the Empire’s mismanaged ground assault and its inability to form an actual blockade against rebel forces trying to escape.
Rhett Allain follows up in the Wired Science blog with an explainer of how much Darth Vader must weigh.
It’s not as easy as it appears and requires a fair bit of math and physics by exploring a scene in Return of the Jedi where Vader does a one-handed grab of a rebel and lifts him off his feet. As Allain points out, despite having bionic arms and legs, we must explore the physics of mass and stability in order to understand how Vader achieved this feet of strength.
Follow Allain’s mathematical formulas to account for mass, gravity, force and torque, and it turns out that Vader weighs in at a minimum of about 520 pounds (236 kg).
Image: Video still, The Empire Strikes Back, Battle of Hoth. Select to embiggen.

Analysis and Explainers: Star Wars Edition

Wired has a delightful twofer that any journalist interested in analysis and explainers should read.

The first comes from Spencer Ackerman and explores how the Galactic Empire is such a miserable fighting force. Taking the Battle of Hoth as his case study, Ackerman writes:

From a military perspective, Hoth should have been a total debacle for the Rebel Alliance. Overconfident that they can evade Imperial surveillance, they hole up on unforgiving frigid terrain at the far end of the cosmos. Huddled into the lone Echo Base are all their major players: politically crucial Princess Leia; ace pilot Han Solo; and their game-changer, Luke Skywalker, who isn’t even a Jedi yet.

The defenses the Alliance constructed on Hoth could not be more favorable to Vader if the villain constructed them himself. The single Rebel base (!) is defended by a few artillery pieces on its north slope, protecting its main power generator. An ion cannon is its main anti-aircraft/spacecraft defense. Its outermost perimeter defense is an energy shield that can deflect Imperial laser bombardment. But the shield has two huge flaws: It can’t stop an Imperial landing force from entering the atmosphere, and it can only open in a discrete place for a limited time so the Rebels’ Ion Cannon can protect an evacuation. In essence, the Rebels built a shield that can’t keep an invader out and complicates their own escape.

When Vader enters the Hoth System with the Imperial Fleet, he’s holding a winning hand. What follows next is a reminder of two military truths that apply in our own time and in our own galaxy: Don’t place unaccountable religious fanatics in wartime command, and never underestimate a hegemonic power’s ability to miscalculate against an insurgency.

Ackerman goes on to explore Darth Vader’s “incoherent strategy in outer space,” the Empire’s mismanaged ground assault and its inability to form an actual blockade against rebel forces trying to escape.

Rhett Allain follows up in the Wired Science blog with an explainer of how much Darth Vader must weigh.

It’s not as easy as it appears and requires a fair bit of math and physics by exploring a scene in Return of the Jedi where Vader does a one-handed grab of a rebel and lifts him off his feet. As Allain points out, despite having bionic arms and legs, we must explore the physics of mass and stability in order to understand how Vader achieved this feet of strength.

Follow Allain’s mathematical formulas to account for mass, gravity, force and torque, and it turns out that Vader weighs in at a minimum of about 520 pounds (236 kg).

Image: Video still, The Empire Strikes Back, Battle of Hoth. Select to embiggen.

The Making of ProPublica’s Pipeline Safety Feature
Here’s a great example of data and journalism love.
The above link will take you to Lena Greoger's first hand account of how she's used a dataset to compliment her reporting. Lena made ProPublica's Pipeline Explainer, which makes sense of 26 years worth of records on pipeline-related accidents — explosions, leaks, fires, and spills. From the data set, which gave her the dates, cost, deaths and locations of the incidents, Lena created an interactive map so readers can find the incidents closest to their homes.

The Making of ProPublica’s Pipeline Safety Feature

Here’s a great example of data and journalism love.

The above link will take you to Lena Greoger's first hand account of how she's used a dataset to compliment her reporting. Lena made ProPublica's Pipeline Explainer, which makes sense of 26 years worth of records on pipeline-related accidents — explosions, leaks, fires, and spills. From the data set, which gave her the dates, cost, deaths and locations of the incidents, Lena created an interactive map so readers can find the incidents closest to their homes.

Mapping Zombie Survival
Little did I know that we’ve actually posted about zombies a number of times. Even littler did I realize that I’m the one doing it.
Anyway, it’s Halloween, and while we’re distracted by our city’s recovery from a rather large storm, it wouldn’t be a proper Halloween without a proper zombie post.
So, let’s start: MapOfTheDead, pictured above for your mapping pleasure… and an upcoming mobile game.
But more importantly, via Amy Wilentz in the New York Times, is an understanding of where zombies are from:

Most people think of [zombies] as the walking dead, a being without a soul or someone with no free will. This is true. But the zombie is not an alien enemy who’s been CGI-ed by Hollywood. He is a New World phenomenon that arose from the mixture of old African religious beliefs and the pain of slavery, especially the notoriously merciless and coldblooded slavery of French-run, pre-independence Haiti. In Africa, a dying person’s soul might be stolen and stoppered up in a ritual bottle for later use. But the full-blown zombie was a very logical offspring of New World slavery.
For the slave under French rule in Haiti — then Saint-Domingue — in the 17th and 18th centuries, life was brutal: hunger, extreme overwork and cruel discipline were the rule. Slaves often could not consume enough calories to allow for normal rates of reproduction; what children they did have might easily starve. That was not of great concern to the plantation masters, who felt that children were a waste of resources, since they weren’t able to work properly until they reached 10 or so. More manpower could always be imported from the Middle Passage.
The only escape from the sugar plantations was death, which was seen as a return to Africa, or lan guinée (literally Guinea, or West Africa). This is the phrase in Haitian Creole that even now means heaven. The plantation meant a life in servitude; lan guinée meant freedom. Death was feared but also wished for. Not surprisingly, suicide was a frequent recourse of the slaves, who were handy with poisons and powders. The plantation masters thought of suicide as the worst kind of thievery, since it deprived the master not only of a slave’s service, but also of his or her person, which was, after all, the master’s property. Suicide was the slave’s only way to take control over his or her own body.

Amy Wilenz, New York Times. A Zombie Is a Slave Forever.
Image: Detail, Map of the Dead. Created by doejo, a Chicago-based digital agency.

Mapping Zombie Survival

Little did I know that we’ve actually posted about zombies a number of times. Even littler did I realize that I’m the one doing it.

Anyway, it’s Halloween, and while we’re distracted by our city’s recovery from a rather large storm, it wouldn’t be a proper Halloween without a proper zombie post.

So, let’s start: MapOfTheDead, pictured above for your mapping pleasure… and an upcoming mobile game.

But more importantly, via Amy Wilentz in the New York Times, is an understanding of where zombies are from:

Most people think of [zombies] as the walking dead, a being without a soul or someone with no free will. This is true. But the zombie is not an alien enemy who’s been CGI-ed by Hollywood. He is a New World phenomenon that arose from the mixture of old African religious beliefs and the pain of slavery, especially the notoriously merciless and coldblooded slavery of French-run, pre-independence Haiti. In Africa, a dying person’s soul might be stolen and stoppered up in a ritual bottle for later use. But the full-blown zombie was a very logical offspring of New World slavery.

For the slave under French rule in Haiti — then Saint-Domingue — in the 17th and 18th centuries, life was brutal: hunger, extreme overwork and cruel discipline were the rule. Slaves often could not consume enough calories to allow for normal rates of reproduction; what children they did have might easily starve. That was not of great concern to the plantation masters, who felt that children were a waste of resources, since they weren’t able to work properly until they reached 10 or so. More manpower could always be imported from the Middle Passage.

The only escape from the sugar plantations was death, which was seen as a return to Africa, or lan guinée (literally Guinea, or West Africa). This is the phrase in Haitian Creole that even now means heaven. The plantation meant a life in servitude; lan guinée meant freedom. Death was feared but also wished for. Not surprisingly, suicide was a frequent recourse of the slaves, who were handy with poisons and powders. The plantation masters thought of suicide as the worst kind of thievery, since it deprived the master not only of a slave’s service, but also of his or her person, which was, after all, the master’s property. Suicide was the slave’s only way to take control over his or her own body.

Amy Wilenz, New York Times. A Zombie Is a Slave Forever.

Image: Detail, Map of the Dead. Created by doejo, a Chicago-based digital agency.

An Infographic Is
That about explains it, no?
See our interviews with Bitly’s Hilary Mason for more on working with data.
Image: An Infographic Is, by Karyn Lurie.
H/T: Chart Porn.

An Infographic Is

That about explains it, no?

See our interviews with Bitly’s Hilary Mason for more on working with data.

Image: An Infographic Is, by Karyn Lurie.

H/T: Chart Porn.

Slate uses a comic to explain the 1949 Syria Military Coup that many believe was the first supported by the newly-formed CIA.
The rest, as the say, is history.
Click through to view the whole thing.

Slate uses a comic to explain the 1949 Syria Military Coup that many believe was the first supported by the newly-formed CIA.

The rest, as the say, is history.

Click through to view the whole thing.

Super Pacs and Politics, the Spending is Ferocious…

A music video to explain super PAC ads via Propublica.

More: Poynter has the behind-the-scenes on the video. For a more serious explanation of super PACs (though this one is just perfect), we tumbled about it a few weeks ago.