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Visualizing Data: How the Media Blows Things Out of Proportion

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Visualizing Data: How the Media Blows Things Out of Proportion

Visualizing Data: How the Media Blows Things Out of Proportion

Every year, it seems that there is a new type of virus or an imminent technological disaster that will purportedly threaten the existence of humankind.

If it wasn’t the Y2K apocalypse that would bring society back to the Stone Age, it was going to be the bird flu or cellphone brain tumors that would kill us all.

However, as today’s data visualization from Information is Beautiful shows, these fears are mostly overblown. The media finds a way to tap into these hot-button issues and then people inevitably get worked into a frenzy.

“Swine flu”, which broke out in the U.S. in 2009, blew up into a full-on panic by media and authorities. While it did eventually kill about 12,000 people, that’s not very remarkable when it turns out that the common seasonal flu kills between 3,000 to 49,000 people each year, according to the Center for Disease Control.

The public consumed information on the swine flu like there was no tomorrow. Here’s Google searches for “swine flu” surpassing the amount of searches for the newly-elected “Barack Obama”:

But do you know what was even worse than swine flu? Ebola, of course.

In the very first chart on this post, the true length of the data for “ebola” is cut off because the series is literally off the chart. Here’s a revised version that puts all of the data in full perspective:
Ebola vs. all else

Based on this level of coverage and interest, the virus must have surely been on the level of the Black Plague, right?

According to The Economist, there were just 28,637 ebola cases and 11,315 deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization officially declared the outbreak to be over in January, and there hasn’t been a trace of the virus since.

Next time the talking heads on television are discussing the newest global distraction, take a deep breath. There’s no need to panic if mountains are being made out of molehills.

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Maps

Mapped: The Literal Translation of Every Country’s Name

From Colombia to China, explore this map to uncover the diverse histories and cultures represented in the literal translation of each country’s name.

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Mapped: The Literal Translation of Every Country’s Name

View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here

These days, planes, trains, and automobiles can deliver us to any destination we can name. But how often can we say we know the origins of those names?

Today’s map comes to us courtesy of Credit Card Compare, and it visualizes the literal translations of every country’s name, arranged by continent. Of course, naming conventions are always layered and open to interpretation — especially when they’ve gone through multiple levels of translation — but it’s still an interesting exercise to trace where they are thought to come from.

NA map names

North America

Starting with the Great White North, Canada’s name is derived from the Indigenous Huron people. Kanata means village, or settlement, in the Iroquoian language. Meanwhile, The United States of America was named in honor of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci is credited with correcting Columbus’ error, in which the latter mistook the New World for the East Indies.

Finally, Mexico comes from the simplified Spanish translation for the Aztec capital, Metztlixihtlico, which is said to mean “place at the center of the moon”. The word is a blend of mētztli for ‘moon’, xictli for ‘navel’ or ‘centre’, and the suffix -co for ‘place’.

SA map names

South America

Brazil’s name is actually shortened from Terra do Brasil (land of Brazil). The brazilwood tree, or pau-brasil, was valued highly in the early 16th century. It was used to produce red dyes for the European textile industry — hence the “red like an ember” moniker.

Uruguay has a couple of meanings attached to it, the first being “Bird’s Tail” in reference to the uru, a type of quail that lived by the river. Another association is the uruguä, a species of mussel, for which the country is named “River of Shellfish”. It’s interesting to note the relationship to water and rivers, which is reflected in the similarly-themed naming history across the continent.

Venezuela is named for its resemblance to the Italian city of Venice, thus gaining the title of “Little Venice”. Another area also named after European cities? Colombia, which was originally named “New Granada” in a hat tip to the capital of the Spanish province.

Europe map names

Europe

The “Land of the Franks”, France, gets its namesake from the Latin word francia. This dates back even further to the Old German word franka, meaning brave, or fierce. There’s also a political angle to the name: King Louis V famously proclaimed that “France signifies freedom”.

The exact origin for Germany is unknown, possibly because it was composed of various tribes and states before 1871. It’s known as Deutschland (for “of the people”) in German, Alemania in Spanish, Niemcy in Polish, and Saksa in Finnish. Another theory ties it with the Celtic word ‘gair’ for neighbor.

By the Mediterranean, the boot-shaped country of Italy gets its name from the symbol of the Southern Italic Vitali tribe: the bull. The name is connected to the Latin vitulus for ‘calf’ or ‘sons of the bull’. Another interpretation is the phrase diovi-telia, which translates to “land of the light”.

Asia map names

Asia

China’s English name comes from the Qin dynasty, the first unified and multinational state in Chinese history. Although the dynasty only existed between 221-207 BC, it had a profound and lasting influence on the country. A fascinating tidbit is that China’s name in fact borrows from the Persian language, and even Sanskrit.

India’s name comes from Greek, but also the Sanskrit Síndhu, where both refer to the Indus River. Bharat is another official and historically significant name for the Republic of India, and Hindustan is an alternative name for the region, but its use depends on context and language.

Oceania map names

Oceania

The Land Down Under of Australia is fairly geographical in its name, drawn from the Latin australis for “southern”. The explorer Matthew Flinders popularized the name as we know it in 1804, and “Australia” replaced “New Holland” as the official continent.

The Māori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which is most commonly defined as “the long white cloud” — a reference to early Polynesian navigators discovering the country by relying on cloud formations.

Africa map names

Africa

The name Egypt comes from the Ancient Greek Aiguptos and Latin Ægyptus, and is also derived from hūt-kā-ptah (Temple of the Soul of Ptah). The ancient Egyptian name for the country was km.t (pronounced “kemet”), meaning “black land” likely for the fertile soils of the Nile valley. Today, Egypt’s official name is Jumhūrīyat Miṣr al-ʻArabīyah, or “Arab Republic of Egypt”.

South Africa is aptly named for its geographical location. Interestingly, however, the country has different names in the country’s 11 official languages, including English, Afrikaans, the Venda language, the Tsonga language, and the Nguni and Sotho languages.

What rich histories can be uncovered from your country’s name?

Note: Where some of the country names on the individual maps vary from the translations, please consult the original research document which include the English translations and explanations behind the etymology.

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Flags

24 Iconic World Flags, and What They Mean

Many world flags are instantly recognizable, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. What are the stories behind some of the world’s most iconic flags?

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From the skull and bones at the top of a pirate ship to a white flag on a battlefield, a single piece of fabric can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Depending on where they fly, flags can represent freedom or control, danger or safety.

In the context of modern times, flags are best known as national symbols — and they’re used to air a country’s past, present, and future vision all rolled into one.

The Meaning of Flags

Today’s infographic from Just the Flight looks at some the world’s most iconic flags, and the intricate stories and ideals that can be found in their designs.

Flags of the World

The Americas

Since 1777, the star-spangled banner of the United States has gone through several facelifts. The current version has been in use since Hawaii gained statehood in 1960. Puerto Rico has been voting to become the 51st state in recent years — and if the U.S. government proved to accept such a resolution, the flag would be amended once more.

The largest country in South America, Brazil adopted its flag design in 1889. The primarily green background represents its lush Amazonian forest while the yellow diamond signifies its wealth in gold. Meanwhile, the Portuguese slogan on the flag, Ordem e Progresso, is a nod to democracy.

Europe

Denmark holds the Guinness world record for the oldest continuous use of their national flag, since 1625. The Danish flag is known as the Dannebrog, or Danish Cloth — as legend has it, the Dannebrog ‘miraculously’ fell from the sky in a battle during the Northern Crusades.

The Union Jack of the United Kingdom combines aspects of three older national flags and was adopted in 1801. Displaying the flag upside down is considered lèse-majesté — “to do wrong to majesty”, or an insult to the Crown — and is offensive to some.

Asia and Oceania

India’s tricolor flag was first flown in 1923. However, the colors do not represent religions or hours in the day — saffron symbolizes indifference to material gains, the white band represents light while the navy blue Dharma Chakra (wheel of truth) depicts dynamic change, and green demonstrates the country’s relationship to nature.

New Zealand’s flag features elements from the British Commonwealth. Since 2015, there have been ongoing debates among Kiwis about whether to amend the flag’s design. Frequent confusion with Australia is a significant pro for change, but national identity and financial costs are strong arguments against it.

Nepal is the only country without a rectangular (or square) national flag. The two triangles pay tribute to its geographic location in the Himalayas as well as the Shah and Rana dynasties. The sun and moon symbols on the flag used to have human faces on them, but were removed in 1962.

Africa

South Africa boasts one of the world’s most colorful flags. When it was first adopted after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, it was the first world flag to have six colors but no seal or brocade. Interestingly, while there is no inherent meaning in its colors, the Y shape symbolizes the convergence of diverse elements and societal unity.

Mozambique is the only national flag in the world to feature a modern weapon – specifically, an AK-47 with an attached bayonet. Adopted in 1983, the rifle represents vigilance and defense, while the hoe crossing it represents the country’s agriculture.

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