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Visual Capitalist’s Top 15 Infographics of 2015

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Visual Capitalist's Top 15 Infographics of 2015

Put down your turkey leftovers and the rum-infused eggnog – it’s time to recap our favorite posts on Visual Capitalist from 2015.

The following list includes a mix of infographics, data visualizations, and charts. Some of the posts listed here were among the most popular graphics on the entire site. Others that made the list are graphics that are diamonds in the rough.

If you are new to the site, it also may be worth checking out last year’s edition of this post that covered the best content from 2014.

Without further ado…

15. By this measure, the U.S. has the 2nd highest national debt

15-world-debt-2
The standard measure for national debt compares a country’s debt with its economic output as measured by GDP.

In this data visualization, however, we showed that the world looks very different using a debt-to-revenue ratio instead. We visualize the national debt as compared to the amount of tax revenue coming into the central government’s coffers, which is arguably a better way to look at a country’s capacity to pay.

14. The Cybersecurity Boom

14-cybersecurity

Over recent years, the world has been under siege from cyberattacks. Blue chip companies like J.P. Morgan Chase, Target, and Sony were hacked, and even the U.S. government was compromised with over 20 million records stolen. Cybersecurity companies are here to help us fight back, and that’s what makes the industry interesting for investors.

The market in cybersecurity is expected to be worth more than $170 billion by 2020.

13. Mapping Every Power Plant in the United States

13-mapping-power-plants

Every wonder how much power in the United States is generated by solar in comparison to nuclear plants? This post is for you.

In this data visualization, every power plant in the country is mapped and quantified. The end result is a crystal clear picture of how electricity is really generated.

12. The Jade series

12-jade

Did you know that China’s cultural affinity for jade has existed for longer than Western civilization?

This highly illustrative three-part series examines this as well as the emerging nephrite jade market in British Columbia.

11. The U.S. Debt Ceiling Has Risen No Matter Who is in Office

11-us-debt-ceiling

Around October, U.S. lawmakers reached an impasse on raising the debt ceiling. Republicans wanted to play hardball by linking a ceiling increase to conservative issues, but our chart shows that this kind of brinkmanship may have been inauthentic to start with.

The reality is clear: the debt ceiling has risen no matter who is in office.

10. The Race for Arctic Domination

10-arctic-domination

There’s a new “cold war”, but this time it is in the freezing Arctic. Over recent decades, ice has thawed in the Arctic and 2008 became the first year that both the Northeast Passage (North of Russia) and the Northwest Passage (North of Canada) were open to ships simultaneously.

This means it may be the first time that a vessel could theoretically circumnavigate the North Pole in 125,000 years. Not surprisingly, countries such as Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, and the United States have taken notice and are posturing accordingly.

9. Millennials on Investing, Debt, and Banking

9-millennials-banking

Polls show that 65% of millennials feel confident about their finances. This is higher than all other generations.

The problem? Their actual knowledge about investing, debt, and banking is questionable at best.

8. Most Americans Reached Peak Income More than 15 Years Ago

8-americans-peak-income-15-years

The majority of Americans are worse off than they were 15 years ago. That’s because Census data shows that 1,623 counties reached their highest income in 1999.

Even further, there are 782 counties that have their best days way behind them. Their incomes peaked 35 or more years ago.

7. Order From Chaos: How Big Data Will Change the World

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We’ve all heard about “Big Data”, but what is it really? This infographic explains everything you need to know behind this new reality for business, and its implications for companies and investors.

6. Canada’s has the Most Overvalued Housing Market in the World

6-canada-housing-market

The Economist has determined that Canada’s property market is the most overvalued in the world in terms of rent prices (+89%), and the third most overvalued in terms of incomes (+35%).

In the post, we go over some of the arguments for and against Canada’s frothy market.

5. China Consumes Mind-Boggling Amounts of Raw Materials

5-china-consumes-commodities

The 1.4 billion people living in China account for 13% of global GDP, but this chart shows that for commodity producers, the country means so much more. China consumes upwards of half of the world’s cement, aluminum, and nickel, along with huge amounts of other base metals, energy commodities, precious metals, and food.

4. $60 Trillion of World Debt in One Visualization

4-world-debt-visualization

Two weeks before this post, we had published a chart showing the world economy in one visualization. In the corresponding comments section, a user asked us if we could put together a similar visualization but instead looking at world debt.

This visualization on national debt was the end result, and it ended up making the front page of Reddit, as well as being posted on Business Insider, The Huffington Post, The World Economic Forum, Zero Hedge, Daily Reckoning,

3. The Industrial Internet and How It’s Revolutionizing Mining

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The industrial internet is the convergence of the global industrial sector with the internet of things. In this infographic we show how this new technology will change how the mining sector works.

2. Powering New York

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This was one of our favorite posts of the year.

In this slideshow, we visualize what it takes to power NYC with every type of energy including gas, wind, solar, nuclear, and more.

1. All the World’s Money and Markets in One Visualization

1-all-worlds-money

We created this year’s top post for The Money Project which we are doing in conjunction with Texas Precious Metals.

In the data visualization, we compare the world’s money and markets to help give perspective to global money supply.

The final result was one of our most viewed infographics of all time, receiving over 1,000,000 views in just a matter of weeks. It was featured on Marketwatch, Business Insider, Zero Hedge, Morningstar, as well as making the front page of Reddit.

What was your favorite post of the year? What would you like to see more of? Feel free to sound off in the comments section.

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Misc

The 44 Closest Stars and How They Compare to our Sun

This graphic visualizes the 44 closest stars, revealing key facts such as distance from Earth, brightness, and whether potential planets are in orbit.

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44 closest stars

44 Closest Stars and How They Compare to our Sun

Humans have been fascinated by the stars in the night sky since the dawn of time.

We’ve been decoding the mysteries of celestial bodies for many centuries, but it is only in the last 200 years or so that we’ve been able to glean more detailed information on the lights that dot the night sky. Friedrich Bessel’s method of stellar parallax was a breakthrough in accurately measuring the positions of stars, and opened new doors in the effort to map our universe. Today, high-powered telescopes offer even more granular data on our cosmic neighborhood.

The infographic above, from Alan’s Factory Outlet, categorizes the 44 closest stars to Earth, examining the size, luminosity, constellations, systems, and potential planets of each star.

Our Nearest Stellar Neighbors

Our closest neighboring stars are all part of the same solar system: Alpha Centauri. This triple star system – consisting of Proxima Centauri, Alpha Centauri A, and Alpha Centauri B – attracts a lot of interest because it hosts planets, including one that may be similar to Earth.

The planet, Proxima Centauri b, is a lot closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun. However, because Proxima Centauri is a smaller and cooler red dwarf type star, the planet’s orbit is within the habitable zone. It’s thought that Proxima Centauri b receives approximately the same amount of solar energy as Earth does from our Sun.

Here’s a full list of the 44 of the closest stars to Earth:

Star NameDistance (light years)MoE
Sun0.000016±0.0011
Proxima Centauri4.37±0.0068
α Centauri A4.37±0.0068
α Centauri B4.37±0.0068
Barnard's Star5.96±0.0032
Wolf 3597.86±0.031
Lalande 211858.31±0.014
Sirius A8.66±0.010
Sirius B8.66±0.010
Luyten 726-8 A8.79±0.012
Luyten 726-8 B8.79±0.012
Ross 1549.70±0.0019
Ross 24810.29±0.0041
Epsilon Eridani10.45±0.016
Lacaille 935210.72±0.0016
Ross 12811.01±0.0026
EZ Aquarii A11.11±0.034
61 Cygni A11.40±0.0012
61 Cygni B11.40±0.0012
Procyon A11.40±0.032
Procyon B11.40±0.032
Struve 2398 A11.49±0.0012
Struve 2398 B11.49±0.0012
Groombridge 34 A11.62±0.0008
Groombridge 34 B11.62±0.0008
DX Cancri11.68±0.0056
Tau Ceti11.75±0.022
Epsilon Indi11.87±0.011
Gliese 106111.98±0.0029
YZ Ceti12.11±0.0035
Luyten's Star12.20±0.036
Teegarden's Star12.50±0.013
SCR 1845-635713.05±0.008
Kapteyn's Star12.83±0.0013
Lacaille 876012.95±0.0029
Kruger 60 A13.07±0.0052
Kruger 60 B13.07±0.0052
Wolf 106114.05±0.0038
Wolf 424 A14.05±0.26
Van Maanen's star14.07±0.0023
Gliese 114.17±0.0037
TZ Arietis14.58±0.0070
Gliese 67414.84±0.0033
Gliese 68714.84±0.0022

Even though we see many of these stars in the night sky, humans aren’t likely to see them in person any time soon. To put these vast distances into perspective, if the Voyager spacecraft were to travel to Proxima Centauri, it would take over 73,000 years to finally arrive.

The Brightest Stars in the Sky

The closest stars aren’t necessarily the ones most visible to us here on Earth. Here are the top 10 stars in terms of visual brightness from Earth:

RankProper nameConstellationVisual magnitude (mV)Distance (light years)
1SunN/A−26.740.000016
2SiriusCanis Major−1.468.6
3CanopusCarina−0.74310.0
4Rigil Kentaurus & TolimanCentaurus−0.27 (0.01 + 1.33)4.4
5ArcturusBoötes−0.0537.0
6VegaLyra0.03 (−0.02–0.07var)25.0
7CapellaAuriga0.08 (0.03–0.16var)43.0
8RigelOrion0.13 (0.05–0.18var)860.0
9ProcyonCanis Minor0.3411.0
10AchernarEridanus0.46 (0.40–0.46var)139.0

Excluding our Sun, the brightest star visible from Earth is Sirius, or the Dog Star. Sirius, which is about 25 times more luminous than the sun, visually punctuates the constellation Canis Major.

Filling in the Gaps

The next step in learning more about our surroundings in the cosmos will be seeing which of the stars listed above have planets orbiting them. So far, the 44 stars in the infographic have over 40 planets scattered among them, though new discoveries are made all the time.

With each new mission and discovery, we learn a little bit more about our pocket of the universe.

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Politics

Visualizing the True Size of Land Masses from Largest to Smallest

Maps can distort the size and shape of countries. This visualization puts the true size of land masses together from biggest to smallest.

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The True Size of Land Masses from Largest to Smallest

Is Greenland the size of the entire African continent?

No…

But looking at a map based on the Mercator projection, you would think so.

Today’s infographic comes from the design studio Art.Lebedev and shows the true size of the world’s land masses in order from largest to smallest using data from NASA and Google.

Check out the actual shape and size of each land mass without any distortions.

Distorting Reality: Mercator Misconceptions

Maps can deceive your eyes but they are still powerful tools for specific purposes. In 1569, the legendary cartographer, Gerardus Mercator, created a new map based on a cylindrical projection of sections of the Earth. These types of maps were suited for nautical navigation since every line on the sphere is a constant course, or loxodrome.

Despite the map’s nautical utility, the Mercator projection has an unwanted downside. The map type increases the sizes of land masses close to the poles (such as in North America, Europe, or North Asia) as a side effect. As a result, Canada and Russia appear to take up approximately 25% of the Earth’s surface, when in reality these nations only occupy 5%.

“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many.” – Phaedrus

This collection of images above represents the world’s land masses in their correct proportions. Measurements are based on Google Maps 2016 and NASA Earth Observatory maps, with calculations based on the WGS84 reference ellipsoid, or more simply, a specific model of the Earth’s shape in two dimensions.

We take for granted Google Maps and satellite imaging. Making these accurate representations is no small task – the designers went through six steps and many different iterations of the graphic.

Countries are arranged by descending size and shown without external or dependent territories. For example, the total area for the contiguous United States shown does not include Hawaii, Alaska, or overseas territories.

Top 10 Largest Land Masses

Although Mercator maps distort the size of land masses in the Northern Hemisphere, many of these countries still cover massive territories.

JurisdictionArea (km²)
Russia16,440,626
Antarctica12,269,609
China9,258,246
Canada8,908,366
Brazil8,399,858
United States (contiguous)7,654,643
Australia7,602,329
India3,103,770
Argentina2,712,060
Kazakhstan2,653,464

The top 10 land masses by size account for 55% of the Earth’s total land. The remainder is split by the world’s 195 or so other countries.

Top 10 Smallest Land Masses

Here are the 10 tiniest jurisdictions highlighted on the map:

JurisdictionArea (km²)
Sealand0.001
Kingman Reef0.002
Vatican City0.5
Kure Atoll0.9
Tromelin Island1
Johnston Atoll1
Baker Island1
Howland Island2
Monaco2
Palmyra Atoll3

While the Earth’s land surface has been claimed by many authorities, the actual impact of human activity is less than one would think.

Human Impact: Humbled by Nature

Political borders have claimed virtually every piece of land available. Despite this, only 20% of land on the planet has been visibly impacted by human activity, and only 15% of Earth’s land surface is formally under protection.

The remaining 80% of the land hosts natural ecosystems that help to purify air and water, recycle nutrients, enhance soil fertility, pollinate plants, and break down waste products. The value of maintaining these services to the human economy is worth trillions of U.S. dollars each year.

While some nations are not as big as they look on the map, every piece of land counts.

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