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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

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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

A Visual Guide to Human Emotion

For years, humans have attempted to categorize and codify human emotion. Here are those attempts, visualized.

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visual guide to human emotions wheel

A Visual Guide to Human Emotion

Despite vast differences in culture around the world, humanity’s DNA is 99.9% similar.

There are few attributes more central and universal to the human experience than our emotions. Of course, the broad spectrum of emotions we’re capable of experiencing can be difficult to articulate. That’s where this brilliant visualization by the Junto Institute comes in.

This circular visualization is the latest in an ongoing attempt to neatly categorize the full range of emotions in a logical way.

A Taxonomy of Human Emotion

Our understanding has come a long way since William James proposed four basic emotions – fear, grief, love, and rage—though these core emotions still form much of the foundation for current frameworks.

The wheel visualization above identifies six root emotions:

  1. Fear
  2. Anger
  3. Sadness
  4. Surprise
  5. Joy
  6. Love

From these six emotions, more nuanced descriptions emerge, such as jealousy as a subset of anger, and awe-struck as a subset of surprise. In total, there are 102 second- and third-order emotions listed on this emotion wheel.

Reinventing the Feeling Wheel

The concept of mapping the range of human emotions on a wheel picked up traction in the 1980s, and has evolved ever since.

One of these original concepts was developed by American psychologist Robert Plutchik, who mapped eight primary emotions—anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy. These “high survival value” emotions were believed to be the most useful in keeping our ancient ancestors alive.

plutchik emotion wheel

Another seminal graphic concept was developed by author Dr. Gloria Willcox. This version of the emotions wheel has spawned dozens of similar designs, as people continue to try to improve on the concept.

willcox feelings wheel

Further Exploration

The more we research human emotion, the more nuanced our understanding becomes in terms of how we react to the world around us.

Researchers at UC Berkeley used 2,185 short video clips to elicit emotions from study participants. Study participants rated the videos using 27 dimensions of self-reported emotional experience, and the results were mapped in an incredible interactive visualization. It is interesting to note that some video clips garnered a wide array of responses, while other clips elicit a near unanimous emotional response.

Here are some example videos and the distribution of responses:

reported emotional reaction to video clips

The data visualization clusters these types of videos together, giving us a unique perspective on how people respond to certain types of stimuli.

Much like emotion itself, our desire to understand and classify the world around us is powerful and uniquely human.

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Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke Points

Ocean shipping is the primary mode of international trade. This map identifies maritime choke points that pose a risk to this complex logistic network.

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maritime choke points

Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke Points

Maritime transport is an essential part of international trade—approximately 80% of global merchandise is shipped via sea.

Because of its importance, commercial shipping relies on strategic trade routes to move goods efficiently. These waterways are used by thousands of vessels a year—but it’s not always smooth sailing. In fact, there are certain points along these routes that pose a risk to the whole system.

Here’s a look at the world’s most vulnerable maritime bottlenecks—also known as choke points—as identified by GIS.

What’s a Choke Point?

Choke points are strategic, narrow passages that connect two larger areas to one another. When it comes to maritime trade, these are typically straits or canals that see high volumes of traffic because of their optimal location.

Despite their convenience, these vital points pose several risks:

  • Structural risks: As demonstrated in the recent Suez Canal blockage, ships can crash along the shore of a canal if the passage is too narrow, causing traffic jams that can last for days.
  • Geopolitical risks: Because of their high traffic, choke points are particularly vulnerable to blockades or deliberate disruptions during times of political unrest.

The type and degree of risk varies, depending on location. Here’s a look at some of the biggest threats, at eight of the world’s major choke points.

maritime choke point risks

Because of their high risk, alternatives for some of these key routes have been proposed in the past—for instance, in 2013 Nicaraguan Congress approved a $40 billion dollar project proposal to build a canal that was meant to rival the Panama Canal.

As of today, it has yet to materialize.

A Closer Look: Key Maritime Choke Points

Despite their vulnerabilities, these choke points remain critical waterways that facilitate international trade. Below, we dive into a few of the key areas to provide some context on just how important they are to global trade.

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is a lock-type canal that provides a shortcut for ships traveling between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Ships sailing between the east and west coasts of the U.S. save over 8,000 nautical miles by using the canal—which roughly shortens their trip by 21 days.

In 2019, 252 million long tons of goods were transported through the Panama Canal, which generated over $2.6 billion in tolls.

The Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is an Egyptian waterway that connects Europe to Asia. Without this route, ships would need to sail around Africa, which would add approximately seven days to their trips. In 2019, nearly 19,000 vessels, and 1 billion tons of cargo, traveled through the Suez Canal.

In an effort to mitigate risk, the Egyptian government embarked on a major expansion project for the canal back in 2015. But, given the recent blockage caused by a Taiwanese container ship, it’s clear that the waterway is still vulnerable to obstruction.

The Strait of Malacca

At its smallest point, the Strait of Malacca is approximately 1.5 nautical miles, making it one of the world’s narrowest choke points. Despite its size, it’s one of Asia’s most critical waterways, since it provides a critical connection between China, India, and Southeast Asia. This choke point creates a risky situation for the 130,000 or so ships that visit the Port of Singapore each year.

The area is also known to have problems with piracy—in 2019, there were 30 piracy incidents, according to private information group ReCAAP ISC.

The Strait of Hormuz

Controlled by Iran, the Strait of Hormuz links the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, ultimately draining into the Arabian Sea. It’s a primary vein for the world’s oil supply, transporting approximately 21 million barrels per day.

Historically, it’s also been a site of regional conflict. For instance, tankers and commercial ships were attacked in that area during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait

The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is another primary waterway for the world’s oil and natural gas. Nestled between Africa and the Middle East, the critical route connects the Mediterranean Sea (via the Suez Canal) to the Indian Ocean.

Like the Strait of Malacca, it’s well known as a high-risk area for pirate attacks. In May 2020, a UK chemical tanker was attacked off the coast of Yemen–the ninth pirate attack in the area that year.

Due to the strategic nature of the region, there is a strong military presence in nearby Djibouti, including China’s first ever foreign military base.

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