Visual Capitalist's Top 15 Infographics of 2015
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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

7-big-data

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

Sharpen Your Thinking with These 10 Powerful Cognitive Razors

Here are 10 razors, or rules of thumb, that help simplify decision-making, inspired by a list curated by the investor and thought leader Sahil Bloom.

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Improve Your Decision-Making with These 10 Cognitive Razors

The average adult makes about 35,000 conscious decisions each day.

Given this sheer volume of choice, how do we ensure we’re making the right decisions, day in and day out, without becoming exhausted?

Using insights from investor and thought leader Sahil Bloom, this graphic shares 10 cognitive razors, or rules of thumb, that can help you simplify your decision-making.

We’ve organized Bloom’s favorite cognitive razors into three overarching categories, which we dive into in further detail below.

Location, Location, Location

The first theme is location, and the importance of being at the right place at the right time.

The Luck Razor falls into this category because it highlights the importance of putting yourself out there. According to the Luck Razor, when choosing between two paths, pick the one with the largest “luck surface area,” or the path that offers you the most opportunity to get lucky.

This is because when you’re networking, meeting people, and building new relationships, you’re much more likely to stumble upon an opportunity than if you were sitting on your couch, not taking action.

The Rooms Razor follows a similar theme because it emphasizes the importance of your surroundings. It stresses that, if you have a choice between two rooms to walk into, choose the one where you’re most likely to be the dumbest person in the room.

While it’s a bit of an uncomfortable situation, it provides a greater opportunity for growth, as long as you check your ego at the door and listen to what others have to say.

Lastly, the Arena Razor reminds us that when we want something, we need to take the necessary steps to make it happen.

For instance, if you want to become a social media influencer, you need to start creating content and posting it online. It’s not easy to put yourself out there and take action, but if you want to play the game, you need to be in the arena.

The Power of Positive Thinking

The next theme is the power of mindset and positive thinking. This relates to how you view your life, the people you choose to surround yourself with, and how you interpret the actions and opinions of others.

According to the Gratitude Razor, when in doubt, don’t hesitate to show your gratitude to people who have supported you, or given you advice or opportunities.

Research studies have shown that expressing gratitude and giving thanks can be correlated with greater happiness, improved health, and stronger more meaningful relationships. So make sure to say thank you regularly, and tell your loved ones how much you appreciate their support.

It’s not just your mindset that’s important, though. The Optimist Razor recommends surrounding yourself with optimists, rather than pessimists. Pessimists may point out everything that could go wrong in a scenario, which might discourage you to break out of your comfort zone.

Optimism, on the other hand, will emphasize everything that could go right—and may even help you problem solve if you encounter problems along the way.

Keep Decision-Making Simple, Silly

The last one is quite simple, really: don’t overcomplicate things.

Occam’s Razor, which is named after the 14th-century scholar Franciscan friar William of Ockham, is generally interpreted as the following: when faced with a decision between two competing theories that generate the same outcome, the simplest theory is often the best one.

As Bloom says in this blog post, “simple assumptions [over] complex assumptions. If you have to believe a complex, intertwined series of assumptions in order to reach one specific conclusion, always ask whether there is a simple alternative assumption that fits.”

The ability to make things simple is also a good indicator of how deeply you understand something. According to the Feynman Razor, if you can’t explain a concept simply, then you don’t really understand it. So, if someone uses a ton of jargon or complexity to explain something, they could be masking a lack of deeper knowledge on the topic.

Editor’s note: For more information on cognitive razors and simplifying your decision-making, check out Sahil Bloom’s newsletter, or listen to his podcast episode where he talks about the most powerful razors he’s discovered so far in life.

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Technology

Every Mission to Mars in One Visualization

This graphic shows a timeline of every mission to Mars since 1960, highlighting which ones have been successful and which ones haven’t.

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Timeline: A Historical Look at Every Mission to Mars

Within our Solar System, Mars is one of the most similar planets to Earth—both have rocky landscapes, solid outer crusts, and cores made of molten rock.

Because of its similarities to Earth and proximity, humanity has been fascinated by Mars for centuries. In fact, it’s one of the most explored objects in our Solar System.

But just how many missions to Mars have we embarked on, and which of these journeys have been successful? This graphic by Jonathan Letourneau shows a timeline of every mission to Mars since 1960 using NASA’s historical data.

A Timeline of Mars Explorations

According to a historical log from NASA, there have been 48 missions to Mars over the last 60 years. Here’s a breakdown of each mission, and whether or not they were successful:

#LaunchNameCountryResult
11960Korabl 4USSR (flyby)Failure
21960Korabl 5USSR (flyby)Failure
31962Korabl 11USSR (flyby)Failure
41962Mars 1USSR (flyby)Failure
51962Korabl 13USSR (flyby)Failure
61964Mariner 3US (flyby)Failure
71964Mariner 4US (flyby)Success
81964Zond 2USSR (flyby)Failure
91969Mars 1969AUSSRFailure
101969Mars 1969BUSSRFailure
111969Mariner 6US (flyby)Success
121969Mariner 7US (flyby)Success
131971Mariner 8USFailure
141971Kosmos 419USSRFailure
151971Mars 2 Orbiter/LanderUSSRFailure
161971Mars 3 Orbiter/LanderUSSRSuccess/Failure
171971Mariner 9USSuccess
181973Mars 4USSRFailure
191973Mars 5USSRSuccess
201973Mars 6 Orbiter/LanderUSSRSuccess/Failure
211973Mars 7 LanderUSSRFailure
221975Viking 1 Orbiter/LanderUSSuccess
231975Viking 2 Orbiter/LanderUSSuccess
241988Phobos 1 OrbiterUSSRFailure
251988Phobos 2 Orbiter/LanderUSSRFailure
261992Mars ObserverUSFailure
271996Mars Global SurveyorUSSuccess
281996Mars 96RussiaFailure
291996Mars PathfinderUSSuccess
301998NozomiJapanFailure
311998Mars Climate OrbiterUSFailure
321999Mars Polar LanderUSFailure
331999Deep Space 2 Probes (2)USFailure
342001Mars OdysseyUSSuccess
352003Mars Express Orbiter/Beagle 2 LanderESASuccess/Failure
362003Mars Exploration Rover - SpiritUSSuccess
372003Mars Exploration Rover - OpportunityUSSuccess
382005Mars Reconnaissance OrbiterUSSuccess
392007Phoenix Mars LanderUSSuccess
402011Mars Science LaboratoryUSSuccess
412011Phobos-Grunt/Yinghuo-1Russia/ChinaFailure
422013Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutionUSSuccess
432013Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)IndiaSuccess
442016ExoMars Orbiter/Schiaparelli EDL Demo LanderESA/RussiaSuccess/Failure
452018Mars InSight LanderUSSuccess
462020Hope OrbiterUAESuccess
472020Tianwen-1 Orbiter/Zhurong RoverChinaSuccess
482020Mars 2020 Perseverance RoverUSSuccess

The first mission to Mars was attempted by the Soviets in 1960, with the launch of Korabl 4, also known as Mars 1960A.

As the table above shows, the voyage was unsuccessful. The spacecraft made it 120 km into the air, but its third-stage pumps didn’t generate enough momentum for it to stay in Earth’s orbit.

For the next few years, several more unsuccessful Mars missions were attempted by the USSR and then NASA. Then, in 1964, history was made when NASA launched the Mariner 4 and completed the first-ever successful trip to Mars.

The Mariner 4 didn’t actually land on the planet, but the spacecraft flew by Mars and was able to capture photos, which gave us an up-close glimpse at the planet’s rocky surface.

Then on July 20, 1976, NASA made history again when its spacecraft called Viking 1 touched down on Mars’ surface, making it the first space agency to complete a successful Mars landing. Viking 1 captured panoramic images of the planet’s terrain, and also enabled scientists to monitor the planet’s weather.

Vacation to Mars, Anyone?

To date, all Mars landings have been done without crews, but NASA is planning to send humans to Mars by the late 2030s.

And it’s not just government agencies that are planning missions to Mars—a number of private companies are getting involved, too. Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX has a long-term plan to build an entire city on Mars.

Two other aerospace startups, Impulse and Relativity, also announced an unmanned joint mission to Mars in July 2022, with hopes it could be ready as soon as 2024.

As more players are added to the mix, the pressure is on to be the first company or agency to truly make it to Mars. If (or when) we reach that point, what’s next is anyone’s guess.

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