I was fortunate to attend the Tulsa Town Hall lecture by eminent astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, today. Tyson is an engaging speaker, and provides a manageable point of access to the cosmos, physics, and the sheer vastness and mystery of the universe as we currently understand it. Besides that, he’s kind of funny, to boot. If you get a chance to check him out – you should. Tyson is also an outspoken advocate for increased investment in science and engineering, as well as “STEM” education – science, technology, engineering, and math. He closed his presentation with a couple of maps. I had to go track them down – they were compelling.
Tyson provided a slide that showed the scientific output of the world – as gauged by peer-reviewed scholarly articles. The relative outputs of various nations are shown stretching the size of their country of origin’s boundaries in proportion to the outputs of other nations (source after the jump):
The map is striking. Africa almost disappears – and South America and Central Asia don’t fare much better. Japan, Europe, and the US loom large. Check out the supporting data HERE. Dr. Tyson pointed out an interesting correlation – the places with high output also tend to have much higher standards of living – it makes sense. It is, however, the second map he shows that tells the more interesting story. The map below shows the growth in science output from 1990 to 2001. It shows who is make more recent investments in science.
Where the top map shows China in a smaller role – the bottom map shows Chinese scientific output exploding. Europe appears even bigger than before – South America returns to the map (thanks to Argentina and Brazil). You might notice – the US shrinks in relative importance. So – while the US is still putting out a vast amount of science – others are coming on strong – and picking up the pace faster than the US. Source for the growth map is HERE.
So – where did this map come from? Check out WORLDMAPPER. This is an intriguing way to look at data on a global level. They’ve got around 700 maps which “distort” borders to relative sizes on various subjects: from human poverty, to container ports, torail networks. For something equally striking – take a look at the comparative map for numbers of illiterate women.
This is indeed the “World as you have never seen it before” – Worldmapper’s tag line, not mine – and perhaps it brings some clarity beyond our usual view of the world as shaped by familiar borders.