Randall Munroe left his job as a NASA roboticist in 2006, proceed to create xkcd.com, and became famous drawing funny and very smart stick figure web comics. He even won the Hugo award for Best Graphic Story in 2014. Very often his comics reveal his scientific background and frequently take the form of witty infographics. These can use humor to take on very serious subjects. Just a few days ago he posted a very interesting infographic on climate change. It is a huge timeline charting Earth’s average temperature for the last 20,000 years. You can scroll for a good while seeing the temperature slowly rising for millennia, and then rocketing up in the last few years.
Last year Munroe published a wonderful book of infographics called Thing Explainer. It is not your typical “how it works” book. First, all the graphics are done in Munroe’s charming hand-drawn style. Second, he uses only the 1,000 more frequent words in the English language. This is a brilliant idea: the results are often hilarious, and sometimes curiously revealing. A look at the table of contest gives you the tone of the book: “Tiny bags of water you’re made of” (cells); “Sky boat with turning wings” (helicopter); “Lifting room” (elevator); “Bending computer” (laptop); “The pieces everything is made of” (periodic table). Brilliant!