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The graphs that communicated 2021

Good graphs are visceral in ways words are not ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

In every applied economics course, there’s a moment when the lights go off. It’s when the number of dimensions involved climbs beyond two.

From that point on, graphs can no longer tell the story, no matter how important it is. Computers and really clever people can see meaning in matrices and reams of raw data, but not me.

Which is why, for me, for the stories that can be told with graphs, graphs are about the best means of telling stories there is. I hope you’ll enjoy my ten favourites from the Business and Economy section in 2021.

And thanks to our colleagues at The Conversation Africa, this morning we also bring you a tribute to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who has died at the age of 90.

As the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s P. Pratap Kumar writes, even in his retirement the man affectionately called “the Arch” never stopped fighting for a better world – because “protest was in his blood. In his view, no government was legitimate unless it represented all its people well.”

The graphs that communicated 2021 1

Peter Martin

Section Editor, Business and Economy

The graphs that communicated 2021 2
The graphs that communicated 2021 3

Like songs, the best graphs tell stories. Here are my 10 favourites from 2021

Peter Martin, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

The Conversation’s best graphs have removed doubt, surprised, and told entire stories.

The graphs that communicated 2021 4

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: father of South Africa’s ‘rainbow nation’

P. Pratap Kumar, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Archbishop Desmond Tutu didn’t stop his fight for human rights once apartheid came to a formal end in 1994. He continued to speak critically against politicians who abused their power.

The graphs that communicated 2021 5

Learning to live with the ‘messy, complicated history’ of how Aotearoa New Zealand was colonised

Richard Shaw, Massey University

Like it or not, many Pākehā New Zealanders are the beneficiaries of a colonial settlement system based on dispossession and alienation. How can the past and present be reconciled honestly?

The graphs that communicated 2021 6

Should I pay off the mortgage ASAP or top up my superannuation? 4 questions to ask yourself

Di Johnson, Griffith University

Depending on circumstances, it may be time to re-think the bias to paying down housing debt over wealth accumulation in super. At least to do the sums, so you can make an informed choice.

The graphs that communicated 2021 7

Slip, slop, slurp! The surprising science of sunscreen, sand and ice cream

Shane Keating, UNSW

A trip to the beach is a perfect opportunity to explore the peculiar properties of some fascinating fluids.

The graphs that communicated 2021 8

Meet the maggot: how this flesh-loving, butt-breathing marvel helps us solve murders

Michelle Harvey, Deakin University

Maggots are misunderstood, and we should see past the “yuck” factor and appreciate what these unique organisms can do for us.

The graphs that communicated 2021 9

Hunting galaxies far far away – here’s how anyone can explore the universe

Sara Webb, Swinburne University of Technology

Anyone with an internet connection can search the universe and possibly discover never-before-seen galaxies.

 

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The graphs that communicated 2021 19

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