Visualizations: Scientific

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This page is maintained by Dominique Thiebaut and contains various interesting visualization examples or related material found in the media and on the Web, in various forms. The authors of the visualization, or its source is indicated in the Author/Source field of each entry. I try to locate the actual authors as best as I can. I also try to find out what particular software tools were used to generate the visualization. This is reported in the implementation field.

The different visualization systems shown below are organized by application domains, and by type (borrowed and adapted from Viz4All).

The application domains include:


Visu Scie.png


Transit Map of a the Spread of a Virus


Category: Scientific
Author/Source: Kyra Gan, D. Thiebaut
Implementation: Graphviz & Dot
Date: April 2017

From Gan & Thiebaut's paper: We present a novel data visualization that displays the contact trace of the spread of an infection. This visualization presents the spread as a radial organizational chart, where each node is an infected person, and the distance from the root to a node is proportional to time. We use real registration information for a population of students at a small college to generate a social network that is fed to an agent-based simulator. The simulation implements the SIR model to control how the infection moves from individual to another. Contrarily to other models that generate expected quantities, our tool displays scenarios of a typical outbreak, where individual involved in the spread are identified, along with the trace of their infection. The usefulness of our tool is in illustrating at the micro level phenomena such as the appearance of super-spreaders, or the influence of interventions such as quarantine or vaccination. We present several visualizations corresponding to different SIR parameters, and also illustrating the effect of vaccination. (Paper accepted at INFOCOMP 2017)

Logarithmic Map of the Universe


Category: Geographic/Scientific
Implementation: NA
Date: Jan 2016

From The universe is so vast it's almost impossible to picture what it might look like crammed into one field of view. But musician Pablo Carlos Budassi managed to do it by combining logarithmic maps of the universe from Princeton and images from NASA. He created the image below that shows the observable universe in one disc. Our sun and solar system are at the very center of the image, followed by the outer ring of our Milky Way galaxy, the Perseus arm of the Milky Way, a ring of other nearby galaxies like Andromeda, the rest of the cosmic web, cosmic microwave background radiation leftover from the big bang, and finally a ring of plasma also generated by the big bang...

100,000 Stars ChromeExperiments


Category: Geographic/Scientific
Author/Source:, San Francisco, CA
Implementation: WebGL, CSS3D, Web Audio
Date: May 2012

From [ ]: 100,000 Stars is an interactive visualization of the stellar neighborhood created for the Google Chrome web browser. It shows the real location of over 100,000 nearby stars. Zooming in reveals 87 major named stars and our solar system. The galaxy view is an artist's rendition.

Learn more at or visit the ChromeExperiment Workshop

Data-Visualization of a Wifi Signal

Category: Geographic/Scientific
Created by:
Implementation: NA
Date: Feb 2015

See the youTube video here and the project page for more information on this simple, yet very effective data-visualization of a Wifi signal in 3D.

A Look under the Hood of Online Data Visualization


Category: Geographic/Scientific
Created By: Scientific American's Blog
Implementation: NA
Date: May 2014

From [1]: [Jen Christiansen provides an] abridged version of [his] OpenVis Conference presentation—a glimpse at the process and guiding philosophy behind data visualizations for Scientific American[...] Rather than focus on the tools used to create graphics for the magazine, [Christiansen is] addressing things from an art director’s point of view. [...] [His] job lies in helping to match the right artist with the right data set, and then nudging things along, always with an eye towards it’s ultimate audience; [American Scientific's] science-savvy, but non-specialist readers.

Earth: Wind Patterns displayed in Real Time


Category: GIS/scientific
Author/Source: Cameron Beccario
Implementation: Natural Earth, D3.js, when.js, backbone.js, node.js. Source code available on github.
Date: January 2014

From "earth" is a project to visualize global weather conditions. The main components of the project are:
  • a script to download and process Global Forecast System weather data in GRIB2 format from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, NOAA / National Weather Service.
  • a GRIB2 to JSON converter (see the grib2json project).
  • scripts to push site files to Amazon S3 for static hosting.
  • a browser app that interpolates the data and renders an animated wind map.

An instance of "earth" is available at It is currently hosted by Amazon S3 and fronted by CloudFlare.

Circular Calendar


Category: Geographic/Scientific
Author/Source: Soren lachnit, at Digital Media & Graphic Design
Implementation: NA
Date: Nov 2013

From 2013-11: By measuring the amount of space covered in yellow from the center of the calendar out towards the edge of the circle, you can see how the length of daylight shifts throughout the year. The more yellow you see, the more hours of daylight you get. So if you don’t already know when the summer solstice is, a quick glance at the calendar should give you a good idea that June is a very sunny month.

How Many?


Category: Scientific/Conversion
Author/Source: SBLlattinDesign
Implementation: NA
Date: April 2013

From SBLattinDesign : If your kitchen drawers are anything like ours, you never have the right measuring implement for the recipe you’re tackling. Keep this chart on hand, and the next time you find yourself asking “How many…” you’ll know just what to do.

The full infographics is available here.

NASA:Salt Concentration Levels in the Sea


Category: Geographic/Scientific
Implementation: NA
Date: Feb. 2013

From : The colorful images chronicle the seasonal stirrings of our salty world: Pulses of freshwater gush from the Amazon River's mouth; an invisible seam divides the salty Arabian Sea from the fresher waters of the Bay of Bengal; a large patch of freshwater appears in the eastern tropical Pacific in the winter. These and other changes in ocean salinity patterns are revealed by the first full year of surface salinity data captured by NASA's Aquarius instrument.

Wind Map


Category: Geographic/GIS/Scientific
Author/Source:Viegas and Wattenberg,
Implementation: HTML & Javascript
Date: 2012?

From The map was created in the cold winter months when wind was much on our minds. It conveys the movement of the air in the most basic way: with visual motion. As an artwork that reflects the real-world, its emotional meaning changes from day to day. On calm days it can be a soothing meditation on the environment; during hurricanes it can become ominous and frightening.

About the technique: The general technique of using comet-like trails to show motion goes back to Edmund Halley in 1686 (see Fowler & Ware). Many scientists (Fowler & Ware, Jones & Saito, van Wijk, etc.) have described variations during the past few decades. Our map is designed to provide a dense, easily readable field and to highlight areas of high wind speed. It's implemented entirely in HTML and JavaScript.

Celestial Spirograph

Category: Scientific/Astronomy
Author/Source: NASA
Implementation: NA
Date: Feb. 2013

From NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbits our planet every 95 minutes, building up increasingly deeper views of the universe with every circuit. Its wide-eyed Large Area Telescope (LAT) sweeps across the entire sky every three hours, capturing the highest-energy form of light -- gamma rays -- from sources across the universe. These range from supermassive black holes billions of light-years away to intriguing objects in our own galaxy, such as X-ray binaries, supernova remnants and pulsars.

Now a Fermi scientist has transformed LAT data of a famous pulsar into a mesmerizing movie that visually encapsulates the spacecraft's complex motion.

It is not very clear what is being displayed, which seems to include the trajectory of the LAT spacecraft. Annotation and indication of what the different markers are would have made this more informational.

Hurricanes from 1851 to 2012


Category: Scientific Data Visualization
Implementation: NA
Date: Aug. 2012

From here's a bottoms-up view of known tropical storms and hurricanes dating back to 1851. The fine folks at NOAA keep an archive of storm paths with wind speed, storm name, date, among other attributes, and are always updating and refining information for past events based on historical evidence and educated hunches. The data are awesome and they make it available in several formats. Here's what it looks like slapped onto a polar projection (looking up at Antarctica) with point color tied to intensity...

By John Nelson

43000 Galaxies


Category: scientific
Author/Source: Harvard Center for Astrophysics
Implementation: NA
Date: May 2011

From The 2MASS Redshift Survey (2MRS) has catalogued more than 43,000 galaxies within 380 million light-years from Earth (z<0.09). In this projection, the plane of the Milky Way runs horizontally across the center of the image. 2MRS is notable for extending closer to the Galactic plane than previous surveys - a region that's generally obscured by dust.
Credit: T.H. Jarrett (IPAC/SSC)

World Population in 2100?


Category: Scientific/Geographic
Implementation: Flash
Date: May 2011

From What will happen to the world's population by 2100? Spanish design house Bestiaro has produced this visualisation of the UN population data for us using its Impure design language. Explore the data by sliding through the years below - all figures in thousands

Map of Collaboration between Researchers


Category: Scientific/Geographic/GIS
Author/Source: Olivier H. Beauchesne
Implementation: NA
Date: Jan 2011

From Beauchesne's blog: My employer, Science-Metrix, is bibliometric consulting firm. In other words, we engineer ways to measure the impact and growth of scientific discovery (and publications) in the world. To accomplish this, we license data from scientific journal aggregators like Elsevier’s Scopus and Thomson Reuter’s Web of Science. The data we have is bibliographic in nature. We don’t have the full text of the articles but rather citation networks, authors and their affiliations, abstracts, etc.

From this data, I extracted and aggregated scientific collaboration between cities all over the world. For example, if a UCLA researcher published a paper with a colleague at the University of Tokyo, this would create an instance of collaboration between Los Angeles and Tokyo. The result of this process is a very long list of city pairs, like Los Angeles-Tokyo, and the number of instances of scientific collaboration between them. Following that, I used the database to convert the cities’ names to geographical coordinates.

Space Fence

Category: Scientific
Author/Source: published by
Implementation: NA
Date: Jan 2011

From : Space Fence is envisioned as a network of ground-based S-band radars that will detect, track, measure and catalog thousands of objects in low-Earth orbit. Expected to begin initial operation in 2015, the system will replace the existing Air Force Space Surveillance System, or VHF Fence, which has been in service since the early 1960s. A leader in S-band radar development, Lockheed Martin's high-powered radar systems will find and follow the course of thousands of pieces of space debris to an accuracy of just meters.

Admitulator: demographics of college applicants


Category: Demographics/Scientific
Author/Source: CMU School of Art
Implementation: Processing
Date: Sept. 2010

From Admitulator 2.0 (2010). A custom tool for quantitatively evaluating university applicants according to a diverse array of weighted metrics. The pie chart is the core interface for sorting and evaluating applicants; it allows faculty with different admissions priorities to explore and negotiate different balances between applicant features (such as e.g. portfolio scores, standardized test scores, grade point averages, etcetera). Built in Processing for the CMU School of Art.

Firefly Trails


Category: Scientific, animal behavior

Mail Online/Daily News, and reported by

Implementation: Photographs
Date: Sept. 2010

From MailOnline: Amateur photographer and full time physicist Kristian Cvecek spends nights in woodlands waiting for fireflies to come out so he can capture them on camera. German Kristian, 31, from Erlangan, near Nuremburg, photographs the creatures near his home. He uses slow shutter speeds to capture on camera their movements between the trees and ferns.

Places & Spaces, Mapping Science


Category: Scientific, Historical
Author/Source: Indiana U.
Implementation: Misc
Date: current

Places & Spaces: Mapping Science is meant to inspire cross-disciplinary discussion on how to best track and communicate human activity and scientific progress on a global scale. It has two components: the physical part supports the close inspection of high quality reproductions of maps for display at conferences and education centers; the online counterpart provides links to a selected series of maps and their makers along with detailed explanations of how these maps work. The exhibit is a 10-year effort. Each year, 10 new maps are added resulting in 100 maps total in 2014.

Morse-Smale Complex, and the visualization of "big data"


Category: 3D, Scientific, algorithms
Author/Source: UC Davis
Date: 2009

Basking in Big Data [2], or how Visualization software makes viewing and interacting with enormous data sets practical without a supercomputer.

Recently [...] researchers at the University of California, Davis, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced that they have developed software that makes analysis and visualization of huge data sets possible without the aid of a supercomputer. The researchers' algorithm (the Morse-Smale Complex algorithm) slices up data into more manageable chunks, then stitches it back together on the fly, so that the data can be manipulated in three dimensions, all on a computer with the power and capacity of a high-end laptop. (from Technology Review, )

Slides of presentation at VisWeek 09 [ here].


Category: Scientific

The University of New South Wales - Sydney Australia

Implementation: network, 3D
Date: 2009

SKYRAILS is a 3D OpenGL visualization software.

Skyrails is a social network (or any graph really) visualization system. It has a built in programming language for processing (as far as visualisation attributes goes) the graph and its attributes. The system is not only aimed at expert users though, because through the scripting languages menus can be built and the system can be used by any users.

The main distinguishing point of the system comes from the built in scripting language, the added flexibility of how to represent attributes (nodes can be binded to planes and spheres based on their attributes) and the scriptability of the user interface system. This makes skyrails ideal for creating presentations targeted at the average users. (from


Tree Maps from LifeHacker

Harddisk treemap.png

Category: scientific
Author/Source: NA
Implementation: 2D
Date: 2008

CCByNc.png You can remix, tweak, and build upon this page non-commercially. Your work must acknowledge Dominique Thiebaut as its author and be non-commercial.