Cosmic Web

Posted: January 28th, 2014 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

In the end of many of my talks, after going through a variety of compelling examples of network visualization, I wrap up with a bit of a quandary, asking the audience if there’s such a thing as a universal structure. This teaser usually comprises a side-by-side comparison between a mouse’s neuronal network and a simulation of the growth of cosmic structure and the formation of galaxies and quasars.

A common juxtaposition, shown during many of my lectures, between a neuronal network (left) and the vast cosmic structure (right).

As it turns out, this inquiry might not be as far-fetched as we might think. A few days ago, National Geographic posted an intriguing article titled Astronomers Get First Glimpse of Cosmic Web, where they report how scientists have for the first time captured a peek of the “vast, web-like network of diffuse gas that links all of the galaxies in the cosmos.” As stated in the article:

Leading cosmological theories suggest that galaxies are cocooned within gigantic, wispy filaments of gas. This “cosmic web” of gas-filled nebulas stretches between large, spacious voids that are tens of millions of light years wide. Like spiders, galaxies mostly appear to lie within the intersections of the long-sought webs.

From the original image caption in the article: Computer simulations suggest that matter in the universe is distributed in a “cosmic web” of filaments, as seen in the image above from a large-scale dark-matter simulation. The inset is a zoomed-in, high-resolution image of a smaller part of the cosmic web, 10 million light-years across, from a simulation that includes gas as well as dark matter. The intense radiation from a quasar can, like a flashlight, illuminate part of the surrounding cosmic web (highlighted in the image) and make a filament of gas glow, as was observed in the case of quasar UM287. Credit: Anatoly Klypin and Joel Primack, S. Cantalupo

This find is not just impressive and thought-provoking, but it could also become a major focus of the emerging fields of complex systems and network science.


The Book of Trees - available for pre-order

Posted: January 8th, 2014 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

After many months of research, planning, and writing, I’m extremely happy to announce The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge is now available for pre-order at Amazon (out by March 2014).

While investigating various tree diagrams, charts, and illustrations for Chapter 1 of Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information, I became deeply obsessed with tree iconography. I remember being particularly enthralled with ancient figures from medieval Europe and three-thousand-year-old Assyrian stone carvings. During this research period, and despite my best efforts, I could never find a wide-ranging book dedicated to the tree as one of the most popular, captivating, and widespread visual archetypes. This was ultimately the crucial impetus that propelled me to create my latest work, The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge.

The final cover of The Book of Trees

Trees are one of the most ubiquitous religious symbols across the world. From ancient Sumer to Christianity, from the Maya civilization to Buddhism, there’s hardly a human society over the ages that hasn’t associated trees with some sort of celestial and religious power.

The omnipresence of such a revered symbol reveals an inherently human fascination with trees that goes well beyond sacred devotion. Due to its expressive quality and natural branching scheme, trees have also become important communication tools, illustrating a variety of topics such as family ties, moral values, systems of law, domains of science, biological species, hard disk drives, database schemas, and online discussions. As a direct embodiment of hierarchy and multiplicity, the allegorical tree figure has lasted hundreds of years as one of the most enduring archetypes in the history of visual communication.

The Book of Trees covers over 800 years of human culture through the lens of the tree figure, from its entrenched roots in religious medieval exegesis to its contemporary, secular digital themes. With roughly 200 images the book offers a visual evolutionary history of this universal metaphor, showing us the incremental adoption of a stylized, abstract construct, as well as a recent emergence of new visual models, many employing advanced computer-generated algorithms. Ultimately, this book makes visualization a prism through which to observe the evolution of civilization.

Pre-order now at Amazon and take advantage of the one-time special price.