Its Not Magic But

My friend and fellow reviewer Jamy Ian Swiss has co-authored a chapter in a fascinating new book by Edward Tufte. Professor Tufte teaches statistical evidence and information design at Yale University. Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative is the third book in his series on the display of information. His first book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983) is about pictures of numbers. His second book, Envisioning Information (1990), is about pictures of nouns. Visual

Explanations is about pictures of verbs, the representation of mechanism and motion, process and dynamics, cause and effect, explanation and narrative.

Of interest to magicians is one chapter devoted to magic trick illustrations, and this chapter was co-written with Mr. Swiss. Tufte discusses magic illustrations for two reasons: they are the two dimensional representation of actions which occur in space and time; and the field of conjuring is related to disinformation design, in which the viewer is intentionally given information which leads to incorrect conclusions.

Speaking of incorrect conclusions, you will also be amazed to discover that the Challenger disaster could have possibly been averted had the engineers involved used more effective information design.

I won't pretend that I understand much of what Tufte has to say, but the book is fascinating and is absolutely beautifully produced. If you have an interest in design or in information theory you will enjoy all of Tufte's books.

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