Thursday, November 17, 2011

Misleading BBC Landscape Animation

This is a lovely science story:  A massive range of mountains completely covered by the Antarctic ice sheet has been mapped in 3D detail.  The story is nicely explained in an animation similar to a Google Earth Tour.

Unfortunately it contains a visualization howler:  The vertical exaggeration is about x200 and although this is marked on the above diagram, it isn't emphasized (the 4000m scale bar is off in a corner).  When you play the animation, it gets worse, you aren't told about the exaggeration at all.  The outcome is that untrained viewers of this visualisation will think that under the ice the topography is much steeper than the Himalayas whereas I estimate the steepest slope they have visualized is no more than 1:500.