8 great data visualizations from TED Talks

Eric Berlow and Sean Gourley: Mapping ideas worth spreading
The event: TED2013
What they’re illustrating: Ecologist Eric Berlow and data scientist Sean Gourley met at TED and discovered that their talks — on the data and ecology of war — were connected. They decided to map a wide variety of interlocking ideas, using TEDx talks as their data set.
Most eye-popping moment: At 2:57, talks (represented as nodes) spin and cluster into a multicolored 3D visual map of the TEDx universe.
Nathalie Miebach: Art made of storms
The event: TEDGlobal 2011
What she’s illustrating: Using strings and beads, Nathalie Miebach translates weather data into woven sculptures — and then uses the sculptures as a basis for musical scores.
Most eye-popping moment: Check out the detailed close-ups starting at 3:32, but don’t miss the brief string quartet rendition of her score in the opening shot.
Aaron Koblin: Visualizing ourselves … with crowd-sourced data
The event: TED2011
What he’s illustrating: Artist Aaron Koblin starts simply enough, with elegant, illuminated maps showing U.S. flight path patterns. But his crowdsourced illustration projects quickly lead us into strange and uncharted visual territory.
Most eye-popping moment: At 13:08, Koblin plays a clip from his music video for a posthumous Johnny Cash track, using thousands of web-sourced, frame-by-frame Flash drawings to build a hypnotic and moving portrait of the country legend.
David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization
The event: TEDGlobal 2010
What he’s illustrating: The glut of information in our world clouds our understanding of current events. Data expert David McCandless shows how infographics help us make sense out of statistics.
Most eye-popping moment: At 2:07, McCandless provides a sobering and simple graphic to illustrate the catastrophic impact of the 2008 financial crisis.
Carter Emmart: A 3D atlas of the universe
The event: TED2010
What he’s illustrating: Oh, the entire known universe, circa 2010
Most eye-popping moment: We pan up from the peaks of the Himalayas to the edge of the cosmos in less than 7:00. You’re really going to want to see the whole thing.
Margaret Wertheim: The beautiful math of coral
The event: TED2009
What she’s illustrating: Using knitting techniques derived from mathematical algorithms found in natural forms, Margaret Wertheim and her collaborators crocheted a jaw-droppingly accurate re-creation of a coral reef.
Most eye-popping moment: From 1:19-1:55, we get a slideshow picturing Wertheim’s “corals” in breathtaking detail, revealing both their mathematical structure and their eerie realism. Don’t be surprised when you reach for your snorkel.