Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand | Audio

Episode 65: Cones of Uncertainty

The forecast cone used by meteorologists to show the possible path of a hurricane is also known as the cone of uncertainty. Like the twitchy gauge from 2016 election, it combines "precision with uncertainty in a maddening way," Michael says.

Jessica responds:

Design gives the illusion that you've created order out of chaos. And it is an illusion.... It's almost like design as a kind of national therapy at this moment of emotional, psychological, perceptual, unpredictable unrest in so many dimensions of what's going on. I don't know that we are deserving of the role of reassuring the public in this way, with curves and cones.

Also mentioned this week:
  • NPR, National Weather Service Adds New Colors
  • Scientific American, Visualizing Uncertain Weather
  • Investigative Reporters and Editors, Visualizing and Understanding Uncertainty
  • Alberto Cairo, In visualization, captions are as important as graphics themselves
  • Will Oremus, Slate, In Hurricane Forecasts, "Cone of Uncertainty" Is Surrounded by Haze of Confusion (2012)
  • On the Media, Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: U.S. Storm Edition
  • Joshua Stewart, San Diego Union-Tribune, Plaque honoring Confederate president quietly removed from Horton Plaza Park in San Diego
  • Erin Blakemore, The Atlantic, The Lost Dream of a Superhighway to Honor the Confederacy
  • Andy Newman and Vivian Wang, New York Times, Calhoun Who? Yale Drops Name of Slavery Advocate for Computer Pioneer
  • London Design Festival medals: Margaret Calvert winsMargaret Calvert wins Lifetime Achievement Award
  • More on Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinnear from the London Design Museum, British Road Sign Project, Wired
  • Alexander Todorov, Face Value
  • Alexander Todorov, Social Perception Lab

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