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When Dr. Tufte is restless

March 26, 2009

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I’ve never been to an Edward Tufte seminar, and am not sure if his demeanor is humorous in person. But this is a curiosity, sort of an information design private joke: the Pioneer Space Plaque Redesign. I’m not sure I really get it. Is this a feature of his live presentations? Though cryptic now, I’d like to see more attempts at infographics yuks; perhaps they will grow on me.

It did drive me to refresh my memory on the history and design of the plaques, which were mounted on the spacecrafts Pioneers 10 and 11 in 1972 and 73 respectively. I recalled Carl Sagan had something to do with them, but there is a lot of compelling and even mindblowing history on the Wikipedia article (and it’s well-sourced). Sagan’s wife did the art, and there was debate over how much detail to give the female figure’s genitalia.

What would Dr. Tufte have advised on this particular information graphic conundrum, had he been involved?

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