The Apollo 11 Photo, Explained

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I did an interactive chart and a couple of promotional images for this story on one of the iconic photos of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The piece addressed the various items you see in the photo and explains why they look the way they do.

Even 50 years after the landing, conspiracy theorists still insist it was faked, as if the space program is only a Capricorn One event. The items noted in the photo are often invoked to support this viewpoint.

The chart is here. This is the first panel:

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Buried Bombs Show War Isn’t Over

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I did the graphics research for this story about unexploded World War II ordnance — bombs to artillery shells to hand grenades and everything else — being unearthed over decades on Guam.

Understanding Guam’s war history is vital to comprehending why these explosives are still being found. Japan seized the island shortly after Pearl Harbor in 1941; the U.S. liberated Guam in 1944.

Two animated maps tell the story: 1) How U.S. Marines and Army troops retook Guam in battles moving north/northeast across the island and 2) How Guam’s development and growth (and accompanying construction) caused the buried bombs to be found.

My colleague Karl Gelles did a top-notch job on the maps, based on my independent research and a database assembled by the U.S. Navy. The story ran in USA Today and the Pacific Daily News, a USA Today Network publication.

A link to the story is here.

 

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The Trouble with Truffles

Antique illustration of "Les chercheurs de truffes" by Vayson

I used a conversational approach for this explainer graphic on truffles — the mushroom-like fungus that’s a prized delicacy among food aficionados.

The appeal of truffles isn’t in their taste. It’s in their aroma and the way they impart flavor to other food.

I was able to verify a couple of historical quotes about the attraction of truffles and closed with a great observation from Anthony Bourdain, the late celebrity chef.

This accompanied a story by Marco Della Cava, the same reporter who did the Mavericks wave story.

A link to the graphic is here.

A link to Marco’s story is here.

 

 

 

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Everything You Want to Know About Boeing’s 737 Max 8 Anti-Stall System

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This is a straightforward look at the anti-stall safety system aboard Boeing’s 737 Max 8 commercial aircraft. This ran March 14, 2019, as part of our coverage of the Ethiopian Airline crash in which 157 people died.

The Max 8 jet was the same as Indonesia’s Lion Air Flight 610, which crashed Oct. 29, 2018. All 189 passengers and crew were killed.

We used text and images to describe the Max 8’s MCAS — Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System — which is designed to stabilize the aircraft in flight.

It took time to find an aeronautical source that would go on record with me about the system. Boeing declined, citing the federal investigation. Component manufacturers and even some universities did not want to weigh in.

I finally found the aviation people at the Florida Institute of Technology, who were quite helpful.

A link to the explainer is here.

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Yes, a Story About Dogs Being Killed for Food is Difficult to Write and Will Break Your Heart

South Korea Dog Meat Farm (Farm 10)

This longform graphic, another volunteer effort of mine, seeks to concisely explain the history of dog farms and dog consumption in South Korea, and why it’s on the wane.

It accompanies a March 6, 2019, story by Thomas Maresca, a USA Today correspondent.

This was difficult to research and write about, but I strove to keep personal bias out of the graphic. We’re observing vast cultural differences here and I did not want to be the ignorant American imposing my values on someone else.

For the record: The notion of killing and eating dogs and cats horrifies me. I’m also horrified by American slaughterhouses — the surreptitious Humane Society video of cows being tormented before slaughter brings me to tears — but I still keep eating hamburgers and chicken sandwiches.

So I don’t have a moral high ground here. Accordingly, I kept the dog story as accurate and dispassionate as possible, since this is not an opinion piece.

A link to the graphic is here.

A link to the story is here.

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Horning in on a White Rhino Story

Profile of white Rhino ceratotherium simum on flat plain

I volunteered to do this longform explainer graphic on white rhinos after overhearing staff at the Nashville Tennessean talk about the pending arrival of a new white rhinoceros at the Nashville Zoo.

I asked Duane Gang, a Tennessean content editor and great guy, if they had a graphic planned for their rhino story. He said no. I said, “Would you like one?”

I try to play heads-up ball at work, even when I’m not at USA Today. On this particular day I was at the Tennessean, working remotely for USAT. Linda and I were in Nashville to look after her parents’ house.

I ended up researching the various rhino species and writing this explainer. I also did the graphics in the longform and an additional graphic (below) that ran with the Tennessean story.

A link to the graphic is here.

A link to the Tennessean story is here.

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Why Mavericks Waves are So Deadly

Ocean Waves

This longform graphic explains why the waves at Mavericks — a surfing location for fanatics on the California coast — are so high and so deadly.

Putting this together required a substantial amount of research, including translating bathymetric1 terminology not readily understandable by the average reader. I found myself consulting a number of sources to remedy that.

Graphic artist and colleague Karl Gelles did a bang-up job of adding maps that showed how swells from distant storms in the Pacific Ocean are transformed into four- or five-story high waves when they reach Half Moon Bay.


1 — Another word for underwater topography.
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