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visualization: fun



The Outbreak Poems — artistic emissions in a pandemic


fun + amusement

Eggnauts — Engineers Launch Model Rockets at UBC

Jul 27 2005 | text and photos by Martin Krzywinski | After reading the UBC media release announcing that model rockets would be fired at UBC, I could not resist.

The contest was to launch a rocket at least 150m into the air with a payload of an egg and bottle of maple syrup. You guess it - the egg had to be returned back to earth in relative safety. I was first in line to see the egg carnage, which promised to be the best part of the show. Who wants to see whole eggs landing in relative safety anyway?

The first launch - missed

Not knowing exactly where the launch would be held (the media release said Thundebird Park - which is huge), I was hanging around at the center of the park hoping that smoke and cheers would guide me. Sure enough, at about 5:30 I heard a bang and a puff of smoke.

I found the launch platform - but unfortunately missed the first lift-off.

The second launch - just smokin'

I was well positioned with my camera for the second launch. After a few times being told to step even further back - so that I would not get egg on my face, I'm sure - I settled into a position that was both safe and a good lookout.

Unfortunately, from my vantage point I was shooting right into the sun, so the photos are a little bleached out. I also had the 24-70mm f/2.8L on my 20D so I couldn't get good reach. The photos here are 100% crops.

Shooting at 5 fps, I caught the first sign of the plume developing around the rocket as its engines ignited.

UBC rocket launch

After the second frame, the acceleration was rapid and the rocket lifted off to 2-3 m before my next frame.

UBC rocket launch

And it was on its way!

UBC rocket launch

And then it just kept going, and going and going. It finally disappeared travelling west. Nobody heard from the egg again.

UBC rocket launch UBC rocket launch UBC rocket launch

The third launch - it's ok, the car's just a rental

After the second launch I repositioned myself to face south, with the sun at my back. After the excitement of the egg launched into orbit, I could hardly anticipate what came next. I was in for a show so exciting that all remaining launches were promptly canceled. Read on.

Before the launch, I caught the engineers looking over their rocket. Handling it lovingly, they were making sure that the eggnaut and maple syrup were snuggly nestled into the payload canister.

UBC rocket launch

The tension was palpable. Would it launch? Would it reach 150m? Would the eggnaut return to tell the tale without cracking?

UBC rocket launch

Once again, the shutter flapped at 5 fps as the rocket took off. This time, I caught the start of the plume at just the right time and captured the rocket take off in the first few frames.

UBC rocket launch

The trip started solidly for our eggnaut. The launch was timely, and more importantly, the rocket was travelling vertically - upwards. Would the egg make a career out of it? Just as our hopes were rising, we realized that something was terribly wrong. Shortly after take off, it became clear that the eggnaut was doomed. We didn't want to believe it at first, but it was obvious that the flight plan was taking a turn for the worse.

UBC rocket launch

The rocket began to spin wildly. To add, it began to turn to traveling the directly of the shocked onlookers and the parking lot. It was not longer just about the egg anymore. Fear gripped me, but I kept shooting. The next four frames reveal the horrible events that sealed the eggnaut's doom. In the second of the frames, an unplanned explosion is clearly seen. The rocket is undeterred by this, and continues to fly in the direction of the spectators.

UBC rocket launch

UBC rocket launch

UBC rocket launch

UBC rocket launch

The travel path became more erratic, and only a few seconds later the last booster cut-off. The eggnaut, perhaps still viable, was in free fall. Falling, accelerating - right into the parking lot.

UBC rocket launch

I started running towards the extrapolated crash site, as I heard a thud. When I got there, a small crowd already formed around the impact site. Someone called for an eggdoctor. In my first shot of the macabre, only the parachute, never deployed, is seen. The true extent of the disaster is covered by the figure of solemn child.

UBC rocket launch

Rapidly, the team of engineers arrived on site. Although the rocket spent about 10 fateful seconds in the air, it only traveled about 30 meters, as the crow flies (which it does much longer).

UBC rocket launch

Of course, all eyes were on the contents. Was the eggnaut safe? Perhaps by some earthly miracle, the impact was not severe enough. Of course, even before the rocket payload canister was opened, we all knew that the sickly thud that placed the rocket less than a meter from a car was a mortal hit to our airborne friend.

UBC rocket launch

The next photo captures the human moment of tragedy. The team lead finally realizes that nothing survived. The man behind him and to the right bites his lip in disappointment and shock.

UBC rocket launch

The next photo reveals the payload - now turned into an ogrish paste of eggnaut and maple syrup.

UBC rocket launch

The fourth launch - canceled

The fourth team stood by - their launch canceled. Their hearts were heavy with the tragedy of the previous team's horrible flame-out. One of the team members is seen here so distraught that he kneals and leans on his rocket for support.

UBC rocket launch

Yet they could not help but imagine - how far would their eggnaut have traveled?

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news + thoughts

Poster Design Guidelines

Wed 15-07-2020

Clear, concise, legible and compelling.

The PDF template is a poster about making posters. It provides design, typography and data visualiation tips with minimum fuss. Follow its advice until you have developed enough design sobriety and experience to know when to go your own way.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Poster Design Guidelines — Clear, concise, legible and compelling..

The SEIRS model for infectious disease dynamics

Thu 18-06-2020

Realistic models of epidemics account for latency, loss of immunity, births and deaths.

We continue with our discussion about epidemic models and show how births, deaths and loss of immunity can create epidemic waves—a periodic fluctuation in the fraction of population that is infected.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: The SEIRS model for infectious disease dynamics. (read)

This column has an interactive supplemental component (download code) that allows you to explore epidemic waves and introduces the idea of the phase plane, a compact way to understand the evolution of an epidemic over its entire course.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: The SEIRS model for infectious disease dynamics. (Interactive supplemental materials)

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: The SEIRS model for infectious disease dynamics. Nature Methods 17:557–558.

Background reading

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: Modeling infectious epidemics. Nature Methods 17:455–456.

Gene Machines

Fri 05-06-2020

Shifting soundscapes, textures and rhythmic loops produced by laboratory machines.

In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, Segue was commissioned to create an original composition based on audio recordings from the GSC's laboratory equipment, robots and computers—to make “music” from the noise they produce.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Gene Machines by Segue. Now available on vinyl.

Virus Mutations Reveal How COVID-19 Really Spread

Mon 01-06-2020

Genetic sequences of the coronavirus tell story of when the virus arrived in each country and where it came from.

Our graphic in Scientific American's Graphic Science section in the June 2020 issue shows a phylogenetic tree based on a snapshot of the data model from Nextstrain as of 31 March 2020.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Virus Mutations Reveal How COVID-19 Really Spread. Text by Mark Fischetti (Senior Editor), art direction by Jen Christiansen (Senior Graphics Editor), source: Nextstrain (enabled by data from GISAID).

Cover of Nature Cancer April 2020

Mon 27-04-2020

Our design on the cover of Nature Cancer's April 2020 issue shows mutation spectra of patients from the POG570 cohort of 570 individuals with advanced metastatic cancer.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Each ellipse system represents the mutation spectrum of an individual patient. Individual ellipses in the system correspond to the number of base changes in a given class and are layered by mutation count. Ellipse angle is controlled by the proportion of mutations in a class within the sample and its size is determined by a sigmoid mapping of mutation count scaled within the layer. The opacity of each system represents the duration since the diagnosis of advanced disease. (read more)

The cover design accompanies our report in the issue Pleasance, E., Titmuss, E., Williamson, L. et al. (2020) Pan-cancer analysis of advanced patient tumors reveals interactions between therapy and genomic landscapes. Nat Cancer 1:452–468.

Modeling infectious epidemics

Tue 16-06-2020

Every day sadder and sadder news of its increase. In the City died this week 7496; and of them, 6102 of the plague. But it is feared that the true number of the dead this week is near 10,000 ....
—Samuel Pepys, 1665

This month, we begin a series of columns on epidemiological models. We start with the basic SIR model, which models the spread of an infection between three groups in a population: susceptible, infected and recovered.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Modeling infectious epidemics. (read)

We discuss conditions under which an outbreak occurs, estimates of spread characteristics and the effects that mitigation can play on disease trajectories. We show the trends that arise when "flattenting the curve" by decreasing `R_0`.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Modeling infectious epidemics. (read)

This column has an interactive supplemental component (download code) that allows you to explore how the model curves change with parameters such as infectious period, basic reproduction number and vaccination level.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Modeling infectious epidemics. (Interactive supplemental materials)

Bjørnstad, O.N., Shea, K., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2020) Points of significance: Modeling infectious epidemics. Nature Methods 17:455–456.



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