The Thinking Eye: a presentation by Edward Tufte

This April Edward Tufte, a statistician and professor emeritus of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University, will be giving a presentation at the University of Illinois in Foellinger Auditorium. Topics of the presentation include evidence and inference, strategies for identifying excellence, and practical advice for seeing better in the real world and on the glowing flat rectangle of the computer screen.

Edward Tufte, or ET as he is commonly called, is a man who has dedicated his life to the complex understanding of the important connections between science, technology, and art. As a data theorist and visualization pioneer, he is interested in demonstrating what happens in the place where art meets science to create awe-inspiring displays of data sets. As an expert in informational graphics and design, his work varies from data-rich illustrations to sculpture, and even entire landscape pieces such as his 243-acre landscape sculpture park and tree farm in Woodbury, Connecticut. He has also written and designed 4 books: Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information, Visual Explanations, and Beautiful Evidence. The vastness and beauty of his work has prompted such publications as The New York Times and Business Week to call him “The Leonardo da Vinci of Data” and the “Galileo of Graphics.”

An incredible example of his ability to visually convey an understanding of data sets is his art exhibit, “The Cognitive Art of Feynman Diagrams.” Feynman diagrams, named after Richard Feynman, are diagrams that show what happens when elementary particles collide. Though these diagrams already represent a visual display of data sets, Tufte brings the diagrams into a three-dimensional optical experience using stainless steel that completely alters the ways in which we communicate with and understand the data they represent. These stainless steel sculptures hanging from the walls represent the space-time paths taken by all subatomic particles in the entire universe using just 120 diagrams. It’s safe to say that he takes the word “visionary” to a whole new level. ET’s art exhibit, “The Cognitive Art of Feynman Diagrams,” will be at the Fermilab Art Gallery in Batavia, Illinois (near Chicago) from April 15 to June 26.

For more information on this and his many other projects you can visit his website and you can check out his twitter.

You can also take a look at all 4 of his books in the Data Presentation and Visualization Collection in the Scholarly Commons. If you would like to get hands on experience with your own data visualization projects, check out the Savvy Researcher Workshop, “Visualizing Your Data” on April 9th. For more information and to register take a look at the Savvy Researcher Calendar.

April 10, 2014 7:00 pm
Foellinger Auditorium, UIUC
This event is sponsored by NCSA and is free and open to the public.

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