Exercise on Illustration in Scientific Writing

This exercise requires that you design an illustration for each situation given below. Assume that you have an artist. For that reason, your main goal is just to sketch or describe the kind of illustration that you want your artist to create.

  1. Imagine that it is 1964 and that you are working for the Warren Commission and helping prepare the report on the assassination of President John Kennedy. One section involves presenting a scenario in which Lee Harvey Oswald shot the President from the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Describe for an artist an appropriate illustration for the following set of details that you assume to be true:

    Shots were fired at 12:30 p.m. Witnesses claimed that shots came from a window (southeast corner) of the Depository's sixth floor. A rifle was found on the sixth floor near the stairs, which are located at the northwest corner of building. All floors in the building have a floor area of 96 feet by 96 feet. The sixth floor has supporting pillars, but no inner walls. Motorcycle officer Marrion Baker, coming up the northwest corner stairs, saw Oswald in the second floor vestibule at 12:31:30. Oswald was walking down a corridor toward a Coke machine. After Supervisor Roy Truly vouched for Oswald, Truly and Baker proceeded up the stairs. At 12:32, Mrs. Robert Reid saw Oswald in the second floor office space. He was walking toward the front stairway, which connects the first and second floors only. The front stairway leads to the building's main entrance on Elm Street. At 12:33, Oswald was stopped by Robert MacNeil (of NBC) and asked for directions to a phone. This meeting occurred on Elm Street almost directly below the window where the shots were allegedly fired.

  2. Imagine that it is 1985 and that the wreckage of the R.M.S. Titanic has just been located on the ocean floor. Surprisingly, the ship is in two pieces, separated by a distance of 0.4 miles. Create an illustration that shows what happened to the Titanic based on the following events that you assume to be true [Gannon, Popular Science, February 1995]:

    At 11:40 p.m. on the night of April 12, 1912, the Titanic on its maiden voyage sideswiped an iceberg. The collision caused a huge gash in the ship's hull. By midnight, the first six compartments of the hull had filled to the point at which water was sloshing over from one compartment to the next. At 1:20, the bow dipped to the point that water flooded through the anchor chain holes. By 2:00, the bow had submerged so much that the three mammoth propellers in the stern lifted free from the water. One of the stacks toppled. At 2:10, the Titanic was tilted at least 45 degrees. The bending moment on the ship was immense, for a huge portion of the ship hung unsupported. Suddenly, at a point at or just beneath the surface, the topside pulled apart, while the hull girder near the ship's center failed. The keel bent, and the bottom plating buckled. Within minutes, the stern angled high above the water. At 2:18, the bow, dangling beneath fills with water, grew heavier and ripped loose. Free from that weight, the stern rose sharply, held almost a vertical position, and then faded downward again. At 2:20, the stern gently slid beneath the surface. Meanwhile the bow had been coasting down at a maximum speed of about 13 mph. At 2:29, it struck the bottom, 12,612 feet beneath the ocean surface. At 2:56, the stern, having fallen nearly vertically at about 4 mph, crashed (nearly 36 minutes after submerging) 0.4 miles from the bow.

Last updated 3/00
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