Another Dan Brown mystery


On 23 May, I received a curious email from my colleague Felix Pharand Deschenes, a Canadian anthropologist.

He told me I needed to get hold of a copy of Inferno, the latest Dan Brown thriller, published 14 May. The book, about a deadly plot to create a new plague to solve over population, contained a curious graph ostensibly from the World Health Organization (WHO) – or at least a fictional version of WHO.

The graph – really a composite of many graphs – depicts the incredible acceleration in human activity starting around 1950 and the knock-on impact on the Earth system.

What is striking is that the graph looks uncannily like the Great Acceleration graphs published by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) in 2004 in its synthesis Global Change and the Earth System. See below.

It is possible the WHO has used the IGBP graphs in a publication, or even developed these independently – I’m going to check with WHO. But the appearance in the book is intriguing. Even the titles of each graph reflect the original Great Acceleration graphs.

Graph from Dan Brown’s Inferno.

Graph from Dan Brown’s Inferno.

The Great Acceleration Graphs. Steffen et al 2004. International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme.

The Great Acceleration Graphs. Steffen et al 2004. International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme.

2 thoughts on “Another Dan Brown mystery

  1. I am the graphics editor of New Scientist Magazine. The graphic mentioned was actually produced by New Scientist for a special issue we published in October 2008 in colour ( ) and was adapted from “Global Change and the Earth System: A Planet Under Pressure”. IGBP Book Series, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York. Thanks for the heads up on this

  2. Scientists warn of a rapid collapse of the Earth’s ecosystem.
    The ecological balance is under threat: climate change, population growth and environmental degradation could lead even in this century an irreversible collapse of the global ecosystem.


    The cardinal reason is the sudden development of human population that threatens to devour all our resources.

    Since 21 August there is therefore a petition at for the introduction of global birth-controls, also in HINDI!

    If you want to support this or publish it on your website, here is the link:

    Please continue to spread the link or the petition as possible to all interested people, organisations etc.

    Thank you and best regards
    Achim Wolf, Germany

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