Howard did a study based on the vast spectrum of soft drinks available in the refrigerator cases of grocery stores in Lansing, Mich., recording 987 varieties and tracing each back to its corporate owner.
As a fervent believer in the power of graphics to tell a tale, Howard created an eye-popping series of atom-shaped images to represent all the various beverages, spun out like electrons from the nuclei of corporate owners.
I wasn't surprised by the size of Coke (42.8 percent market share) and Pepsi (31.1 percent) and their myriad products, but it was interesting to see how Dr Pepper/Snapple (15 percent) has snapped up many lesser-known drinks or ones that have fallen out of popular favor.
Of course the "Dr." is in, along with ever-effervescent 7 Up and an orchard of Snapples. But the corporate structure also includes ginger ale (Vernor's and Canada Dry), Schweppes Tonic Water and my childhood favorite, Squirt.
In the grand constellation of drinks, a few companies are fairly straightforward. Red Bull is a mini-molecule, offering only Red Bull, regular and sugar-free. Many of the drinks are new to me: What is Purple Kid Water? That sounds like a scary diaper incident.
Howard's research, which he conducted with Kirk Goldsberry of Michigan State and Chris Duvall of New Mexico State, can be found here. While you're there, click to download the PDF of the graphic to see the sprawling scale and minute detail.