If you are interested in data visualization for the scope of providing valuable and entertaining information to a wide and popular audience, this mini-manifesto from Princeton University Information Networks Archive (INA), may give you some good inspiration.
Prepared by Jonathan Harris of Flaming Toast Productions (now Number27), this large and highly visual information displays mini-gallery make it easy to learn and explore large amounts of data while getting the whole picture at the same time.
Of course the question always is, how reliable and trusted are the sources providing the data behind the plushy info graphics. But that, is another story by itself.
The infographic maps included in this 9-page PDF created for Princeton University INA, depict the state of the world under different aspects. Here some of the most interesting ones included:
I highly recommend the information design and data visualization work of Jonathan Harris. His output is constantly cutting-edge, though at the same time simple, elegant and accessible.