Sunday, February 24, 2008


This is an idea I've been kicking around for several years. It's a way of representing money dynamically.

You use circles, and the diameter and colour represent the amount and periodicity of a cash flow, both on a logarithmic scale.

The diameter of a circle in millimeters is based on the log of the amount of money under consideration. We add three to the log so that one cent is 1mm, ten cents is 2mm, a dollar is 3mm, a million dollars is 9mm, a billion 12mm, a trillion 15mm, you get the picture.

You can set this up mathematically so you can work with other-than-even-millimeter diameter circles. Also, notice that no matter what size circle you start with, ten of them will add to make a circle with 1mm larger diameter. (Also, three of them will add to make a not-quite-0.5mm larger circle.)

The color of the circle represents the frequency of the cash flow, again on a logarithmic scale. We map the log of the period in seconds of the cash flow to a color on a spectrum. The red end of the spectrum corresponds to high frequency events (tenths of a second are red, seconds orange...) and the blue end to the low frequency events (years are aqua-ish, decades blue. Note that this is exactly opposite to the actual light frequencies involved. Red light is low frequency while blue is much higher. I switched them around because I think it makes more sense "psychologically" to have the "hot" colors represent fast flows and "cold" colors represent slow ones.)

I made a "first draft" color map and labelled the usual temporal divisions (day, week, month (lunar), etc..) I'm not completely satisfied with it yet, but it's good enough to work with for now.


Sarah said...

This is really cool!

See-ming Lee said...

Interesting. Let me know if you're interested in collaborating on this - there is definitely potential here - here you defined a system but it's probably better shown in an application.

You know where to find me!