Tagged: visualization

The Color Strata

Color Names, Common And Less So, Compared

I’m an incorrigible data hound.  So, once the tempting aroma of XKCD’s color name survey results tickled my nose, I had no choice – but to run to the dining room, stand up on my hind legs, and yank that statistical top sirloin off the table!  Om nom nom yum yum yum!

For those unfamiliar, XKCD is the popular webcomic, and on its sister blog, author Randall Munroe announced his survey as follows:

I’d like your help for a color name survey!  The survey shows you colors, and you type a name (word or phrase) you might use for that color.  The names can be as broad or specific as you want.

XKCD's Color Map

XKCD's Color Map

During the next two months, over 200,000 people named more than 5,000,000 random hues.  Soon thereafter, Randall delivered a frequently side-splitting analysis of the results, artfully punctuated by his wonderful Color Map (pictured right): an illustration detailing the territorial dominance of each name in fully-saturated RGB space.  The kicker was that the magnanimous Munroe made the individual survey responses – possibly the largest body of such information in existence – publicly available for anyone to use.  Kudos for freeing the data, dude!

Now, deep in the cockles of my drama queen heart, there’s always been a little shrine for the colors with the charismatic, less-spoken names.  Could periwinkle roll off the tongue more adorably?  Maroon?  Aye, there be pirates about!  And yeah, burgundy and chartreuse do sound a bit boozy, but they’re hella more fun at parties than “dark red” and “yellow-green.”

Click here to read more →

Season Creep

Winter, Summer, And Lord Stanley's Cup



Hooray!  It’s the first of June, and long gone are winter cold and spring gloom.  We’re footloose and parka-free, baby birds chirp with glee, green lawns and mowers duel endlessly, and he intercepts the puck at mid-ice, shakes a defender, speeds over the blue line, fades right, jigs left, cocks his stick, lets loose with a slapshot, and scores!  Goal!!!

What in tarnation?  They’re still playing ice hockey?!?!

You betchya, as illustrated by the following graph, which shows the calendar dates of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals for each season from 1927 to present:

Dates of the Stanley Cup Finals, 1927-2010

Dates of the Stanley Cup Finals, 1927-2010

After hanging back for nearly forty years in the chilly territory of April, the finals skate past the May 1st center line in 1965 and dart offsides during the ’92 playoffs.  Since then, they’ve lingered there, ending latest on the warm June 24th evening that capped 1995’s lockout-delayed season, three days past the official beginning of summer!

Now, call me a hopeless nostalgic, but remove something far enough from its natural state – say from a frozen pond to a climate-controlled ice rink in the summertime – and gone is the gravitas that made it interesting in the first place.  Hockey playoffs in June have the same emotional pull as the World Series – played indoors, on Astroturf, in February.

On the other hand, the NHL’s still solvent, so maybe, on balance, the late season is a draw?  Does the average person find hockey irresistible when dressed in Bermuda shorts and a tank top?  God, it’s hot… and that ice looks so cold and refreshing… come to mama, so she can belly-flop onto the rink like an octopus?

Next thing you know, the National Hockey League will be doling out teams to cities where it never snows, and naming them after those “warm-weather” animals… like sharks and panthers!  Hey hoser, how silly would that be, eh?

Seeing Carbon Dioxide

A Greenhouse Gas Visualization

This past Halloween, we approached a curious jack-o’-lantern with the solitary number 350 carved into its flesh.  A bright-eyed man emerged from the tiny home behind it.  My kids yelled “trick-or-treat!”  He dropped some candy in their buckets.  And then, I asked the question that he’d obviously been waiting for:

Industrial emissions.

Industrial emissions.

What’s with the 350 pumpkin?  Is that your house number?

After a brief dramatic pause, the man spoke passionately of greenhouse gasses and global warming, the well-intended but woefully-inadequate Kyoto Protocol, and that we must swiftly reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide to a level that scientists have determined will spare the planet:

350 parts per million!

We thanked “350 Guy” for the information and candy and continued on our way.

Later, to avoid another such embarrassing intellectual faux pas, I began to bone up on my climatology.  Now, for example, I know that the fraction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from a pre-Industrial 280 parts per million (ppm) to around 390 ppm today.

Some straightforward calculations reveal that this additional 110 ppm of CO2 amounts to a mass of 564,000 metric megatons and volume of 437,000,000 gigaliters – the shocking equivalent, per capita, of one bubble of pure carbon dioxide, 163 feet in diameter, for each man, woman, and child on the face of this earth (*):

The Per-Capita Bubble Of Industrial Carbon Dioxide.  Click to see it bigger!

The Per-Capita Bubble Of Excess Industrial-Age Carbon Dioxide. Click to see it bigger!

That’s 6.8 billion enormous spheres of greenhouse gas, each large enough to swallow the entire 129-foot length of a Boeing 737-800 airliner with room to spare.

On that note, please allow 350 Guy and Yours Truly to announce a collaborative effort – our Fall 2010 line of giant-CO2-bubble jack-o’-lanterns – coming in five months to a front porch near you!

That Xkcd, He’s Good People

Check out the detailed results of his excellent online color survey, and don’t miss the lists of color names most popular with women versus men!

Spoiler: It’s one of the rare blog posts that includes both an in-depth discussion of the RGB colorspace and the word “penis!”

Net Worth Fighting For

U.S. Income Tax Brackets Over The Past Century

Did the onerous income taxes of the 1950s and ’60s affect the behavior of big-money boxers?  The Atlantic’s Henry Fetter believes so, as he explains in his recent article:

The 1950s was the era of the 90 percent top marginal tax rate, and by the end of that decade live gate receipts for top championship fights were supplemented by the proceeds from closed circuit telecasts to movie theaters. A second fight in one tax year would yield very little additional income, hardly worth the risk of losing the title. And so, the three fights between Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson stretched over three years (1959-1961); the two between Patterson and Sonny Liston over two years (1962-1963), as was also true for the two bouts between Liston and Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) (1964-1965). Then, the Tax Reform Act of 1964 cut the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent effective in 1965. The result: two heavyweight title fights in 1965, and five in 1966. You can look it up.

The theory makes perfect sense, and yes, you read that right: back in the ’50s, the marginal rate of the uppermost individual Federal income tax bracket was indeed an incredible 90%!  In other words, after making a certain amount of money, nine out of ten of your hard-earned dollars went straight to the man.  If I had a demotivational font, I’d use it here to type “Ouch!”

In 1965, the top tax rate fell to 70%, and it stayed there until Reagan swaggered into the joint and knocked everyone on their asses.  By the end of his second term, as he gave a parting high five to Bush, he’d gutted the upper bracket to a millionaire-friendly 28% on all earnings over $160,000 – in today’s dollars!  Trickle down, baby!

Three decades later, the Gipper is long gone, but the tax code legacy of Reaganomics lives on.  To illustrate, Weather Sealed’s infographic team charted the historical U.S. income tax brackets for singles, adjusted for inflation, from 1910 to present:

U.S. Individual Income Tax Brackets, 1910-2010

U.S. Individual Income Tax Brackets, 1910-2010. Click to see it big!

The colors indicate the marginal tax rate: black for low, red in the middle, and yellow for high.  The horizontal axis is the tax year, and the vertical represents taxable income, log-scale, normalized to 2010 dollars with the Bureau Of Labor Statistics’ monthly CPI-U figures.  The bracket data comes from The Tax Foundation and the IRS, and the effects of Social Security, capital gains, AMT, and other tax varieties are not included.

Do you know a wealthy someone who’s afflicted by a habitual carping about their income taxes?  Get him or her near a computer, pull up this graph, point them towards the brilliant yellow-orange brackets that run from the Great Depression ’til the Reagan-Bush tag team, and they shall be healed!