The Most Awesomest Graphs in the World

When I was poking around on Valentine’s Day, I came across the coolest mathematical pictures to illustrate love. It got me thinking about how visually representing the information that we want to convey is so important.  Now, I totally dig numbers. And I dig artwork. I took that test this week on whether you are more left or right brained, and I scored a 53 – ambi-brained. My undergraduate study was equal measures of English Literature and Accounting, but that shouldn’t be surprising. I worked with many excellent banking and finance professionals who had degrees in English, Religious Studies, Music, Art History, and Humanities. People who analyze often appreciate the aesthetic beauty of analysis for its own sake.

Hence, it’s no surprise that pictures of numbers and data can be inherently beautiful. For example, I found this one posted by Utsav Goyal,  named “The Love Function.”  LoveFn

Change one of those squares to a 3 or a 1, and you’ve just got a squiggle. There are also tons of beautiful patterns in the natural world – the whole science of fractals blossomed a few decades ago to show just that. The Greeks understood the connection of beauty in math and aesthetics as they were passionate about both. Aristotle, for instance, coined the concept of the Golden Mean, a ratio in nature which would reveal everything from the structure of a nautilus shell to a rose to the human ear.

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I am not Scrooge

Everyone loves to hate bankers. Even before WE* ruined the economy and took down a third of our own institutions, bankers were well known as miserly, humorless, unfeeling “covetous, grasping old sinners.” When someone mentions bankers, most people think of Scrooge.

But even before Scrooge, bankers had been treated with disdain or outright prejudice. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. In many parts of Europe, Jews were limited to acting as moneylenders, and the discrimination against the job and the religion became intermingled. Edward I (in coordination with the Catholic Church) compelled English the Jewish bankers to lend the crown and church significant sums, and then simply declared the debts to be gifts or else taxed heavily. As the Jews protested, rumors were spread of the faithful performing bloodthirsty rituals and eating babies, and in 1290, the Edict of Expulsion forced all Jews out of England.

Prejudice against the religion has since diminished (though not completely), but prejudice against the function has not. Yet it is a function that plays a key role in society – people do have a need to borrow money and to house it somewhere other than under their mattress. But when bankers are mentioned, everyone thinks Old Man Potter of It’s a Wonderful Life, forgetting that George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart’s character) was a banker, too.

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