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How Big is a Billion?

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
zmary
Jul. 29th, 2003 10:34 pm (UTC)
Mind blowing... thanks for posting this link!
sutut
Jul. 31st, 2003 10:40 pm (UTC)
Sickening
Time to pick up the hammer and sickle, definitely...
zhmort
Jul. 31st, 2003 11:27 pm (UTC)
Scratching my head a bit
The graph doesn't really make sense to me. Specifically the width units. I don't get what the length of the football field is supposed to represent. The description says:


The graph represents the population of the United States lined up, left to right, according to income. The height of the graph at any point is the height of a stack of $100 bills equaling that person's inome.


The U.S. population, literally lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder? If we say it's 300 million people, for easy calculating, and if we crammed 3 people per meter, that would come out to something like 100,000 kilometers (100 million meters) in width, or about 900,000 football field lengths. (Football fields are 120 yards, counting end zones, or just shy of 110 meters.)

The height represents stacks of bills, so maybe the width is also supposed to represent each person's stack of bills, lined up side-by-side? That would still be nearly 20,000 kilometers (the Internet says a dollar is ~6.6 cm wide).

If the football field represents 300 million people, that means each meter represents 2.7 million people, and each millimeter represents 2700 people. That's a lot of stacks of bills per millimeter. It doesn't make sense, really. The whole point of the graph is to get us to visualize the height of something tangible (one person's stack) compared to the width of something else, presumably also tangible. In this case, they chose a football field, but they don't appear to give a reason why.

I agree that the height of a billionaire's stack of bills compared to the width of a football field is an amazing contrast. But I don't think that comparison depicts the 'L' curve of income distribution very usefully.
kmo
Aug. 1st, 2003 02:29 am (UTC)
Re: Scratching my head a bit
The height represents stacks of bills, so maybe the width is also supposed to represent each person's stack of bills, lined up side-by-side? That would still be nearly 20,000 kilometers (the Internet says a dollar is ~6.6 cm wide).

I don't think there's a width axis on the graph; just length and height.

I agree that the height of a billionaire's stack of bills compared to the width of a football field is an amazing contrast. But I don't think that comparison depicts the 'L' curve of income distribution very usefully.

Yeah, it didn't do much for me until I had read the accompanying explanation; not the mark of an effective graphic representation. I think the two graphics could form the basis of a really powerful animation. I can see the camera crusing along a line of stacked bills that barely register any height at all until the very last couple of inches, when the camera pans up to see a stack of bills disappearing into the clouds. The point of view then flys up to the top of the stack and then at the top tilts down at the stadium, which, of course, can no longer be made out.

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