Every day, the news media confronts us with enormous budgets: $3,000,000,000,000 for the Iraq war, $2,800,000,000,000 for the financial recovery, $16,000,000,000 for Facebook. Except they’re usually reported with the ambiguous numerical categories of trillion and billion. When your daily budget is a dollar, $10 billion and $10 trillion both look astronomically large — but difficult to compare. While I think listing out zeroes is helpful, despite the added space required (Hey, everything is online now anyways!), visualizations can make that comparison even easier. David McCandless has put together a good visualization of various world budgets. Though I would disagree about some of the categorizations, since government stimulus money is not actually lost, the boxes themselves are relatively useful.

Visualization of Billions

Right: Visualization of budgets and other big numbers.

(Via John Gruber)

In response to a horrendous chart by John Boehner, Robert Palmer released a well-designed visual aid to the Democrat’s health care proposal. At its best, information design can help the general public to understand a complicated issue. At its worst, as demonstrated by the House Minority Leader, information design becomes a tool for obfuscation and political maneuvering rather than education. Instead of muddying the waters with absurd “death panel” claims and confusing charts, Republicans should commit to an honest debate about policy and ideology. Of course, that’ll never happen: they’d lose.

Health Care Infographic

(Via idsgn)

Vermont has become the fourth state in the Union to legalize same-sex marriage, and the first to do so in a democratic manner (through the legislature). It suffices to say that I’m proud to be a Vermonter.

That is all.

John Gruber provides an excellent analysis of Gall’s law as it applies to Apple:

Start with something simple and build it, grow it, improve it, steadily over time. Evolve it.

My only addition is that this same logic applies in all situations. The best way to build a better school system is to start with small, excellent schools and work from there. The best way to rebuild the economy is to start with simple, working banks and build from there. The best strategy for anything: build simplicity, evolve complexity.

One of the worst things about the Bush years was the attitude towards science. The Administration maintained the view that science was, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, false and intolerable. Legitimate research was often disparaged and completely ignored, with even the most imperative issues being decided on political, rather than intellectual, reasons. In short, science took a back seat to politics.

Unfortunately, this attitude towards science is certainly not exclusive to the GOP. Governments and parties, from the Roman empire up through the Illinois Senate, readily dismiss science. They fund the research and use the results when it makes their point, but completely ignore any contradiction with their philosophies. Science has become another tool for argumentation and communication, rather than a tool for investigation and exploration.

One of the most bizarre resolutions I have seen recently is one drafted by the Illinois Senate. This resolution essentially chooses to completely ignore the decision of the IAU and maintains that Pluto is still a planet:

Since when does the Senate have veto authority over all decisions made anywhere? I can certainly understand the reasons to do so. The successes of any state citizen should be honored, and the fact that Pluto is no longer a planet makes the contribution of Clyde Tombaugh no less important. But that doesn’t give politicians the right to override the decision of a legitimate scientific body. Additionally, there is no reason Pluto needs to be reclassified as a planet. March 13 could be “Pluto Day” whether Pluto is a planet or not.

What next? Senatorial edicts that red is now green? We must respect science, even when we don’t like that science.

(Via aschmitz)