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Monday, April 04, 2005

The Feynman-Tufte Principle (From The new Economist)

Richard Feynman was a fascinating figure - Nobel prize winning physicist, member of the Manhattan Project, drummer in a Brazilian street band, and amateur safe-cracker in his spare time. To many finance professors and practitioners, he's also known for developing a solution to a 3rd order partial differential equation that Black and Scholes used to solve the option pricing problem. He was particulary admired for his way of illustrating phsics concepts through what are now known as "Feynman Diagrams". The New Economist.

Edward Tufte is also know for his work on the visual display of information. It turns out that he also was a fan of Feynman. The New Eonomist writes:

Many economists would - or certainly should - be familiar with the pathbreaking work of Edward Tufte on the visual display of information. hence my interest in a short piece by Michael Shermer in the April 2005 issue of Scientific American on the Feynman-Tufte Principle (permanent version here). It's short, but insightful:

Tufte codified the design process into six principles: "(1) documenting the sources and characteristics of the data, (2) insistently enforcing appropriate comparisons, (3) demonstrating mechanisms of cause and effect, (4) expressing those mechanisms quantitatively, (5) recognizing the inherently multivariate nature of analytic problems, (6) inspecting and evaluating alternative explanations." In brief, "information displays should be documentary, comparative, causal and explanatory, quantified, multivariate, exploratory, skeptical."

Click here for the whole article.

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