Friday, September 23, 2011

Knee surgery

As an anonymous person pointed out, the knee in the curve is an illusion. Here is the same chart displayed with varying scales for the x and y axes:
You can see that the position of the “knee” depends upon the scale of the X and Y axes.

The whole chart is a problem. Not only does it show a knee, but the rest of the chart has the data all squished up along either the X or Y axis. It is going to be hard to compare different charts if they all look like this. I want the whole chart to be scale invariant.

(Can you guess where this is going?)

The curved line in the chart represents the solution to x × y = 6100000. This line appears to come pretty close to the actual garbage collection count when you use MIT/GNU Scheme to compile itself. Since the product is a constant, we have a hyperbolic curve. To transform this into something more reasonable, we want to take the logarithm of the curve in both the X and Y direction. This will change our line from x × y = constant to x + y = constant (because logarithms transform multiplication into addition).
This chart is certainly more interesting! First, notice how the measured garbage collection counts fall in almost a straight line. The curve that approximates the count is a straight line, and you can see that the actual garbage collection count deviates from this line slightly at the ends. Second, notice that the lines 10 × x, x, and x/10 become parallel. This is convenient, too. Finally, notice that the knee is gone. This sort of chart won't fool us with a fake knee.

Now that we have something of an interesting baseline, it would be instructive to plot other processes that generate garbage and see how they look. (upcoming post)