Equations of Everyday Life #2: Inane Celebrity Memes

“You’re not famous until my mother has heard of you”–Jay Leno 

(Jay Leno graduated from Emerson College the same year I did.  Aren’t you unimpressed?)

Lindsay Lohan…Paris Hilton…Charlie Sheen…you just gotta follow these people to be “with it” in this day and age.  What I can’t figure out is exactly what “it” is. The nonsense involving these silly (do I dare say ridiculous?) excuses for humanity, and the speed with which their inane meme virality propagates throughout the internet and general mediasphere is stultifying.

 How do we quantify this vacuous tripe?  Quite obviously with:

The Index of Inane Celebrity Meme Virality

Get out your calculators folks, though the math on this one may require something more like a Cray supercomputer.   This process requires not one step, but three.

  1. Rate the inanity
  2. Compute the Virality Index
  3. Classify the virality using the Virality Classification Scale

Rating Inanity

This part is for those of you who—like many politicians—prefer fuzzy math.  In order to compute the virality of an inane celebrity meme, you first need to give it an inanity rating.  This, however, does not compute.  You need to estimate it by a process that could be seen as similar to the way we old folks were taught to compute square roots in days before electronic calculators.  You sort of have to zero in on it—surround it, using  a combination of whatever logic or intuition works for you.

Using a scale of 0 to 1.0, we rate the inanity based on how unusual, how cable newsworthy and, of course, how inane it appears to be.  Using the Lindsay Lohan example, let’s rate some real and imagined events.

Lindsay Lohan gets up in the morning and brushes her teeth (or not).  Probable rating=0  (probable rating because, again, there is some subjectivity here).

Lindsay Lohan gets busted for another probation violation.  Approximate rating=0.5 (This is fairly commonplace but due to media culpability still maintains some newsworthiness.  Also, the specific story behind the arrest may result in some adjustment up or down; the next item demonstrates this.)

Charlie Sheen stubs his toe on the curb of 34th Street in NYC, stumbles into oncoming traffic causing Lindsay Lohan to swerve her speeding Porsche through a display window at Macy’s, decapitating several mannequins, skidding across the retail floor and then crashing through a sidewall into a back room where she runs over Paris Hilton who was in the act of giving her boyfriend a you-know-what.  Absolute rating of 1.0.  This theory does not permit a rating higher than 1.0, but we’ll give this one a 1.0 with a star, meaning it also generates spontaneous orgasms in Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and every Fox News and CNN anchor past, present and future.  (Note that while coverage on Comedy Central will actually lampoon the coverage by the other networks, this will add even greater fuel to the viral fire than serious reporting).

Computing the Virality Index

Here comes the fun.

ξ = Φ(F+T)(µ-110)

Symbol key

ξ =Virality Index I chose that squiggly symbol because I think it looks like Kate Middleton mooning the paparazzi.

Φ =Inanity rating Aren’t those Greek thingies cool? This one is iota, as in “I don’t give one iota of a hoot about these nitwits”.

F= number of “friends” or “likes” on celebrity’s Facebook page

T= number of Twitter followers of the celebrity There is a reason they call it TWITter.

µ =the median IQ of the set whose members are F+T. For the uninitiated µ is the scientific symbol for micro.  How appropriate. (Can’t you just imagine those two sentences being uttered by Dr. Sheldon Cooper?)

To sum it up:

The virality index is the inanity rating multiplied by the combined number of Twitter and Facebook followers multiplied by what I call the vacuity index (median IQ of all followers minus 110).

Classify the Virality

For any chance at virality, the final Index number MUST be negative.  This works perfectly fine for most of the personalities discussed above.  If we are talking about Stephen Hawking, however, there is a better chance of finding virality in the singularity at the center of a black hole.

The classifications of virality are as follows

If ξ ≤  -100,000  minimally contagious

If ξ ≤  -500,000  highly contagious

If ξ ≤  -1 million  immutably viral

If ξ ≤  -10 million globally pandemic

If ξ ≤  -100 million worthy of hours of uninterrupted coverage on CNN and FOX News.

Still to be determined is the threshold at which Geraldo Rivera coverage kicks in.

So if we compute the Charlie Sheen meme virality index for the automobile accident scenario hypothesized above,  we multiply the inanity index of 1 times the combined number of his Twitter and Facebook followers (roughly 10.5 million, don’t worry about being exact, this is fuzzy math) times the vacuity index. We will estimate the latter for Sheehan as (100-110)= -10.  This may be generous but 100, after all, is the definition of median IQ.  This yields a score of -105 million.  If you compute and add to this the scores for Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan who were also involved in the scuffle,  the Index plunges much lower.  The New York Post would be sure to issue a special edition.

This leaves one unanswered question, however.  We now know how to compute the manner in which these viral memes are turned on.  But what determines how they are turned off?  As you would expect, I have the answer which I call the medialogical constant.  I will discuss this in the next Equations of Everyday Life post, which may or may not be published within your lifetime.

Images credit: Meme Center   All other material in this post ©2012 Mark Sackler



  1. I just hate the use of “Meme” in this perverted fashion. “Meme” was a perfectly good word before the Yahoos got hold of it. Would you consider, perhaps, adoption of “The Idulation Index” which uses a coinage of “idiot adulation” to get to its point. I realize I cannot play Canute to the tide of Memeticistics online but I can try. This is, by the way, an official communication from me acting as president of the AAWIITPANATLWTSOHBB (Americans Against Whatever It Is That Prompts A News Aggregator To Lead With The Sheerness of Halle Berry’s Blouse).

  2. 😀 for the pic article

  3. I personally believe the existence of trainwreak celebs and reality television is because they fulfill a human need to gossip and allow people to validate their own life choices by providing proof that they are better than the shiny people on the television. Those unconcerned probably are more secure with their place in life.

  4. hahaha…using it to describe those silly photo-cartoons certainly does pervert the meaning of “meme,” but using it to describe the general media hoopla, in my opinion, does not. The term was originally coined by Richard Dawkins and defined as a cultural replicator, the cultural equivalent of DNA. But I must tell you that as president of TIMEBAIWWAIDWP (This Is My Effing Blog And I Will Write Whatever I Damn Well Please)–well, you get the point! 😀

    • Hey, never said it was you who got the “meme” wrong. It’s in the vernacular now and there’s no getting it back, more’s the pity. I submit, however, that my organization is superior to yours since it includes “Halle Berry’s Blouse.” That’s two points for my side, I believe.

  5. Wow, congrats on the FP, Mark – well deserved. 🙂

  6. IDK, I try to stay away from these types of things, but I love Charlie Sheen…

  7. Hilarious!!!!I love your maths and your equations!!:D

  8. futuristicideology says:

    This was absolutely brilliant. The math is sound, and you made me care about something I would generally not give two hoots about!

  9. Great way of quantifying the empty, vacuous transience of modern celebrity culture! My suspicion is that one meme is shut off when it is replaced by another, even emptier one. And the web has accelerated the speed of the decline.

    • Absolutely correct! Do you remember Tanya Harding and the inane fuss over her antics? Do you remember what knocked her off the front pages and broadcast news leads, never to be heard from again? The answer is just two letters long: O.J.

  10. Reblogged this on misentopop.

  11. Entertaining post, like the virality index.

  12. Haris Piklton and I are subliminal models in World of Warcraft, but I can’t even exaggerate an association between myself and the lovely Lindsay.

  13. How I love your highly intelligible breakdown of such a stupid part of our news in this society! I work in broadcast news and I loathe the entertainment portion.

    • I worked in broadcast news in the 1970’s and I just don’t remember this sort of stuff being so pervasive in those days. Of course, that was during Watergate which sort of overwhelmed everything else in an era with no internet or cable news networks. Anyway, thanks for the visit and the comment.

  14. Anne Bonney says:

    Your post – much more interesting than any of the “notables” mentioned! Nice!

  15. I guess I have never really been with “it” because I couldn’t care less about celebrity gossip or lifestyles. I have friends that sit around talking about them, “Like, omg, did you see Lindsay got arrested, AGAIN?!” Uh, no. Shouldn’t her car have been impounded by now?

    Thank you for a lovely read!

    • You are most welcome. Those of us with some perspective on sanity (whatever that is)sometimes just need to take stock of this stuff if only to understand how this crazy world works!

  16. Looks like you put in the necessary man hours, all the numbers add up.

  17. congrats on being FPed Mark 🙂 great to see the post on the FP list, especially after having read it yesterday. what a pleasant surprise 🙂

  18. Great work!! 🙂 I could hear Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s voice in my head…

  19. you lost me at computing! Lol! however, i must say we pay attention to these memes for the same reason you wrote this piece: to tout our superiority over these celebs who for all their fame and money can’t seem to get their lives right — so we’re guilty of the same sin, yours is just dressed up in indices.

  20. Reblogged this on Lumen Hiatus and commented:
    What are You Paying Attention to Today??

  21. Thank you, Raiana. I am always honored to be reblogged. (Or just to be read, for that matter!)

  22. Finally, math makes sense to me!

  23. It burdens me to see the word ‘meme’ being associated with the riffraff these days. Kudos for the almost-clinical rendition to this issue! It’s so out there! Nice touch with the virality equation: greek letters always make math cooler!
    Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  24. the equation is brilliant !

  25. changing the keys on my calculator as we speak.

  26. Reblogged this on Bored American Tribune..

  27. yournotmonalisa says:

    Haha! Very funny. Loved it!

  28. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! Spot on with everything! Had me laughing from start to finish – both times I read it. I am compelled to reblog. Thank you!

  29. Reblogged this on That elusive pair of jeans and commented:
    Incredibly clever, and very funny

  30. shaylatansey says:

    Awesome. Good read!

  31. That’s very interesting, I noticed as soon as I moved abroad I stopped reading gossip sites. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m filling my time contacting friends back home or if I grew out of my obsession with the gossip. I’m hoping it’s the latter, but it’s probably the former.

  32. You forgot the Kartrashians, especially Kim. (I actually like Khloe, though, even though I don’t watch the show.)

    Great post. It touched my funny bone and proud nerd factor. 🙂

    • Hey, I first noticed this phenomenon back in the days when OJ Simpson knocked Tanya Harding off of the front page. WordPress doesn’t have big enough servers to list everyone and everything that has gone down in the inane-o-sphere in all that time! Anyway, glad you liked it and thanks for commenting.

  33. This is really great. I thank you sir for your dedication to public service.

  34. Ain’t I glad I am the president of IDGAFFFWHOTV (I don’t give a flying f*ck for what happens on TV), so I might be one of those poeple who survive if there is ever a Goerge A. Romero Meme

  35. Hilarious 🙂

  36. Well, this was some curious insight into folks like Linday, that serves no practical value. But an observation: your profile picture looks like an aging Christopher Lambert.

  37. Love the math equation ’cause I don’t have to study my son’s Calc book to figure it out and then explain it to him….

  38. The explanation of your equation symbols might be the best part! Otherwise math goes over my head.

  39. Funny to think about! Love the Leno quote. Great post!

  40. This was absolutely AWESOME…ha! Never seen Greeks being so useful outside my investment books..well done! My Professor would be so proud 🙂

  41. I love it! But aren’t you supplying more publicity to these people who (in my mind don’t deserve it) should just be ignored? Of course, I don’t see any other way to tell people what idiots they are for paying attention to them, and it’s hard not to with their faces plastered all over television every slow news day.

  42. Curly Carly says:


  43. This is hilarious and brilliant! It definitely warms my heart to math a bit more 🙂 Great work and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  44. Reblogged this on Bringing Home Baby… and commented:
    When the tagline of this article caught my eye, it would just be rude to not reblog it!

  45. I used to copy all my AP Bio papers off Scarlet Johanssen’s twin brother and cut physics to smoke weed w him on the roof of our HS regurlarly during my senior year (his junior). Impressssive right….hmmm, too bad I never made out w him like a few of my friends. I see Lindsay Lohan as LI trash, i feel badly. NICE POST.

  46. Wow. That’s a great story in itself. If it were me, Physics is probably the one high school class I wouldn’t have cut, though. You might come to that conclusion reading some of my other posts. (You could make out with me–if I was only 40 years younger and single!)

  47. Reblogged this on Live While We're Young ~ and commented:
    Hilarious. XD

  48. Great post. Congrats on Freshly Pressed 😀

  49. Thanks for viewing my blog… ..
    “when you wish apon a star”.. ..are free outer space greeting cards…


  1. […] this delightful contribution from the venerable and totally awesome Mark Sackler (who recently had one of his posts Freshly Pressed but refuses to disclose his secrets on just how one gets Freshly Pressed on WordPress… […]

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