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Cosmic Quote #25

“Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player.  It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in.”–Casey Stengel

If the ‘ol professor Stengel was right–and who am I to argue with him–one can surmise that Alex Rodriguez and his .132 post season batting average have spent the last three Octobers in the Bronx pulling all-nighters.**  I guess it pays off, as in getting Cameron Diaz to feed you popcorn at the Super Bowl (see video).  On the other hand, Derek Jeter seems to have a much better batting average than his controversial teammate, both with runners in scoring position and with women in scoring position.   He seems to performs well, both on the field and with the ladies, at all times.  Yet according to one article that appeared on the net couple of years ago, he was just 6 for 100 during the previous season.  That is, he has dated 6 of Maxim Magazine’s hottest 100 women in the world.  That’s a batting average most guys would  love to have.  Eat your heart out, A-Rod.  Thanks to my friend Dave Carlson at The Blog of Funny Names for the nifty work of art below.

Jeter meme**I quantify A-Rod’s futility in clutch situations in the next Equations of Everyday life, now in post production.

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Equations of Everyday Life#3–Media Attention Span (Part Two: The Big Bust Theory)

According to my calculations [the universe] didn’t start with a “Big Bang” at all—it was more of “Phhbwt.”–Dilbert (Scott Adams)

This kind of bust? Well...maybe....

This kind of bust? Well…maybe….

In the stirring first episode of this equation, we saw how the attention paid by the media to inane celebrity stories erodes naturally over time through a process I dubbed The Media-illogical Constant.   But like many scientific theories, it is more complicated than it appears on paper.     It seems that this equation works well in a comparative media vacuum, free from the interference of new, bigger and even more outrageous celebrity stories. And though a story may also, in the absence of said later distraction,  sustain itself through the generation of new angles, it can still disappear in an instant.  When a  bigger celebrity story comes along and wipes clean the public attention-span slate, the previous prime meme is sucked into a media black hole.  It succumbs to The Big Bust Theory. I may not be able to quantify this occurrence; but I can certainly give a primordial example.

It  was 1994 and  two key dates in that year represent the ground zero points for the archetypal media big bust.

The Tonya Harding Fiasco

On January 6, 1994 a man named Shane Stant swung a lead pipe at figure skater Nancy Kerrigan’s knee, causing sufficient injury to Kerrigan that she was forced to withdraw from the US championships.  In and of itself, this would have kept the cable news and sports channels going for weeks on end, but it was only the beginning.   Within a few days, the dastardly deed was traced back to associates of one Tonya Harding, who just happened to be Kerrigan’s main rival at the competition.  The frenzy was on. All throughout the spring and summer the story took more twists and turns than a Dickens novel.  (You can read the entire timeline here).  The name Tonya Harding was on every front page and every evening news lead.  On and on into the the spring and early summer, it reached the point that many–yours truly included–wished she and her story would just go away.

Be careful what you wish for.

The Big Bust: June 17 1994

oj-simpson-mshot-700217Just when you thought there would be no end to the Harding nonsense–no “return to normalcy” to quote another famous American named Harding–the story imploded.  On  June 17, 1994 cable news channels broadcast, live and in living color,  an event so momentous that it interrupted the broadcast of the NBA finals.  It was the pursuit by the LAPD of O.J. Simpson. (Case timeline here.)

Poof. The Tonya Harding story was gone from the front pages and evening news leads, never to return to such prominence again.

As for trying to create and algorithm that describes this phenomenon, it has so far escaped me.  In the same manner that the laws of physics seem to break down in the singularity at the center of a black hole, all measures of media (and public) vacuity in the face of these kinds of events defy calculation.  The equations yield infinities.  If you have any ideas, feel free to post them here.  But have no fear, this scenario has given me yet another idea.  It’s clear that two of the biggest media attractors going are inane celebrity antics and sensational crimes.  When the two combine, as they did in both the OJ Simpson and Tonya Harding cases, the effect just screams for its own equation…and this might ultimately yield the mathematical solution to The Big Bust Theory.

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Equations of Everyday Life#3: Media Attention Span (Part One: The Media–illogical Constant)

“It was my biggest blunder.”–Albert Einstein on his cosmological constant concept.

You have to love ‘ol Albert.  It’s not that he admitted he was wrong.  It’s that he turned out to be wrong about being wrong. In other words, the cosmological constant turned out not to be such a big blunder after all.  He thought that there must be a force in the universe that counteracts gravity and prevents a static universe from contracting on itself.  In 1917 he dubbed it the cosmological constant.  Then came Hubble’s discovery in the 1920’s that the universe is expanding, which was closely followed by the big bang theory (the actual theory, not the TV show), and out the window went Einstein’s constant.   But then, in 1998, it was discovered that the expansion of the universe is accelerating and–bingo!–the cosmological constant, now referred to as dark energy, was reborn.

So what the hell does this have to do with the current equation?  It’s also a constant, and it might turn out that it is as slippery and elusive as dark energy.  The difference though, is that this one describes contraction, not expansion; more specifically, the contraction of media attention over time as pertains to inane celebrity behavior.  I call it:

The Media-illogical Constant

If you’ve had any physics education, you’ve certainly heard of the inverse square law.  It applies to any number of physical properties, gravity, light, radio waves, sound or the attention level of undergraduates to a lecture in a large hall.  Simply stated, as one travels away from the source, the intensity of the force or signal decreases by the inverse of the distance squared.  A similar equation can describe the rate at which our tabloid-minded western media lose interest in stupid celebrity hijinks.  The equation is the same as the inverse square law with one modification:  just substitute time for distance.    Quite simply, it looks like this: 
inverse squareIn plain English:  the intensity of the media attention is proportionate to the inverse of the time since the story’s emergence to national (or international) attention, squared.  So when Lindsay Lohan gets arrested–yet again–the media attention four days after the story will be 1/16th of what it was when the story broke.  [Are you are wondering why this equation just doesn’t use an equal sign instead of a proportional to sign? It beats me.  But one immutable rule of these posts is to always use the coolest looking symbol possible.]
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There are, of course, caveats–aren’t there always?  This theoretical pronouncement exactly works, if, and only if, there is no significant obstruction or interference from other media events, whether or not they involve inane celebrities.  This is the same as applies to physical properties measured with the inverse square law.    Place a brick wall between the light source and your measuring device and all bets are off.  Likewise,  a bigger story may come along and completely drown out whatever Lady Gaga has been up to lately.   I have a name for this phenomenon and resulting calculations–pretty cheeky of me since I haven’t even invented it yet.  I call it The Big Bust Theory.   Depending on the stories involved, this may or may not be a double entendre.  Either way, part two of this post will deal with that equation.  It’s coming soon to a blogoshere near you.
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