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Cosmic Quote #68

“Smart is when you believe half of what you hear.  Brilliant is when you know which half.”–Robert Orben

Here’s a tip for you brainiacs.  If you want to know which half of my posts to believe, it’s the other half.  On my other blog,  Seeking Delphi. ™  

Hmmm.  I just started that other blog.  Most of my posts have been on this one.  Well, as Yogi once said, “90 percent of the game is half mental.”

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Time way in: 100,000 views!

“I sincerely believe blogging can save America.”– John Jay Hooker

Uh, I don’t think so.  Not only is blogging not saving America, but social media might actually be destroying it.   And promoting my blog on social media?  We won’t even discuss that.  But what I will discuss–and pound my chest about–is that just a few weeks after Millennium Conjecture’s 4th anniversary, it has passed the 100,000 hit mark.  Wow.  I know you didn’t see that coming, and I sure as hell didn’t.  And I’m willing to bet that not more than 97,000 of those views have come from immediate family and close friends.  After all, how many close friends and family do you think I could have?

In honor of this hallowed event,  here a is blast from the past.  It was by far my most viewed post.  Thanks to being “Freshly Pressed” by WordPress,  this post brought in over 1700 views and garnered 230 blogger “likes” on September 23, 2012–exactly four months to the day after my inaugural post.    And yes, it has been all downhill since then.

Anyway, thanks for all the views and likes–and if you are really a masochist, check out my new blog on futurist topics, Seeking Delphi™

 

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 text in this post ©2012 Mark Sackler

 

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Cosmic Quote #67

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”–George Orwell

Non Sequitur www.cartoonstock.com used with permission

Non Sequitur
http://www.cartoonstock.com
used with permission

I can only imagine what George Orwell would have thought of The Donald.  A character for a dumbed-down 1984?  A character for a tragic 2016?  Maybe both.  It so happens my alma mater, Emerson College, was named the top journalism  school in the country by USA Today.   But hey, this is not public relations.  It isn’t even journalism. It’s both and neither. It’s ridiculous and sublime.   😛

Be sure to check out my futurist blog Seeking Delphi™

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Cosmic Quote #46: R.I.P. Tom Magliozzi

“Never let the facts get in the way of a good answer.”–Tom Magliozzi

The icons of Car Talk, Tom and Ray Magliozzi

The icons of Car Talk, Tom and Ray Magliozzi

With a line like that, you’d think he should have been a politician–if not a right-wing talk show host.  Thankfully, he was neither.  Car Talk co-host Tom Magliozzi died from Alzheimer’s last week.  Saturday mornings will never be the same.  They’ll certainly never be as funny.  R.I.P., Tom.

Several years ago, I was honored to be immortalized by Car Talk when they used my puzzler submission entitled “Strange Accident.”  I can’t seem to find the podcast of it–let me know if you can–but here is a reference to it on the Car Talk web site.

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Time Out: From the Archives of Early Children’s Television

This  article appeared yesterday under a different title as my monthly guest post on The Blog of Funny Names.

Buffalo Bob: “What time is it?”

Peanut Gallery: “It’s Howdy Doody Time!”

Buffalo Bob Smith and Howdy Doody, c. 1955

Buffalo Bob Smith and Howdy Doody, c. 1955

My age is showing, but what the %#@.  If you’re an American baby boomer the name Howdy Doody (1947-1960) is synonymous with seminal children’s television–perhaps the most recognized name of 1950’s kiddie fare.    If you happen to be be a boomer of a certain age–over sixty too many years old–you might just recall another oddball TV name from that era:  Winky Dink (1953-1957).

For you uninitiated, uncultured whippersnappers, I’ll elaborate.

Howdy Doody–In the 1940’s,  a Buffalo New York native, Bob Smith, created the character Howdy Doody for a WNBC radio program.  The popularity of the program led him to make the move to television in 1947.  the program featured both human and puppet characters, which included:

Flub-A-Dub. What happens wnen puppeteers get high.

Flub-A-Dub. What happens when puppeteers get high.

  • Heidi Doody–Howdy Doody’s sister
  • Phineus T. Bluster–The local mayor
  • Flub-a-Dub–an odd creature composed of body parts of 8 different animals
  • Inspector John J. Fadoozle, private eye
  • Dilly Dally–A circus performer
  • Clarabell Hornblower–a mute clown originally played by one Bob Keeshan of Capatain Kangaroo fame.

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Phineas T. Bluster.  Politics hasn't changed.

Phineas T. Bluster. Politics hasn’t changed.

Perhaps the most interesting sidebar to the entire Howdy Doody run on NBC, was an ongoing battle between Smith and puppet-maker Frank Paris.   Paris made the original Howdy Doody puppet and complained constantly of being cheated out of royalties.  Howdy Doody dolls were all the rage, and Bob Smity owned the property rights to the character.  You’ve heard the phrase”I’ll take my football and go home?”  Well on more than one occasion, the irate Smith took his Howdy Doody puppet from the studio and went home.  Problem.  The show was aired live in those pre-video tape days, forcing a last minute plot and script change making excuses for why Howdy wasn’t around.

By the way, the term Peanut Gallery, actually dates to Vaudeville.  It referred to the cheapest seats where the cheapest snack–peanuts–were sold.  But most of us today know the term from The Howdy Doody Show, which resurrected it for the live studio audience of kids.

Winky Dink–The name Jack Barry will forever live in TV infamy, for his roll in rigging the game show Twenty-One. It lead to congressional hearings, national disgrace, and ultimately the book and movie Quiz Show.  What only a few of us who were watching kiddie TV in the mid-1950’s will remember, though, was that he was the host of a quirky live and animated program Winky Dink and You.

Long before twitter and other social media, Winky Dink was probably the first interactive TV show, though in the most lo-tech of manners.  The show featured Barry interacting with the cartoons projected beside him.  The interaction with audience was by means of a coded message or connect the dots puzzle, that could only be read by writing directly on the TV, or rather on a clear plastic film covering the TV.  Problem.  You had to send in to the network to get the clear plastic film, or Magic Window, as they called it.   I didn’t have one and I couldn’t bear the suspense of not knowing what that image or message was, so I finally took a crayon and wrote, sans clear film, directly on our ancient TV screen.   My mother was not pleased.  Let’s just say, Howdy Doody, I got my Winky Dinked!

 

 

 

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Time Out: Moniker Madness 2014

Note: This post runs concurrently under a different name on The Blog of Funny Names

“Every time I sign a ball I thank my lucky stars I wasn’t born Covelski or Wambgnass or Peckingpaugh”–Mel Ott

Mel Ott,  looking as if he just tried to sign his name "Wambgnass."

Mel Ott, looking as if he just tried to sign his name “Wambgnass.”

Ol’ Mr. Ott may be happy for not being any of the names above,  but he never would have won the annual minor league baseball Moniker Madness competition with his name.  He may be a 500-home run Hall-of-Famer, but we at The Blog of Funny Names march to a different drummer.  We’d sooner idolize the likes of past Moniker Madness winners, like Rock Shoulders, Will Startup and Sicnarf Loospstok, the latter of whom was aided by some late ballot-stuffing by the BOFN staff to win last year’s contest.  This year, another 75 amazing and ridiculous names are in the running–you can cast your official vote on the office Minor League Baseball Moniker Madness site through Thursday.

But the poll that really counts is the one we run, where we let our readers select their favorites.   Five of the current top 10 in the standings are profiled below–you can vote for your choice at the bottom of the page.

But first, something completely different.  I can’t help but mention that some of this year’s names seem to fall into some distinct categories–divisions, if you will.  These divisions are:

The “Have Baseballs, Will Travel” division,  including Tommy Toledo, Montana DuRapau and Montreal Robertson;  The “What’s on the Menu” division, starring Mark Hamburger, Joey Pankake and Renzo Martini;  the “I’m Masquerading as a Celebrity” division, with Burt Reynolds and Joan Baez;  and the “With a Name Like This, I Should Have Been a Porn Star,” division comprised of  Steel Russell,  Brock Dyxhoorn and Kieran Lovegrove.

OK, that’s out of my system.  Now, here are the five BOFN nominees you can vote for on this page–all of them are in the top 10 in the Moniker Madness standings as of this writing.  As per last year, I’ll play my favorite name game,  which is speculating what these names sound like their owners should have been if they weren’t baseball players.

Brooks Pounders–Who he is: a journeyman minor league pitcher in the KC Royals organization.  With a name like that, you’d figure he’d be pounding the strike zone, and he has averaged slightly less than 3 walks per nine innings in his 6 year career.  Unfortunately, he’s still in A ball, three levels below MLB.  Who I think his name sounds like?  The IBO Cruiserweight boxing champion of the world.

Venn Biter–Who his is: a 2013 outfield draft choice by the Phillies, currently laboring in the Gulf Coast Rookie League.  Who I think his name sounds like? Count Dracula’s nephew.

Tommy Toledo–Who he is:  a pitcher in The Milwaukee Brewers organization.  Who I think his name sounds like?  President of the Longshoremen,  local #4127.

Damien Magnifico–Who he is:  another Brewers pitcher–an embarrassment of funny names for the Brew Crew.  Who I think his name sounds like?  The Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

No, this is not Joey Pankake

No, this is not Joey Pankake

Joey Pankake–Who he is: a 2014 7th round draft choice of the Detroit Tigers,  playing right here in Connecticut in the NY-Penn League.  Who I think his name sounds like?  A less than successful mafia hit man from Brooklyn,  played by Joe Pesci.

This is.

This is.

 

With 75 names to chose from, we’ll allow write in votes.  Heck, vote for your own kid in little league if his–or her–name is funny.

 

 

 

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Tales of a Veterinary Spouse #9: Lions and Tigers and….SNAKES!! Oh my

“Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag full of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel”–Leanardo da Vinci

“I am working on a new book about a boa constrictor and a litter of hyenas. The boa constrictor swallows the babies one by one, and the mother hyena dies laughing.”–E. B. White

more snakesOphidiophobia.  It’s a fear of snakes, from which many people suffer.  My wife is most certainly not one of them. OK, she’s a veterinarian so it ought not to be a big deal to her.  But let’s just say her non-fear, even love of snakes, is something I learned about very early in our relationship.  Like, within the first fifteen minutes.

It all began one night in June, 39 agonizing years ago.   It was a get-together I organized with a few friends on the occasion of a visit by my sister from the west coast. One of the invitees was the aforementioned Kate (Tales #8).  She brought along a mutual friend of hers and my sister’s.   Of course, that would be Cheryl.  Kate introduced Cheryl to me as a pre-veterinary student at the University of Connecticut, and she added, “come and see the pet snakes in the back of her pickup truck!”  I was not exactly thrilled.  A girl with a pickup truck carting around two pet snakes was not exactly the description of my ideal match.  So of course, I wound up marrying her three years later.

But as snake stories go, that’s not nearly the best one.  In fact, the following story is so #1, there really is no #2.

It started innocently enough one day in mid-August of 1989.  Cheryl went out for her usual late lunch, took her usual catnap in her car, and came back to the office.  But something was clearly up–when she returned to work, the parking lot was packed with a slew of unfamiliar vehicles.  They were news vans.  Channel 3, Channel 8, Channel 25, The Bridgeport Post, The Hartford Courant.  WTF?  What was all this media brouhaha?

Well of course, you’ve figured it out by now.  It was a snake.  But not just any snake, and not just for any normal reason.   It seems that a local Naugatuck woman felt something odd underneath her as she was sitting on the toilet.  It was a six foot boa constrictor.  Honest.  She called the police; they wouldn’t touch it.  The snake stayed in the toilet.  She called Roto Rooter and, no joke, they sent a snake fear-averse serviceman to literally and figuratively snake it out.  The critter was then dispatched to my wife’s practice.  The media loves animal stories, and this was no “dog bites man” run of the mill occurrence.  The story went the 1989 version of viral.  It was picked up by the national wire services and we heard a short mention of it on WCBS newsradio from New York.

So what was the back story?  It seems the previous resident of the apartment in question had owned two boa constrictors.  But the city of Naugatuck has an ordinance against dangerous pets, and this certainly qualified by their standards.   He was reported to the authorities and ordered to get rid of them.    He obliged; or so he said.  Apparently his definition of “rid” was to simply let them loose.

Anyway, the snake was unharmed and shortly transferred to a wild life rehabilitator who eventually found it a legal home.

But wait a minute.  There were two of them.  But there was no immediate sign of the second one.   The residents searched and found nothing–well almost nothing.  A few weeks later, they found a shed snakeskin.   This was not taken as a good sign.  Finally, some six weeks after the original event, my wife got a call from the Naugatuck police.

“We found the second one.  Please come get it.”

She obliged, and got to the residence within a few minutes.  There she found a Naugatuck cop sitting on the front porch, his service revolver drawn.

“Really!!?”  Her reaction was typical Cheryl.  “Are you afraid it’s going to make a break for it?’

Honestly, boa constrictors are not what you would call “speedy.’

She collected the animal and headed back to her office.   When she got there, guess what?

News vans.  Again.   Channel 8.  Channel 3. Etc.   The New Haven Register, having missed the first story, was quick to the scene that Friday, and the story landed on the top of their front page the next day, Saturday, September 23, 1989.   It appeared approximately as shown below, right above a story that Irving Berlin had died 101 that same day.

snakes

 

 

As you may have guessed by now, though, the story did not end here.  Although the second snake wound up with the same wild life rehabilitator,  it made another stop first.  Cheryl, vividly remembering our very first meeting, brought the snake home that evening in an attempt to freak me out.   It didn’t work;  after 14 years with her I’d grown accustom to pranks like this.  But it did freak out our daughter’s somewhat timid nanny, Lynn.   While we were out to dinner, the writhing monster escaped from the box it had been brought home in,  leaving poor Lynn with little option but to muster up her courage and stuff it back in.   To her credit, she did it, and she didn’t quit her job.

Is there a moral to this story?  Of course there is.   Be careful what you marry;  it might come slithering back to bite you.

Cheers  😀

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Equations of Everyday Life #2: Inane Celebrity Memes

Summer rerun of a WordPress.com “Freshly Pressed” post.   New content coming soon.

“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

 

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Cosmic Quote(s) #26

“Don’t know if it’s good or bad that a Google search on “Big Bang Theory” lists the sitcom before the origin of the Universe”–Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“The Big Bang Theory: When geeky scientists can be main characters in a hit prime time series, you know there’s hope for the world.”–Neil deGrasse Tyson

If there are two things I absolutely love, they are Neil deGrasse Tyson and The Big Bang Theory.  They are both witty and intelligent.  When you combine the two, as in the video clip below,  it’s like putting hot fudge on double chocolate ice cream.  Tyson has done more to popularize and promote the scientific world view than any American since Carl Sagan–and with a sense of humor.  Hmmm, kinda like The Big Bang Theory (the show, not the actual theory).  Carry on Dr. Tyson.

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Summer Rerun: Equations of Everyday Life #2, Inane Celebrity Memes

“I enjoy watching reruns of Saturday Night Live and counting all the dead people.”–George Carlin

Hey, I need that!

Hey, I need that!

Ah, summer.  I’m not actually on vacation, but my neurons are.  Here then, forthwith, is a rebroadcast of my post that was Freshly Pressed on WordPress last September.  I’m still getting Google hits on this one, though we might have to call it Slightly Stale Pressed now.

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September 23, 2012

“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

 

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