Feeds

Celebrity publicist develops mathematical 'fame formula'

(Zero + Bullshit)Spin = Total bullshit

High performance access to file storage

A celebrated celebrity PR consultant has written a book in which he offers "mathematical" proof that fame - or anyway, spikes in fame - last fifteen months, rather than any traditional period of minutes. However, the bogo-scientific gloss applied to publicist Mark Borkowski's theories is so fragile as to shatter at a glance.

Borkowski's celebro-mathematics come to us in his new book The Fame Formula, out this week. The Guardian has obligingly run an extract, in which the eponymous equation is outlined:

F(T) = B+P(1/10T+1/2T2)

where:

F is the level of fame;

T is time, measured in three-monthly intervals. So T=1 is after three months, T=2 is after six months, etc. Fame is at its peak when T=0. (Putting T=0 into the equation gives an infinite fame peak, not mathematically accurate, perhaps, but the concept of the level of fame being off the radar is apposite.);

B is a base level of fame that we identified and quantified by analysing the average level of fame in the year before peak. For George Clooney, B would be a large number, but for a fabulous nobody, like a new Big Brother contestant, B is zero.

P is the increment of fame above the base level, that establishes the individual firmly at the front of public consciousness.

This formula fits the data remarkably well, giving a precise numerical value to the 15-month theory: if I put in T=5 (corresponding to 15 months after the peak), it gives F=B+P(1/50+1/50), which works out at F=B+.04P. In other words, up to 96% of the fame-boost achieved at the peak of public attention has been frittered away...

Either the Graun, Borkowski's publishers or the man himself appear to have suffered a slight typo at the end of the "formula", going by that last paragraph. It looks as though what Borkowski means is something like:

ft = b + p((1/10t) + (1/2t2))

But frankly the typo is nothing. If words and numbers have any meaning at all, the formula is plainly rubbish. At t = 0, f is infinite, rendering the whole idea of b self-contradictory. Fame only ever equals "base level" plus "increment of fame above base level" at t= approximately 0.8, around nine weeks after the event in question - George Clooney boosts his fame by means of a new girlfriend, movie, arrest or whatever.

And worse. At t = infinity, f = b, still "a large number". Hundreds or thousands of millennia from now when today's civilisation, the human race, even the Earth itself are all dust, George Clooney will still be as famous as he is today between "spikes". So will every other celebrity above the Big Brother level. This is plainly bullshit, even within the bullshit terms of reference Borkowski has set himself.

The famous actors, hellraisers and celebrity girlfriends of the Regency period are already faded almost completely from public view, a mere couple of centuries after their heyday. Who now remembers Mrs Jordan (actress and celebrity girlfriend, 1762-1816)? Emma Hamilton (famous model and bigshot's arm-candy*, same period)? Edmund Kean (well-known drunk, adulterer and actor, same period)?

Nobody, that's who, except a few weirdoes/history buffs. They plainly had a high value of b in their day, but it has declined almost to Big Brother contestant nothingness - indeed, probably below.

So Borkowski's formula doesn't work in the short term, and it doesn't work in the longer term either. The fifteen-month figure is plucked from the air. The man plainly knows a lot about celebrity, but he - and his anonymous "select group of willing mathematically minded researchers" - are mathematical and historical illiterates.

"It's not quite devil worship," says Borkowski, describing his profession.

That seems fair. The celebrity publicists would seem to have quite a hill to climb before they appear as respectable and worthy of attention as devil-worshippers. ®

*You need especially good arm candy when you have only one arm, like Admiral Nelson.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Forget the beach 'n' boardwalk, check out the Santa Cruz STEVE JOBS FOUNTAIN
Reg reader snaps shot of touching tribute to Apple icon
Oz bank in comedy Heartbleed blog FAIL
Bank: 'We are now safely patched.' Customers: 'You were using OpenSSL?'
Happy 40th Playmobil: Reg looks back at small, rude world of our favourite tiny toys
Little men straddle LOHAN, attend tiny G20 Summit... ah, sweet memories...
Spanish village called 'Kill the Jews' mulls rebranding exercise
Not exactly attractive to the Israeli tourist demographic
Lego is the TOOL OF SATAN, thunders Polish priest
New minifigs like Monster Fighters are turning kids to the dark side
Dark SITH LORD 'Darth Vader' joins battle to rule, er, Ukraine
Only I can 'make an empire out of a republic' intones presidential candidate
Chinese company counters pollution by importing fresh air
Citizens line up for bags of that sweet, sweet mountain air
Google asks April Fools: Want a job? Be our 'Pokemon Master'
Mountain View is prankin' like it's 1999...
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.