Feeds

Celebrity publicist develops mathematical 'fame formula'

(Zero + Bullshit)Spin = Total bullshit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Thirteen Astonishing True Facts You Never Knew About SCREWS
Threaderick the Great! And YES, we asked the Arapaho
NSA man: 'Tell me about your Turkish connections'
Spooks ask Dabbsy to suggest a nice hotel with pool
Russia sends SEX-CRAZED GECKOS to SPAAAAACE!
In space... no one can hear you're green...
Indian techies-in-training face down MAN-EATING LEOPARD - and WIN
Big cat causes big trouble at Mumbai college
Too rich for an iPhone 6? How about a gold-plated Brikk?
Not lobbed at your head, silly – a bling phone
Plucky Rockall podule man back on (proper) dry land
Bold, barmy Brit adventurer Nick Hancock escapes North Atlantic islet
Motorist 'thought car had caught fire' as Adele track came on stereo
'FIRE' caption on dashboard prompts dunderheaded hard shoulder halt
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.