Feeds

Celebrity publicist develops mathematical 'fame formula'

(Zero + Bullshit)Spin = Total bullshit

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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.

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Holy vintage vehicles! Earliest known official Batmobile goes on sale
Riddle me this: are you prepared to pay US$180k?
Criticism of Uber's journo-Data Analytics plan is an Attack on DIGITAL FREEDOM
First they came for Emil – and I'm damn well SPEAKING OUT
'Open source just means big companies can steal your code.' O RLY?
Plus: Flame of the Week returns, for one night only!
'It is comforting to know where your data centres are.' UK.GOV does NOT
Plus: Anons are 'wannabes', KKK says, before being pwned
NEWSFLASH: It's time to ditch dullard Facebook chums
Everything hot in tech, courtesy of avian anchor Regina Eggbert
Hey, you, PHONE-FACE! Kickstarter in-car mobe mount will EMBED your phone into your MUG
Stick it on the steering wheel and wait for the airbag to fire
Bible THUMP: Good Book beats Darwin to most influential tome title
Folio Society crowns fittest of surviving volumes
U wot? Silicon Roundabout set to become Silicon U-BEND
Crap-spouting London upstarts to get permanent road closure
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.