Annals of Improbable Research, Vol. 12, No. 1, pg. 11 (January/February, 2006)

Measuring Fame Quantitatively. III. What Does it Take to Make the 'A' List?

Eric Schulman
Alexandria, Virginia

5,628,855 Google hits.

1. Introduction
    In this third paper on measuring fame quantitatively we present an easy-to-use method for classifying celebrities as a function of fame.    
    Our research over the past six years has shown that everyone is famous to some extent and that Internet search engines can measure the exact fame of any person (see Schulman 1999 and Schulman and Boissier 2001). Our method for quantifying fame is simple and relies on our previous identification of the universal standard for fame comparison--Monica Lewinsky. Anyone's fame can be precisely determined by comparing the number of search engine hits for that person to the number of search engine hits for Monica Lewinsky.
     The concept of classifying people as 'A' List Celebrities, 'B' List Celebrities, and so on is well known, but previous researchers have relied almost exclusively on vague celebrity classification methods such as informal surveys of various research journals. For example, an 'A' List Celebrity might be the subject of a cover story in Time, the picture of a 'B' List Celebrity might appear on the cover of People Magazine, the money troubles of a 'C' List Celebrity might be discussed in the pages of The National Enquirer, and a 'D' List Celebrity might be mentioned briefly on National Public Radio. These methods suffer from multiple problems, including subjectivity, lack of reproducibility, and a notable failure of the methods to properly classify people with low levels of fame. The quantitative method we present here avoids all these problems.   

2. Methods
    Our method of celebrity classification relies on the fact that human responses to stimuli are not linear. For example, a first magnitude star is 2.5 times brighter than a second magnitude star, which is 2.5 times brighter than a third magnitude star, and so on (Pogson 1856). Such a relationship is called logarithmic. Many scientists since the late 19th century have believed that the responses of our senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch are logarithmic (e.g., Fechner 1860). In this paper we propose that the Weber-Fechner Law of human perception also applies to fame, such that people we perceive as 'A' List Celebrities are on average ten times more famous than people we perceive as 'B' List Celebrities, who are on average ten times more famous than people we perceive as 'C' List Celebrities, and so on.
    We classified people in seven different fields (business, film, music, politics, religion, science, and sports) as a function of their fame in terms of the logarithmic international standard unit of fame, the dBLw:

fame(dBLw) = 10 log [fame(Lw)],

where fame(Lw) is the number of Google hits for the person divided by the number of Google hits for Monica Lewinsky. The archetypal 'B' List Celebrity is currently Monica Lewinsky, who has a fame of 0 dBLw by definition. Other celebrities were therefore classified as follows:

'A' List                         fame > +5 dBLw
'B' List       -5 dBLw < fame < +5 dBLw
'C' List      -15 dBLw < fame < -5 dBLw
'D' List    -25 dBLw < fame < -15 dBLw
'E' List    -35 dBLw < fame < -25 dBLw
'F' List    -45 dBLw < fame < -35 dBLw
'G' List    -55 dBLw < fame < -45 dBLw
'H' List                       fame < -55 dBLw

3. Results
    Table 1 shows our classification of 49 people in seven different fields. The Hits column lists the number of Google hits that each person had on October 24, 2005; the Fame column lists their fame in dBLw; and the List column shows their celebrity category.

Table 1: Classified Celebrities

Name Field Hits Fame List
Bill Gates Business 19900000 10.48 A
Bill Clinton Politics 18300000 10.12
Jesus Christ Religion 18100000 10.07
The Beatles Music 12300000 8.39
Albert Einstein Science 12200000 8.36
Jennifer Lopez Film 7600000 6.30
Paul McCartney Music 7120000 6.02
Tiger Woods Sports 6580000 5.68
John Lennon Music 6030000 5.30
Anna Kournikova Sports 2570000 1.60 B
George Harrison Music 2220000 0.96
Ringo Starr Music 1940000 0.37
Carl Sagan Science 1920000 0.33
Monica Lewinsky Politics 1780000 0.00
John Calvin Religion 1090000 -2.13
Marisa Tomei Film 934000 -2.80
Esther Dyson Business 586000 -4.83
Jason Mewes Film 238000 -8.74 C
Jerry Yang Business 227000 -8.94
Nadia Comaneci Sports 190000 -9.72
Rush Holt Politics 173000 -10.12
Murray Gell-Mann Science 168000 -10.25
Gerald Gardner Religion 90400 -12.94
Eddie From Ohio Music 88700 -13.02
Ryan Zimmerman Sports 54600 -15.13 D
Charlie Melancon Politics 54500 -15.14
Leonard Mlodinow Science 44900 -15.98
Shelagh Fraser
Mary Furlong Business 16100 -20.44
Israel ben Eliezer Religion 16100 -20.44
Lisa Moscatiello Music 13300 -21.27
Michael Clem Music 1310 -31.33 E
Melanie Rapp Politics 1030 -32.38
Marie Pillet Film 796 -33.50
Allison Powell Science 724 -33.91
Chinmoy Kumar Ghose Religion 688 -34.13
Robbie Schaefer Music 641 -34.44
Kerry Donley Politics 533 -35.24 F
Julie Murphy Wells Music 490 -35.60
Eithne Fennel Film 303 -37.69
Eddie Hartness Music 295 -37.81
Earle Spamer Science 197 -39.56
James Kibo Perry Religion 143 -40.95
H. Leon Denizard Rivail Religion 55 -45.10 G
Wendy Seligman Music 52 -45.34
Joshua Gitelson Film 30 -47.73
Daniel T. Arcieri Science 19 -49.72
Angela Sodolak Politics 11 -52.09
Elisabeth Scheneman Politics 3 -57.73 H

4. Discussion
    Although our method produces consistent results for all researchers, these results are not constant with time. For example, the Lennon Theorem (1966) stated that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus" but this is no longer true. In the four years since Schulman and Boissier (2001), The Beatles have become less famous than Jesus Christ while Bill Clinton and Bill Gates have become more famous than Jesus Christ.
    Our method has many uses. For example, until now organizations soliciting celebrities for fund-raising events had to rely on expensive consultants to tell them which celebrities would be appropriate for the level of contributions expected. But with our method, 'C' List organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution will only require a few minutes to find that Jason Mewes or Nadia Comaneci have the appropriate level of fame for their purposes. 'D' List organizations may want to note that the author of this paper is a 'D' List Celebrity in the field of science.

5. Conclusion
    Google can be used to quickly, easily, and reproducibly categorize celebrities at all levels of fame.

  Fechner, G. T. 1860, Elemente der Psychophysik.
  Lennon, J. 1966, London Evening Standard, March 4.
  Pogson, N. 1856, "Magnitudes of Thirty-six of the Minor Planets for the First Day of each Month of the Year 1857," Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 17, 12.
  Schulman, E. 1999, "Can Fame Be Measured Quantitatively?" AIR, 5, 3, 16.
  Schulman, E. and Boissier, S. 2001, "How Should Fame Be Measured Quantitatively?" AIR Online, November 5.

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