Annals of Improbable Research Online (February 28, 2009)

Measuring Fame Quantitatively. IV. Who's the Most Famous of Them All?

Eric Schulman
Alexandria, Virginia

Barack Obama.

1. Introduction
    In this fourth paper on measuring fame quantitatively we introduce a new unit of fame and discover a new category of celebrity with only one known member.
    Our research over the past ten years (Schulman 1999, Schulman and Boissier 2001, and Schulman 2006) has shown that many people are famous to some extent and that Internet search engines can measure the exact fame of such people by comparing the number of search engine hits for the person to the number of search engine hits for a universal standard of fame comparison. Previous authors (Schulman 1999, Schulman and Boissier 2001, and Schulman 2006) identified Monica Lewinsky as the universal standard of fame, but we show in this paper that her fame has been decreasing since 2001 and she is therefore not a good candidate for the position. We find that George Harrison's fame has been roughly constant over the past ten years, making him a more appropriate universal standard of fame.
    Schulman (2006) presented a quantitative method for classifying people as 'A' List Celebrities, 'B' List Celebrities, and so on, but did not anticipate that there could be a category of people more famous than 'A' List Celebrities. Such people would have to be more than 30 times as famous as the archetypal 'B' List Celebrity. However, we have now identified one such person and have therefore created a new cateogry of 'A+' List Celebrities. In order to motivate readers to continue past the introduction, no revelation will yet be made concerning the identity of this 'A+' List Celebrity.

2. Methods
    One of the foremost experts on measuring fame quantitatively (Schulman 2006) has asserted 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 extend his groundbreaking work of classifiying people in seven different fields (business, film, music, politics, religion, science, and sports) as a function of their fame by going back to 2001 and forward to 2009 while using the new logarithmic international standard unit of fame, the dBHa (Schulman 2009):

fame(dBHa) = 10 log [fame(Ha)],

where fame(Ha) is the number of Google hits for the person divided by the number of Google hits for George Harrison, the new archetypal 'B' List Celebrity whose fame is 0 dBHa by definition. Other celebrities are therefore classified as follows:

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

3. Results
    Table 1 shows our classification of 49 people in seven different fields. The Hits columns list the number of Google hits that each person had in January 2001, October 2005, October 2008, and February 2009; the Fame columns list their fame in dBHa; and the List column shows their celebrity category in February 2009.  The Hits, Fame, and List entries are color-coded so that 'A' List Celebrity entries are red, 'B' List Celebrity entries are orange, 'C' List Celebrity entries are yellow, 'D' List Celebrity entries are green, 'E' List Celebrity entries are blue, 'F' List Celebrity entries are indigo (well, light purple really), 'G' List Celebrity entries are violet (i.e., dark purple), and 'H' List Celebrity entries are ultraviolet (the eyes of some readers might perceive them as white). The names and fields of typical celebrities in each category are similarly colored. Extraneous bold horizontal lines were added in the process of converting Microsoft Office Excel 2007 data into an image. No one knows quite why.

Table 1: Classified Celebrities

Classified Celebrities

4. Discussion
    Using the George Harrison standard, Monica Lewinsky's fame decreased by more than a factor of five between 2001 and 2009, while the average fame of the other people on the list decreased by only 3 percent during that same period of time. In fact, only two others on the list had fame that decreased more than Monica Lewinsky: Elisabeth Scheneman became 9.5 times less famous and Earle Spamer became 14.6 times less famous over the past ten years. The largest fame increases since 2001 were for Marie Pillet, who became 12.6 times more famous; Eithne Fennel, who became 15.6 times more famous; and Ryan Zimmerman, who became 18.2 times more famous. We were unable to determine the ten-year fame change for Daniel T. Arcieri, H. Leon Denizard Rivail, or James Kibo Perry because they had no hits in the January 2001 Google database. The identity of this last person is uncertain to us, although it is possible that Schulman (2006) intended to search for James Kibo Parry but mistyped the last name of the founder of Kibology. If so, we can only hope that Schulman (2006) do more careful work in the future.
    As part of our extensive research in fame, we discovered a video about celebrities that included John McCain (+10.1 dBHa), Paris Hilton (+12.8 dBHa), Britney Spears (+13.4 dBHa), and "the biggest celebrity in the world," Barrack Obama (+16.3 dBHa). Mr. Obama's fame is greater than +15 dBHa, which means that until other people are found with similar fame, Mr. Obama is in a celebrity category by himself.

5. Conclusions
    George Harrison is the archetypal 'B' List Celebrity and Barack Obama is the most famous person in the world.

  Schulman, E. 1999, "Can Fame Be Measured Quantitatively?" AIR, 5, 3, 16.
  Schulman, E. 2006, "Measuring Fame Quantitatively. III. What Does it Take to Make the 'A' List?" AIR, 12, 1, 11. 
  Schulman, E. 2009, "Measuring Fame Quantitatively. IV. Who's the Most Famous of Them All?" AIR Online, February 28.
  Schulman, E. and Boissier, S. 2001, "How Should Fame Be Measured Quantitatively?" AIR Online, November 5.

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