Can you mathematically calculate whether a celebrity couple's marriage will end in a divorce? You sure can, according to New York Times science reporter John Tierney and statistician Garth Sundem (math, what can't it do?)
Behold, the Sundem/Tierney Unified Celebrity Theory:
... the new equation uses a ratio of two other measures: the number of mentions in The Times divided by mentions in The National Enquirer.
“This is a major improvement in the equation,” Garth says. “It turns out that overall fame doesn’t matter as much as the flavor of the fame. It’s tabloid fame that dooms you. Sure, Katie Holmes had about 160 Enquirer hits, but she had more than twice as many NYT hits. A high NYT/ENQ ratio also explains why Chelsea Clinton and Kate Middleton have better chances than the Kardashian sisters.”
Garth’s new analysis shows that it’s the wife’s fame that really matters. While the husband’s NYT/ENQ ratio is mildly predictive, the effect is so much weaker than the wife’s that it’s not included in the new equation. Nor are some variables from the old equation, like the number of previous marriages and the age gap between husband and wife.
In the fine tradition of Occam’s razor, the new equation has fewer variables than the old one. Besides the wife’s tabloid fame, the crucial ones are the spouses’ combined age (younger couples divorce sooner), the length of the courtship (quicker to wed, quicker to split), and the sex-symbol factor (defined formally as the number of Google hits showing the wife “in clothing designed to elicit libidinous intent”).
Why is the wife’s sexy image dangerous? And why do her variables — her image, her tabloid fame — matter so much more than her husband’s?
“You could explain this two ways,” Garth says. “Either the guy’s powerless to predict the marriage’s fate, or he’s an enigma, indefinable by numbers. I prefer the latter.”