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Can Statistics Predict the Body Count in Scream 4?

April 12, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m usually not a big fan of slasher movies, but Scream was an exception. It has a self mocking, ‘we know it’s kinda stupid but it’s entertaining so shut-up!’ attitude which I found very refreshing.

The sequels weren’t as good as the original, but they were ok. And with Scream 4 being released on April 15, the question is: What will the body count be?

Well, you have to follow the rules of the sequel, of course.

There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger.

Forrest Wickman and others on Brow Beat went through the data and created a chart detailing the body count as a function of franchise installment number for many popular horror franchises. They were looking to see if the body count “rule” was actually followed. These are the results:

As you can see, in general the body counts do go up with sequel number.

They also came up with an empirical formula for predicting the number of kills in each installment. This takes into account certain factors such as the ‘zombie factor’ and the number of colons in the title of the movie.

Using this formula, they predicted the body count in Scream 4 would be 11.

One can only hope that David Arquette will be one of those 11.

Hurray for using statistics for something useful!

 Update (April 15, 2011) *SPOILER*

Turns out, the actual body count is 15. Meh, not bad.

Fukushima Q & A With Physicists

April 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Last week, Nature magazine held a live Q & A about the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan. Understandably, people had many questions about the actual dangers associated with the damaged reactor.

The session included Jim Smith, an environmental physicist from the University of Portsmouth, U.K., and Geoff Brumfiel, Nature’s senior physical sciences correspondent.

With all the media hoopla, which included getting the science flat-out wrong and over-blowing the dangers (or lack thereof) here in North America.

Scientific American wrote a brief excerpt of the interview here. You can also get the full transcript on the Nature website.

Here’s an example of the kind of questions that were asked, and the answers given.

[Question From ZoeyZoey: ] Although there are high levels of Cesium 137 and Iodine 131 in the water around Japan many people believe that it is not cause for concern because of the ocean’s ability to vastly dilute what is put in it. Do you believe other countries should be concerned or do you agree that the ocean can fix it?

Jim Smith: Yes, there is enormous dilution of radioactivity in the marine system. By the time any contamination got across the ocean to other countries (if any did), the concentrations would be tiny and wouldn’t present any risk. The concern for the marine system is mainly in the local area to Fukushima.