William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 150 of 575

Some Hollywood Money Statistics

Here, for no reason I can identify except I found it fun and the last long weekend of summer is upon us, are some statistics on the state of Hollywood movies. All numbers are from Box Office Mojo.

Something happened to those numbers, incidentally. Take the number of movies released every year. These are obviously “major” or “tracked” releases, since there are innumerable direct-to-digits (DVDs, Blueray, or the internet). What makes a movie worth tracking, I have no idea.

In 1980, the earliest year on record, there were 161 movies, which only increased by a dozen the next year. But by 1982 this was 428. So I suspect a typo, or change in counting method, or maybe even that the numbers are real. This was on the downslope of a major recession, after all.

Also, the 2013 numbers are all extrapolations using data up to 19 August. All numbers are domestic (worldwide totals are not included). But with those provisos…

Here are the number of movies released per year domestically and the same normalized by US population (millions).

Figure 1

Figure 1

A more-or-less increase, with some dips and peaks. Adjusting for population makes sense if you think of movies being a consumable product, which most are. Averages out to not quite two movies for every million eyeballs; slightly higher if you consider the very old and young and some others don’t watch (actively).

Tickets sold per capita:

Figure 2

Figure 2

Again, this is low (for the same reason) and only on average. People have been buying fewer tickets, on average. Slight uptick projected—and this is only a projection—for this year, embedded in a downward trend.

Next is CPI-adjusted gross receipts (in millions of 2008 dollars) and the same per capita (in 2008 dollars).

Figure 3

Figure 3

Onwards and ever upwards. All on average, of course, but the amount people are willing to spend on flicks is increasing, mostly because ticket prices are skyrocketing. This hasn’t discouraged viewers too much or at all.

As proof of that, this: the average ticket price (in 2008 dollars).

Figure 4

Figure 4

And this, the average gross earnings per movie in millions of 2008 dollars.

Figure 5

Figure 5

Note that this is the average. The average movie only brings in $18 million bucks, more or less. Gross is not net. Even with modest assumptions on the cost of making, marketing, distribution, and showing films, most movies must be operating at a loss. What a strange business.

Possibly apropos: I’ve only been to the movies twice in two or three years. I think the last flick I saw was The Artist (2011; I liked it!).


Preferred Female Body Proportions Among Child-Free Men

“Did you see her? Just my kind of adequate gluteofemoral fat stores!”

“No way, man. The kind of reproduction-related attractiveness cues I go for are located further north. I likes ’em of small renown. But then I intend never to father children.”

Such is the kind of conversation Christopher Burris and Armand Munteanu imagine men have. And, in the Archive of Sexual Behavior, in their 2012 “Preferred Female Body Proportions Among Child-Free Men“, they tested whether it was so. How?

Which of these 'does it' for you?

Which of these ‘does it’ for you?

Step one: Gather sixty-seven twenty-year-olds (plus or minus) via an ad “soliciting heterosexual males for an on-line study concerning ‘sexual attractiveness and attitudes towards fatherhood.'” Heterosexuality was not verified (how could it be?).

Step two: Ask these mostly “self-identified as Euro-Canadian” college students, on a scale of 1 to 5, whether they agree with “I intend to have a child at sometime in the future” and “I will try to have a child at some time in the future.” And ask questions like those from the “9-item Sociosexual Orientation Inventory-Revised.”

Step three: Show them a picture which has sliders to adjust three obvious particularities of (vaguely) female-shaped creatures.

Step four: Allow the college students to fix the figure until it reaches the “absolute ideal (=most arousing)” and then measure the size of the pile of drool which forms by their mouses.

Just kidding about the drool.

Step five: Statistics galore (mostly correlation coefficients) and the search for wee p-values.

Here’s the main claim (from the Abstract):

As expected, the desire to remain childfree was linked to erotic preference for a combination of smaller breasts and larger waist-to-hip ratio.

This is odd because evolutionary psychologists usually tell us large waist-to-hip ratios (WHRs) get the juices flowing. But you can’t argue with statistics.

Odder still is the admission, buried deep in the paper and in direct opposition to the Abstract, that the “reluctance to reproduce (RtoR)…was not significantly related to any of” the sexiness measures. So was it or wasn’t it? Actually, breast size was uncorrelated significantly with any of their measures.

The correlations of RtoR to breasts, waist, hips, and their various ratios was not significant (did not produce p-values less than the magic number). So they tried some kind of unspecified “interactive model” with RtoR and breast size as main effects. Neither gave joy. But the interaction of RtoR times breast size spit out a p-value of 0.04.

Success! Yet even classical statisticians frown on these kinds of models, where the main effects are not significant but where high-order interactions are. Too easy to get wee p-values to “confirm” nonsense. Our authors appear unaware of these cautions because they write several times of other models which are “nearly” significant.

Pay attention—a quiz is coming. Here is their main conclusion:

Consistent with this hypothesis, we found that greater reluctance to reproduce…predicted erotic interest in larger WHR among men who preferred smaller breasts.

Now for our quiz:

1) How many men saw real breasts in this study?

2) How many men saw real hips in this study?

3) How accurately do the computer-alterable pictures represent real women?

The answers, for slow readers, are: (1) 0, (2) 0, and (3) nobody in the world knows, except to say that whatever confidence we have in results which claim how men think about women has to be reduced to the extent this cartoons fail to capture true feminine aspects.

And then we must wonder how representative twenty-year-old Canadian college students are to men the world over. Et cetera. In other words, even the p-value of 0.04 is way too small. In other other words, the study is a dud.

Psychology Today couldn’t see that. They said the study provides “scientific understanding into the mystery of physical attraction” and that it “offers some novel insights as to why men perceive women as they do.”

The real conclusion is that you can’t stop magical thinking when p-values are used.

Ain’t Science grand?


Thanks again to Nate Winchester who found this study.


Visualization Of Biblical Cross References And Supposed Contradictions

Chris Harris created some pretty graphics showing Biblical cross references and other such things. Below is the main result:

The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc – the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.

One thing leads to another

The graph at his place is interactive. Hovering over one of lines lights it up; clicking on it brings you to the verses in question. Clever invention which will be useful in lots of applications.

End of story except that another group thought it would be fun to appropriate the same technique and use the lines to connect Biblical “contradictions.” Hemant Mehta, a.k.a. The Friendly Atheist (unlike in the mafia, today’s aliases are self-applied), wrote glowingly of the effort of Andy Marlow, who did the work for “Sam Harris’ Reason Project”, and Daniel G. Taylor, who did it for fun (we guess).

Taylor’s website is BibViz (Bible Visualization), which links the graph’s lines to the Skeptics Annotated Bible.

So, for fun, I went and clicked on one of the lines. Here is the very first one, which led to the page “Did Jesus perform many signs and wonders?” One column says Yes, He did. Another says, No, He did not.

Yes example (of four): (Mark 16:20) “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.”

No example (of three): (Matthew 12:39, 16:4) “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.”

All seven examples are tepid in that same sense, meaning they are poor exemplars of the question at hand. None of the “Yes” verses show Jesus working any miracles. Such as helping folks bypass the morgue, even removing the toe-tags of some; walking on water; feeding thousands from nearly empty baskets; and raising Himself from Death. And the “No” verses aren’t non-miracles, but Jesus’s chiding unbelievers for their lack of faith.

These and the other “contradictions” I checked (I of course did not read all of them) reveal more about the author of the supposed contradictions than it does about Christianity. They are just silly and more of a stretch than Nan…ah, skip it.

Don’t just take my word for it. Go play. Here’s another under the heading “Must everyone die?” Some people will never die: (John 11:26) “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” Everyone will die: (Hebrews 9:27) “And as it is appointed unto men once to die.” Sigh. Atheists and protesting Christians can be so literal.

Okay, just one more (these are like candy for fallacy finders like Yours Truly): “Is it OK to call someone a fool?” It’s OK to call someone a fool. (Proverbs 28;26) “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” It’s not OK to call someone a fool. (Matthew 5:22; the sole exemplar) “Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” So is it OK if I call this entry foolish?

Plenty more examples of people finding only that evidence they hope to find and not seeing what is plain.

Well, the “contradictions” weren’t enough. Also included are bar graphs of instances of things like “Misogyny, Violence & Discrimination Against Women.” I clicked the last and was lead to this page. Eight quotes from Revelation. Like 17:6, “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs.” I’m not sure whether that’s violence or discrimination. Your idea?

Another category was “Discrimination Against Homosexuals.” I clicked the last again but it led to a link which must be an error (more Revelation):

“Dogs [homosexuals?], sorcerers, whoremongers, idolaters” and along with anyone who ever told a lie will not enter the heavenly city. “[T]he term ‘dogs’ in Rev 22:15 primarily has in view emasculated male cult prostitutes, without excluding a wider reference to any who engage in homosexual practice.” Robert Gagnon (The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics) 22:15.

Yeesh. A much better example of discrimination—a word which has neither positive nor negative connotations until it is linked to a subject—is the line that led to 2 Peter (2:6-9): “God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for living ungodly, filthy conversation, and unlawful deeds.”


Thanks to Nate Winchester for sending these sites in.


On The College Bubble—Update

Must-reading from the Wall Street Journal. Richard Vedder: “The Real Reason College Costs So Much. The expert on the economics of higher education explains how subsidies fuel rising prices and why there’s a ‘bubble’ in student loans and college enrollment.”

Some quotes and commentary follow (I’ve had a busy few days, so these will be telegraphic).

“The University of California system employs 2,358 administrative staff in just its president’s office.”

Is that all?

Quick: how many people are employed in the various “diversity” and “multicultural” programs at your college? Veder says, “My university has a sustainability coordinator whose main message, as far as I can tell, is to go out and tell people to buy food grown locally.” A sustainability coordinator!

Stanford offers more classes in yoga than Shakespeare.

Anybody want to bet against this ratio increasing?

Or consider Princeton, which recently built a resplendent $136 million student residence with leaded glass windows and a cavernous oak dining hall…The dorm’s cost approached $300,000 per bed.

And don’t forget all those gorgeous gymnasiums and juice bars, places which now take up more real estate than libraries. Excuse me: learning centers, books rapidly becoming passé.

Since 2000, New York University has provided $90 million in loans, many of them zero-interest and forgivable, to administrators and faculty to buy houses and summer homes on Fire Island and the Hamptons.

Hey. These guys have to teach as many as two classes a year. Plus they need somewhere they can stay during summers and sabbaticals. Would you have administrators and professors camp in the street?

Meanwhile, grants have increased to $49 billion from $6.4 billion in 1981. By expanding eligibility and boosting the maximum Pell Grant by $500 to $5,350, the 2009 stimulus bill accelerated higher ed’s evolution into a middle-class entitlement. Fewer than 2% of Pell Grant recipients came from families making between $60,000 and $80,000 a year in 2007. Now roughly 18% do.

When you don’t know how much something costs you’ll pay anything. The cost of the thing will then inexorably increase. Two cases: health “insurance” and college tuition.

The government has created a negative feedback mechanism to ensure its own growth and survival. It subsidizes and encourages participation, all of which serve to increase costs, which produces calls for more subsidization and greater participation (in the interest of “fairness”). People come to think it is only Government which can save them. Especially when they think they don’t have to pay.

And did you hear? The government wants to tie federal aid to graduation rates. What could go wrong? The Doctrine of Unexpected Consequences, that’s what:

“I can tell you right now, having taught at universities forever, that universities will do everything they can to get students to graduate,” he chuckles. “If you think we have grade inflation now, you ought to think what will happen. If you breathe into a mirror and it fogs up, you’ll get an A.”

As we’ve noted before: there are too many kids going to college who shouldn’t be there and there are too many professors having to teach. Again, the problem is government money. It floods the system and taints everything it touches. You can’t let government pick (all) research to fund else it turns into “Research for everybody!”

The professoriate has been trained and turned into an machine which petitions government for money. Only part of the money they win is used for research and teaching. A great chunk of it goes to the administration to pay for special projects, all of which have turned universities into corporations. Which don’t have to pay tax.

Mr. Vedder says…government won’t do the innovating. “First of all, the Department of Education, to use K-12 as an example, has been littered with demonstration projects, innovation projects, proposals for new ways to do things for decades. And what has come out? Are American students learning any more today than a generation ago? Are they doing so at lower cost than a generation ago? No.”

Like all bubbles there is no fix, no solution. It has to pop, collapse of its own weight, and the structure rebuilt from what’s left standing.


The Troubling Dean-to-Professor Ratio

Purdue has a $313,000-a-year acting provost and six vice and associate vice provosts, including a $198,000-a-year chief diversity officer. Among its 16 deans and 11 vice presidents are a $253,000 marketing officer and a $433,000 business school chief. The average full professor at the public university in West Lafayette, Ind., makes $125,000.

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2015 William M. Briggs

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑