Who's the most significant person in human history? Professor Steven Skiena (of Stony Brook University in New York) and Charles Ward sought to answer that question by sifting through more than 1,000 historical figures and prominent people while applying quantitative analysis to the popular online information source Wikipedia. The researchers analyzed the impact historical figures had on other people's opinions throughout the eons, and the ranking formula was very similar to the way Google ranks webpages in its search engine. At the top of the researchers' list: Jesus. He is followed (in descending order) by Napoleon, William Shakespeare, Muhammad, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Adolf Hitler, Aristotle, Alexander the Great and Thomas Jefferson. [christianpost.com, 12/10/13; dailymail.co.uk, 12/14/13 stats]
Sometimes the best publicity, apparently, is no publicity at all. Without warning or fanfare, Beyoncé released her self-titled fifth album on Dec. 13 via iTunes. In just three days, it sold 828,773 units (617,213 of which were domestic sales), setting an all-time iTunes record and becoming the biggest debut by a female artist this year (with Katy Perry's Prism a distant second with first-week sales of 286,000 units). "I didn't want to release my music the way I've done it [before]," Beyoncé said in a press release about the album's format of 14 audio tracks paired with 17 videos. "I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There's so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans." Regarding the video component, she said, "It's more than just what I hear. When I'm connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they're all connected to the music."
The Daily Beast's Kevin Fallon's assessment of Beyoncé's sudden release? "It's intimate, raw, even X-rated, and cements her status as the most untouchable pop star alive." He titled his review, "Beyoncé Drips of Sex." [abcnews.com, 12/13/13; billboard.com, 12/15/13; time.com, 12/15/13; thedailybeast.com, 12/13/13; huffingtonpost.com, 12/16/13 stats]
There's little difference in the level of violence found in PG-13 and R-rated movies, according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center. About half of PG-13 movies in the last two-and-a-half decades feature characters who have sex, act violently and/or drink. And often, acts of sex and violence happen within five minutes of each other. The study pointed out that this kind of content in teen-targeted films is problematic because "evidence shows that adolescents do engage in clusters of risk behaviors. … Youth, particularly those with impulsive sensation-seeking tendencies, may be at elevated risk for unhealthy behaviors as a result of their media exposure to problematic content."
The better news? Use of both tobacco and alcohol in these types of movies has dropped significantly in the last few decades. Back in 1985, nearly seven out of every 10 main characters smoked or used tobacco. Now that's down to just two in 10. And alcohol use is now found in 67% of PG-13 movies, down from nearly 90% during the '80s. [time.com, 12/9/13]
The Huffington Post analyzed the 50 biggest box office hits so far in 2013 and found that just 14% starred female leads (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Gravity, The Heat, Frozen, Identity Thief, Mama and Safe Haven). Another 22% had ensemble casts made up of both men and women, while the remaining 64% starred men. [huffingtonpost.com, 12/13/13 stats]
Ashley Benson, one of the stars of ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars, recently took to Instagram and Twitter to criticize a new poster for the series that uses, she says, old Photoshopped images of the cast. "Saw this floating around….hope it's not the poster. Our faces in this were from 4 years ago…..and we all look ridiculous. Way too much photo shop. We all have flaws. No one looks like this. It's not attractive." [usatoday.com, 12/13/13]
Shaken, not stirred. That's how James Bond, the world's most famous secret agent, likes his martinis. But a group of scientists believes that 007 prefers his martinis shaken (instead of stirred, as most aficionados like them) because his frequent alcohol consumption likely has left him shaking. According to a new study published in the journal BMJ, Bond would have an alcohol-induced tremor due to his drinking habits. After combing through all 12 of Ian Fleming's original Bond novels, they estimate the agent drinks anywhere from 65 to 92 drinks a week—or as many as 13 a day. During one day in From Russia With Love, for example, Bond guzzles the equivalent of 50 drinks. That's a lot of alcohol, since men are considered "heavy drinkers" if they imbibe more than 14 drinks a week. Even discounting 007's dangerous occupation, scientists believe the drinking alone would've killed Britain's famous spy before he turned 60. "Although we appreciate the societal pressures to consume alcohol when working with international terrorists and high stakes gamblers, we would advise Bond be referred to further assessment of his alcohol intake and reduce his intake to safe levels," the researchers wrote. [worldnews.nbcnews.com, 12/12/13 c&e]
The more time college students spend talking, texting, Facebooking or surfing the Internet on their smartphones, the more likely they are to be anxious, unhappy and get lower grades. That's according to a new study by Kent State University researchers. They interviewed 536 students who kept a record of their mobile phone use and also took social science tests designed to measure anxiety and life satisfaction. "The lower frequency users use their phone to keep in touch, check the Web and update Facebook but they can put it away and get on with other tasks," said study co-author Andrew Lepp. "The higher users are not able to control it and are glued to the cellphone. They need to unplug and find some personal time where they can disconnect from the network." He added, "You need time to be alone with your thoughts, recover from the daily stressors in a way that doesn't involve electronic media."
Meanwhile, some adolescents sleeping with their cellphones are sending texts without remembering they did so the next morning. And Dr. Gerald Rosen, who leads the pediatric sleep disorders program at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, believes teens are being conditioned to respond to their phones almost maternally. "If you're a mother, you awaken to the sound of your child crying," Rosen says. "Even if it's not a loud noise, it will trigger an awakening. That's essentially what's happening with lots of kids with their phones." He also believes there are deeper problems to explore when anyone is so attached to a piece of technology. "For them, the cellphone is a life link," he adds, "and this is central to how they view the world." [miamiherald.com 12/14/13; startribune.com, 12/6/13 stats, c&e]
Violent gun crime has dropped dramatically in the past two decades, plunging 49% between 1993 and 2010. But the majority of Americans think it's more of a problem now than ever before. According to a Pew Research Center study, 56% of Americans believe gun crime is worse today than it was 20 years ago. And 84% believe that in recent years, gun crime has either gone up or stayed the same. Experts pin responsibility for the perception discrepancy on the omnipresent 24/7 news cycle. "The public doesn't get its feelings out of crime statistics," said Alfred Blumstein, an urban systems professor at Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University. "The public gets its feelings from particularly notorious events, and what the press talks about." [usatoday.com, 12/3/13 stats]
"The best advice I've ever been given is being handed a Bible. That's the blueprint for marriage that we go by, and that's what our marriage is grounded in."
—37-year-old actress and former Full House star Candace Cameron Bure. Elsewhere in her interview with yourtango.com, she talked about how those convictions shape what she will and won't do as an actress: "What's very important to me is that it's family-friendly programming or there is some positive message, or something of value to take away from watching it. I have boundaries that my husband and I talked about and are both comfortable with. … If you watch anything I do, you'll see I don't go beyond kissing someone. I'm not going to get naked, and I'm not going to have sex scenes." Bure is the sister of actor Kirk Cameron and has been married to professional hockey player Valeri Bure for 17 years. [foxnews.com, 12/9/13]