Archive for January 4th, 2009

If you can’t trust celebrities, who can you trust?

January 4, 2009

Mariah Carey has been in the science news lately, amazingly enough.  No, not for a discussion of her five-octave vocal range, but rather for a discussion of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity.   Her most recent album appears to be named for Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence formula:  E=mc^2, as you can see from the album cover art seen above at this link. [I’m not including the image here, for copyright reasons.]

Apparently Mariah Carey was recently asked about the album title; she has been quoted as having said that it stands for “emancipation equals Mariah Carey times two”.

I suppose “Mariah Carey times two” might be loosely translated as “buy my two most recent albums”, as her previous album specifically referred to emancipation in the title.  But regardless of her intent, the algebraic notation does not refer to multiplying by two, but rather multiplying by a second copy of “c”.  (Perhaps the album should have been a series of duets by Mariah Carey and Charo….)

A British nonprofit organization, Sense About Science, recently called attention to Mariah Carey’s misinterpretation of exponent notation and other celebrity gaffes when speaking about science in public, in their “Celeb Audit 2008“.  While Mariah’s quote is the only one that is explicitly mathematical, many of the others could be useful fodder for discussion in a statistics classroom environment, and in many cases (as in the quotes from American politicians by the names of McCain, Obama, and Palin) involve far more weighty matters, and in all honesty far more disturbing misrepresentations.