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Treebeard's Stumper
31 January 2003

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

In 1968, artist Andy Warhol said: "In the future everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes." That's become a cliche, but I want to take it straight. Back then, the world population was about 3.5 billion. Now it's almost 6.3 billion, so do we only get 15 x 3.5 / 6.3 = 8.3 minutes of fame? Offhand, there's only time for 365.25 x 24 x 60 / 15 = 35,064 people a year to get their 15 minutes. Make any assumptions you want about fame and population, but spell it out and show your work How much fame can we really expect? Does the DMS Talent Show count?

  Treebeard's World Fame Clock
World Population: people
Your Moment of Fame: minutes, adjusted to 15 minutes each in 1968

My World Fame Clock uses modified Javascript code from It figures minutes of fame using the US Census Bureau 1968 world population estimate of 3,558,100,709. You can watch your picoseconds of fame tick away! Of course fame is not that simple. How many people can be world famous at the same time? Are fame and notoriety and celebrity and authority the same thing?

Here's a simple questionnaire about fame that I'll give to my students at school. You can also do this here on the Web if you have email support on your computer or network. This is a primative email form, and you may get an ugly message from Outlook; but I think it's harmless.

  1. Do you want to be world famous? That is: popular, well-known, or widely recognized for your accomplishments, activities, abilities, expertise, looks, opinions, and/or ideas? (pick one)
  2. Why did you give that answer?
  3. How likely is it that you will get your 15 minutes of fame? (pick one)
  4. What would you most like to be famous for, no matter who you are now?
  5. Given the talents you have, what would you like to be famous for?
  6. If you become famous, how would you use your fame?
  7. If you could have dinner with any two living people, who would you invite?
  8. What if you could have dinner with any two people from any time in history?

Did Andy Warhol really say that? Where and when?
What else is slipping away as the world population grows?


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Copyright © 2003 by Marc Kummel /