Breakdown of Scale Invariance – Hilarity Ensues

By cjohnson | March 1, 2006 2:51 am

So it is that time of year. On Sunday, the Academy Awards (Oscars) take place, but that’s not what I’m talking about. It is the days immediately after…..

In the days (or week?) after the Oscars, a number of glossy Hollywood gossip magazines (Us Weekly, People, and In Touch, for example) will do specials on the various dresses, (or ballgowns, etc,) worn by many of the stars who attended. Why do I care about this? Because they do something really silly in these presentations. They’ll have several pages of the pictures of the outfits, but they rescale all the women to be the same height! It only works properly if you see them side by side in the magazine, not on the web, so you have to look at the printed results to see how funny it is.

I noticed this by chance (no, don’t ask….) a few years ago and now I look forward to it every year because it’s just plain ridiculous, and the results are often funny. Why? Well, take someone like Christina Ricci, at 5 ft 1 in, and rescale** her photo so that she is the same height as Uma Thurman, who is 6 ft tall. What do you get? Well, the proportions are wrong….. Ricci will probably have a huge head compared to Thurman, etc, etc. I don’t know why, but every year I like seeing the results of this little game. (This has nothing to do with making fun of people’s heights, but everything to do with a magazine trying to acheive uniformity by rescaling in this way. I’d love to know which editor was responsible for that brilliant idea, which seems to be copied a lot now.)

Stop by a magazine stand and have a flick through for a quick laugh.

Oh…. while I’m at it, I’ll go for a bit of science of scaling: Here’s a random bit of writing, by George Johnson in 1999, about scaling laws in biology: (Link.)


[Update: **Of course, who ever did that would be a “Ricci Scaler”, 🙂 A cheap joke for the possible amusement of a relatively small community trained in differential geometry.]


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

See More

Collapse bottom bar