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Mathematically Analyzing “Creep” by Stone Temple Pilots

Last month, when I wrote about some of the changes I was making to my blog this year, I stated how I likely wouldn’t do a post on the final week of each month unless I had something really good or really interesting that I wanted to write about. Thanks to noted physics and cat expert Gregory Gbur on Twitter, I’ve been provided an idea that fits exactly that premise. Before I get to the idea, I’d like to mention that you should pick up his book, Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics, as it combines cats and science. You literally don’t need anything else in a book.

I’ve been a big fan of Stone Temple Pilots — and more specifically, the work of their late lead singer, Scott Weiland — for as long as I can remember. One of the few songs guaranteed to make me happy in most any circumstances is STP’s song “Big Bang Baby“. Another one of Weiland’s projects, Velvet Revolver, provided the background music for the final segment of my college radio show in the form of “Sucker Train Blues“. And the STP ballad “Atlanta” is one of my favorite songs ever, full stop.

In the above tweet though, we’re meant to explore the mathematical implications of the narrator of the song “Creep“, the third single released off of the band’s 1992 album, Core. For those unfamilar with the lyrics, I’ll link out to them here. That said, the line in the song that caused this question goes as follows.

“Well I’m half the man I used to be.”

The line itself is repeated 16 times in the song which should, in theory, make this a pretty simple answer. That said, I believe that there are several potential answers here, thanks in large part to how you choose to view the song from a philosophical standpoint. In this post, I’m going to examine both the mathematical and philosophical answers to drskyskull’s question in an effort to determine what the actual answer to this question is. I’d like to thank math nerd Katie Nevitt for her assistance in double checking my math in this post, as well as her help in firming up some of the scenarios laid out below. With that, we must ask —

What fraction of a man is Scott Weiland by the end of “Creep”?

Straight Forward Answers

1/65536

Let’s begin with one of the two obvious mathematical answers to this question. Within the song, Weiland says he’s half the man he used to be a total of 16 times. Treating this like radioactive half-life, we assume that the first time he says it, Weiland is literally one-half of the man he used to be. The next time, he’s one-quarter of the man he used to be. This continues until the 16th time of decay, at which point he would be 1/65536 the man he used to be. A CDC study conducted from 2011-2014 found that the average American male weighs 195.8 pounds. 1/65536th of that would be approximately .0029 pounds, or about 1.315 grams. That’s about one and one-third paper clips worth of human left.

Semantic Answers

1/2

Let’s go with another fairly obvious answer as the first of our semantics-based answers. As a teen and early-twenty something who was a bit too emo for his own good, I think there’s a chance Weiland is lamenting the same loss of the same half of himself over and over. If this is the case, there’s not a ton of math to be done here. Weiland is merely half the man he used to be. We can easily depict this by the magicians’ trick where they saw a man or woman in half (vertically in this case), and then not put them back together afterward.

1/128 to 1/65536 (variable)

Though Weiland states he’s half the man he used to be sixteen times in the song, there is a bit of a difference as to how each of those times is presented. For seven of those times, there’s no follow up directly to that line. This leads me to believe that he has become half of the man he used to be seven times for sure, which would make him 1/128th the man he used to be. Going once again off of the assumption that the average human male weighs 195.8 pounds, this would mean that Weiland weighs approximately 1.5 pounds at this stage — roughly the equivalent to three-quarters of a pineapple.

As for the other nine times Weiland delivers the line, it is stated thusly.

I’m half the man I used to be
This I feel as the dawn
It fades to gray

The way the lyrics are worded lead me to believe that in these nine instances, the feeling of being half of a man that he once was is temporary (and regular) as a sunrise. If this feeling is treated as an additional half-life to Weiland’s loss of manhood, he’d be down to 1/256 of the man he used to be. That said, the lyrics don’t tell us enough to be confident as to whether this is a one-off loss and reconstitution or whether we must treat each of the losses as individual, cumulative half-lives. As such, I think there’s a possibility that at his best Weiland is 1/128th the man he used to be, though at his lower points, you could argue he’s anywhere from 1/256th to 1/65536th the man he used to be.

99/6553600

As Katie and I were combing through the lyrics of “Creep”, there was a line that stuck out to both of us that could potentially throw a wrench into these calculations.

Take time with a wounded hand
‘Cause it likes to heal

Unfortunately, Weiland doesn’t give any additional clarification on the severity of the hand injury in question here. For ease of calculation, we’re going to make a worst-case scenario assumption and say that the wounded hand is actually the full loss of that hand. And it is just one hand, as it’s singular in the lyrics. One study conducted found that the average surface area of the hand can be best estimated to be approximately 1% of the total body. Meanwhile, a different study found that a hand weighs a little over 0.57% of the average human’s body weight…though I found that particular study dubious because every time I tried to access the place that wrote it directly, my computer kept throwing security risk errors. So let’s go with the 1% number for ease of math and not giving my computer a virus.

Let’s take our initial mathematical calculation and say that Weiland is 1/65536th the man he used to be by the end of the song. We’ll then take away 1% of his body weight further from there, which leaves us with the incredibly unwieldy fraction of 99/6553600ths of the man he used to be. At this point, things are just getting silly. We must go further.

Other Possible Answers

1/1

At no point in the song does Weiland state that he isn’t a whole man at the end of the song. All he says is that he’s half of the man he used to be. We cannot prove that Weiland wasn’t singing about Voltron, as Weiland sadly passed away in 2015 from a drug overdose. That said, unless the song is being sung by a sentient portion of pineapple or floating vocal cords, I feel pretty good in saying that the singer of the song is, in fact, a whole person.

This begs the question then — just how many men was Weiland at the beginning of the song? If we go the lamenting of loss route I mentioned before, this would imply that he was two people at the start of the song. Despite my searching the internet, I couldn’t find any record of Scott Weiland having absorbed a twin in the womb, so I think this option is safe to rule out.

By this logic, you would think that the implication that Weiland was 65,536 men at the beginning of the song is equally unlikely, math, biology, and the universe as we currently understand it would all seem to agree with that statement. But my counterargument to that is this: I don’t care. We cannot disprove that Weiland was not part of a hive mind.

That said, I believe the most likely way to end the song as a whole man for Weiland goes back to the point we addressed in the last section of this post, that of the wounded hand. We’ll again assume that the loss of the wounded hand is literal, if only because of the imagery surrounding it. Though the loss of a hand would cause a loss of mass from the human body, as well as one percent of the surface area, it would be incorrect to assume that the loss of a limb would make anyone less of a human. We can then assume that Weiland is mourning the loss of his hand, but I want to assure him that he’s still a whole man to us.

Conclusion

With all of these factors considered, exactly what fraction of a man is Scott Weiland by the end of “Creep”? Mathematically, I think the answer is pretty simple. He’s 1/65536th the man he used to be. But if you dissect the lyrics and consider exactly what’s being said throughout the song, I think the answer is much less clear. I’m personally in the hive mind camp, but your mileage may vary. Regardless of how you look at it, just go listen to some STP.

Four Nightmare Scenarios for an NFL Playoffs

I have a confession to make that will come as a surprise to far more of you who read this blog than those of you who know me in real life. I love ESPN’s NFL Playoff Machine. A lot. Ever since I discovered it1I honestly couldn’t tell you what year I discovered Playoff Machine. It feels like it’s been around as long as I’ve been using the internet., I’ve spent hours on it each year, trying to play out how the playoff picture would shake out after each week of play. While I would spend a good bit of time trying to create scenarios that benefit teams I like or harm teams I dislike, the most fun came from building out the weirdest possible outcomes possible. Whether that be finding a way to sneak in a team that has a 1% chance of making the playoffs2Five Thirty Eight is a great resource for seeing this type of thing when the season is going on. or seeing if I can make all of the teams with first round byes as of week 12 miss the playoffs, I find the entire exercise to be calming.

The best resource I’ve found for giving me this feeling during the NFL offseason is PlayoffPredictors.com. While they do far more than just NFL playoff prediction scenarios, the NFL predictor is an amazing tool for me playing out possible sources of weirdness when the Playoff Machine is down for the year3ESPN typically only has the Playoff Machine running during weeks 13-17 of the NFL season. This year, we got it week 12, which was amazing.. This led me to wonder — what’s the weirdest possible playoff scenarios that COULD happen in a given NFL season?

Allow me to be clear, these scenarios will likely never occur. They require a ton of absurdity to happen and likely will never even be remotely possible. But I want them to be. I’ve used the 2018 NFL schedule for each of these scenarios for sake of convenience more than anything else. I’ve also made an active effort to not have tie games unless I absolutely have to, as that’s just silly.

Scenario 1: Eleven 10-win Teams Miss The Playoffs

Link to the full scenario

We begin with the scenario that inspired this post — how many teams with 10 wins can miss the playoffs in the same season? The most teams that have finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs in the same season is two, which has happened on several occasions. There have also been three 11-5 teams miss the playoffs, (though only one in each season it’s happened) but we’ll talk more about that scenario a bit later on. In this scenario, not only do two teams total miss the playoffs despite winning 10 games, eleven of them do. Granted, in order for this scenario to happen, we have to have a plethora of putrid teams at the bottom of each conference. In fact, the bottom four teams in the AFC and NFC combined for 11 wins in this season, including a winless season from the Panthers.

Scenario 2: Six Teams with Losing Records Make the Playoffs

Link to the full scenario

Similar to the first scenario, we need a lot of extremes for our second scenario to be a reality. There have been four teams in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record, though two of those teams come with a giant asterisk. Both the 1982 Browns and Lions made the playoffs at 4-5 thanks to a strike-shortened season and were promptly routed. The two teams to make the playoffs with losing records since then — the 2010 Seahawks and 2015 Panthers — both won their first playoff game, so seeing a 7 win team win in the playoffs wouldn’t be unprecedented. In this situation, we’d be guaranteed at least two 7-9 teams picking up playoff wins, as both 4 vs. 5 matchups feature losing teams against each other. In a bit of unintentional symmetry, the AFC’s 4 vs. 5 matchup (Browns vs. Raiders) is the same matchup that occurred in the aforementioned 1982 playoffs.

Scenario 3: The Call to Kill Auto Bids for Division Winners

Link to the full scenario

Let’s talk about this scenario in two phases, beginning with the NFC. A scenario like this has happened on a couple of occasions, including the aforementioned 2010 playoffs where the 7-9 Seahawks played the 11-5 Saints in the first round. Even in seasons where there’s an 8-8 division winner, sports talking heads loudly wonder whether or not division winners deserve home field advantage in the first round if they have a worse record — particularly because it (surprisingly) matters.

And then there’s the AFC, where this idea is taken to its most extreme conclusion. For this scenario, I had every team in the AFC North lose every game they played (except intradivisional games) and every team in the AFC South win every game they played (again, except intradivisional games). This creates a situation where a 13-3 Jacksonville team is getting left out of the playoffs in favor of a 3-13 Baltimore team. No team better than 11-5 has ever missed the playoffs.

Unlikely? Incredibly. Hilarious? Yes. In retrospect, I should have done this in such a way to cause the Browns to be the 13-3 team to miss the playoffs, but that’s too much effort.

Scenario 4 – 83% of the Teams In the Playoffs After Week 11 2018 Miss The Playoffs

Okay. So a little background on this. First off, here were the standings following week 11 of the 2018 season.

And now we have our results. Link to the full scenario.

I tried my hardest to get all 12 teams that were in the playoffs as of week 11 to miss the playoffs at the same time. That said, when you have four teams with two or fewer losses after week 11, that’s REALLY hard to do. Especially when one of those team has a tie and there’s a division where you have to knock both a two loss and a three loss team out of the playoffs. In most other seasons I’ve found, this would be possible. In this season, however, we get this beautiful scenario where the only crimes against our rule are New Orleans and Pittsburgh making the playoffs as wildcard teams.


What other scenarios would you like to see me do? Was this even remotely interesting? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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