Renaissance Artists in a Half-Shell

Today’s comic provoked an awful lot of discussion on the forums, the LJ feed, and in my inbox over the respective notoriety of the various turtles/artists.

I got the percentages in the graph through Google. But direct Google comparison of turtles and artists has the problem that the artists seem to turn up quite a bit more material. There might be many reasons for this, but in creating the chart I decided to assume a priori that the ninja turtles and the Renaissance artists were, on the whole, equally notorious. I’ve seen merchandising for both — Ninja Turtle bedsheets and renaissance-artist-themed ceilings, so this is obviously a fair assumption. Then I used Google to find the respective notoriety of each turtle/artist with respect to their contemporaries — searching for [artist name] Renaissance, summing the total results, and getting each as a percentage. So Leonardo [da Vinci] takes up about 57% of the artist results, Michelangelo [long Renaissance name] takes up only 13%. Then I did the same thing for the turtles, seaching for [turtle name] Ninja Turtles, where Leonardo is again the most notorious, but by a smaller margin (47%). So the pie charts compare the notoriety of each within his group. Donatello gets an 18% share among the turtles but only a 3% share among the artists, so his ratio was 85% turtle : 15% artist. Michelangelo’s was 18:13 = 57:43. Michelangelo is more turtle than artist on the chart because while he’s popular among the artists, he’s more popular among the turtles, and we’re assuming that on the whole the turtles are as notorious as the artists.

Sure, I could’ve gotten all subjective about it, and said “but when I hear ‘Michelangelo’, I think of David before they think of the nunchucks,” or “Raphael is more a turtle than an artist in my mind,” but that’s a dangerous road to start down. Once you start letting your personal biases interfere with serious scientific research like this, it pollutes your data. And that kind of subjectivity not only changes the whole attitude of your research, it affects your project in unpredictable ways. The polluted data starts seeping out into other projects — infecting them, if you will — and creating these unscientific monsters, half natural phenomenon, half human bias. Fleeing the scientific community that shunned them, they seek solace underground, searching for results outside the establishment, delivering truth and justice as they see fit, living off delivery pizza. And that’s just the beginning.

0 thoughts on “Renaissance Artists in a Half-Shell

  1. Your comic this morning made me sporfle my coffee. It was the funniest thing I’d read this week — until you posted this.

    Splinter says, “Go forth, young one, and explore the world through your maths. It will bring you great enlightenment. Now pass the pepperoni.”

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  2. Now that I’ve seen the explanation of how you got your numbers, it makes much more sense. However, my initial interpretation of the graph was which is each better known for, not which is more popular in their respected groups. Knowing that you probably done some research, I had just figured you’d used the [artist name] Renaissance, and the [turtle name] Ninja Turtles, and then just gotten the ratio of the search results.

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  3. I enjoy your humour a lot, but you know much more about math and language than I, so you also simultaneously can awe me. Which is probably why I come back, even though it’s usually just stick figures.

    Though I’m still waiting for the epic battle between the red spiders and the lower city people.

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  4. I’d also assumed that you ratioed the turtle hits to the artist hits on an individual basis, the way Wetzilla described.

    I might suggest that those would be more meaningful results, and would not require an assumption that the notoriety of the ninja turtles and the renaissance artists are equal when taken as a whole. You could back that assumption up by comparing a google of “ninja turtle” to “renaissance artist”, but you could also manipulate the ratio to be whatever you want by choosing different search terms.

    There are many ways to set this up. Your way provides more entertaining results because we are essentially guaranteed to have some members that are >50% turtle, and some that are less. It would be no fun if everyone was less than half turtle. But now we’re being subjective ; )

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  5. When I first read the comic, I assumed it was based on a subjective judgment. I really should have known better.

    Yet another small piece of that giant dump of information that is the internet successfully elucidated by xkcd.

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  6. Does it even matter where the data comes from? This type of Google stats is wildly inaccurate, so the data could have come from a Slashdot poll and would have been just as good (“If you’re using these numbers to do anything important, you’re insane.”).

    The idea, however, is brilliant, and this is exactly what I find so fascinating about xkcd. It’s the healthy mix of geekiness with a perspective from the outside that makes this one stand out. And I love the use of pie charts in this one!

    I don’t mind stick figures at all, if the ideas commicated are that good. There are lots of comics out there that are much better drawn and are nowhere near this one in the ideas department (just look at the fun-nay comics page of your local paper …).

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  7. I’d say that the best comic ever was Calvin and Hobbes, then… for the same reasons you suggest the funnies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
    If you’ve seen some of the later ones, you’ll see how the philosophy is matched by the visuals (on Sundays especially).

    The results are amusing, but I foolishly assumed that there was little significance to the actual statistics…though this is largely because approximately 84.29% of all statistics are shit anyway. It’s still interesting, especially because the name Donatello certainly doesn’t make me think of any specific piece of art. (What did he do again?)

    But I have to wonder if the da Vinci results are skewed. Realize that da Vinci was known for much more than just his paintings…he was also an engineer. Most likely, by simply searching “Leonardo Rennaisance”, there are sites that relate to his artwork and some that relate solely to his engineering skills. So as a rennaisance figure in general these would hold, but I can’t necessarily say the same as specifically an ARTIST.

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  8. Hi x!

    I had noticed that there was a sort of symmetry in the pie charts, which struck me as odd. I naively figured you were just throwing some semi-random pie charts at us, rather than using an assumption that I would heartily disagree with. I know it took me a few years to find out that the were ALL named after renaissance artists, and I’m sure there are still people who have never heard of the Turtles (gasp!).

    So, my proposal: a comparison if which name most applies to which person: turtle or artist? Additionally, the square root of the sum of the Google results, to indicate how large each chart should be, should we scale them. To keep my head from exploding, I’m using the turtle name and either “ninja” or “renaissance” for my searches. Also, because of misspellings, I’m using “michelangelo OR michaelangelo”.

    Name Artist Scale
    Leonardo 65.0% 1.44
    Michelangelo 80.9% 1.28
    Raphael 76.3% 1.23
    Donatello 63.8% 0.78

    Apparently, they’re all better known as artists, although this could just indicate the larger volume of significant literature on the subject of Renaissance artists.

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  9. I think that though your statistics weren’t biased by your opinion, the way that you determined their popularity was a little odd. Although Google is a great search site, it doesn’t site the world’s popularity. If you wanted to get real and true with these statistics, you should go out an interview a good percentage of the United States or the world if you wanted to get that indepth. I just think that there’s a chance that people would rather make Ninja Turtle websites than Michelangelo sites.

    And another thing, maybe, that’s why they’re ranking so much more higher than the artists. It’s because they are all lumped into one Ninja Turtles site which probably covers them all reasonably – but places most of its affection toward Leonardo or one of the other popular turtles.

    In laymen’s terms, there’s no way in hell when the world thinks Michelangelo they think “OMG! NINJA TURTLE EXTRAORDINAIRE!”

    I don’t know though, Randall, maybe…maybe, I’m just bitter.

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  10. I felt your chart graph, before even now finding your explanation, was incredibly reflective of reality. Seems to me how the public opinion is. I remember thinking this stuff while playing teenage mutant ninja turtles for super Nintendo (which i now enjoy on my psp) and came up with similar idea.

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  11. Thank you, sir, for explaining your research techniques. I appreciate your strict adherence to the scientific method. However, I must question why you did not in the first place release your analytical procedures. This is bad form, and I’m quite sure neither Leonardo nor Leonardo would approve.

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  12. y’know, TMNT was called ‘Teenage mutant HERO turtles’ in some countries, right?

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  13. Initially, Michelangelo the Ninja Turtle was spelled “Michaelangelo,” because Eastman and Laird didn’t have a spell-checker. Would this skew the results? The “correct” spelling of his name took several years to seep in.

    Also, I am totally excited for the new movie. Only a few more weeks to go. I wonder if there’s a midnight showing somewhere for those whose love of Ninja Turtles exceeds their love of all those other movies with cult followings.

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  14. Also Donatello was not actually a renaissance artist (there is a lovely statue of the david that he did). He came about 100 years prior. While Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael all painted and created during the movement so that could also scew the results. I think Donatello is mistaken as an artist durring that time because of the TV show. The power of misinforming youth.

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  15. What you should have done is multiply what you thought the percentages should be by two, then find half that. It’s much more accurate, and entails much less work. then again, I’m the kind of man who does a Google search on the word “percentages” to assure that it really is spelled right.

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  17. It’s too bad that they don’t collect Q-scores for these guys. That would be a great way to calculate relative popularity.

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  18. I loved this comic when it was published because it was innately entertaining and I love the Turtles, but finally reading the explanation of your research techniques just now made me put my head on my desk laughing. Keep up the amazing work!

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  19. “What you should have done is multiply what you thought the percentages should be by two, then find half that.”

    Wow… what was a brilliant math joke while stoned turns out to be a really stupid joke when sober.

    And since I’m writing *this* comment, I guess I care what people on the internet think about my intelligence.

    How pathetic. >

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  20. With regards to the initial assumption, namely that ninja turtles and renaissance artists are equally popular: if you assume the number of google results is a fair measure, here’s some interesting data:

    82,200 for “ninja turtle”
    84,000 for “renaissance artist”

    281,000 for ninja turtle
    383,000 for renaissance artist

    So in quotes they’re about the same, but out of quotes the artists are definitely winning.

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  23. I was playing around with the audio feature.

    And instead of saying “I am” it says “I A-M”.

    It made me giggle.

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  24. I might suggest that those would be more meaningful results, and would not require an assumption that the notoriety of the ninja turtles and the renaissance artists are equal when taken as a whole. You could back that assumption up by comparing a google of “ninja turtle” to “renaissance artist”, but you could also manipulate the ratio to be whatever you want by choosing different search terms

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  25. I loved this comic when it was published because it was innately entertaining and I love the Turtles, but finally reading the explanation of your research techniques just now made me put my head on my desk laughing. Keep up the amazing work!

    Like

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