the National Institute of Standards and Technology,
Acoustics Scientists and Engineers at NIST came to blows Tuesday over a proposal to redefine lameness, and how it is measured, including the introduction of a new SI unit, the Lamicle.
Lameness, the degree to which something is lame, has always been measured in groans, with 1 groan being the amount of lameness required to elicit a groan per minute from an audience, audible by someone on a stage in front of the audience. The actual definition is quite scientific, involving precise sound pressure levels and distances, but this definition suffices for the purposes of this article. This is then converted into a logarithmic scale, making the unit designation dBg (decibel groans, usually called dB-groans or just dBg). A groan-ometer is a very sensitive piece of equipment which can be used to measure the lameness of jokes, lectures, proposals, pieces of art, fashion, and pretty much anything that people see hear or do.
Unfortunately the groan-ometer is a very expensive piece of equipment; difficult to set up, and to calibrate. For instance, to properly calibrate a groan-ometer requires a THX certified theater with a seating capacity of at least 1000, an Acoustic Instruments 8963G groan generator, and complete recordings of Bob Hope Absolute -10dBg, 0dBg and 10dBg jokes. Sadly, the applause-o-meter has largely supplanted the groan-ometer in the public arena. “It’s really quite aggravating” remarks Chief Groanologist Neezle Kitter “people just want the good news. Not at all concerned about reality!” Neezle is speaking of course to the fact that applause-o-meters cannot measure anything but volume. “What if the audience is clapping because it’s OVER, not because it was good? The applause-o-meter just says ‘wow, there’s a lot of clapping’ and the stupid club owner is like ‘they love this guy!’ Now if he had a groan-ometer and a groanologist or a lametician, he’d be like ‘whoa, this guy is lame’, and he’d book a fresh act.”
But all that may be about to change. The need for a groanologist or a lametician is one of the chief reasons why Dr. Melron Blitherington and his colleagues proposed the new unit. “The groanologists have a stranglehold on the entire field of lame-ology. And it’s because of this” he says gesturing to the hundreds of microphones and cables required for the full groan-ometer installation at NIST’s lab in Boulder, Colorado. “This mess is nearly impossible to operate, and the data is cryptic. Is a -10dBg joke good? Is it better or worse than a 10dBg joke? For that matter who remembers Bob Hope? That is why we created the Lamic scale.”
The Lamic scale is based on a much simpler metric. One Lamicle, as the proposed units would be called, is the amount of lameness required for 1 in 100 people to leave the room, change the channel or whatever would be required to cease participation. The top of the scale is 100 lamicles, which means that 100 in 100 people ceased participating.
“Lameness is a simple, universally understood concept” says Dr Blitherington. “And the Lamic scale is just as simple. How many people ‘tune out’ per hundred is how lame it is.”
However, it isn’t that simple at all. Dr. Kip Gullyswarthy at the NIST’s lab in Gaithersburg, Maryland finds serious flaws in the lamic scale. “people are lazy, and tend to just endure lameness levels as high as 30dBg before any of them will leave,” he explains as he begins to draw a graph on the whiteboard. “And furthermore, after about 45dBg, the lameness itself becomes engrossing, and people tend to stay seated emitting groan after groan.”
Dr. Gullyswarthy’s point is that the lamic scale is not linear, like the scale of a thermometer, nor is it logarithmic like the dB-groan scale. “The equations which govern the lamic scale are at least eleventh order equations, and that is merely the equations to cover participants leaving the performance. ‘Tuning out’ is an entirely different mathematical space, and gathering data to support it is nearly impossible without intrusive instrumentation.”
In order to measure ‘tuning out’ sensors must be placed on the subject’s head; cameras must watch the eyes; pulse, temperature and blood pressure must be monitored; sweat must be analyzed, and the list goes on.
“Besides, Bob Hope’s dead.” He concludes as if that fact alone has driven the last nail into the coffin of the lamicle. “We can’t make any new recordings to collect the necessary data required to convert to the Lamic scale. We’d end up falling back to a calibrated Groan-ometer, and using a lookup table to convert the values to the Lamic scale. Based on that alone, I give the lamic scale 200dBg! How many lamicles is that Dr. Blitherington?”