Statisticians Baffled by Da Vinci Code's Success

Posted on December 30, 2005

British statisticians are simply dumbfounded by the incredible success of the bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. These particular statisticians pride themselves on being able to predict which books will be bestsellers and which will be remaindered immediately.

The team, led by Alvai Winkler, reported the model it uses to predict the success of books catching on with the public gave The Da Vinci Code only a 36 percent chance of even making the charts, the Guardian reported.

Other surprising finds were the average scores given to all of the hit Harry Potter books and the negative scores given to nearly everything ever written by Charles Dickens. Despite the contradictions, Winkler told the newspaper he still has faith in the scoring system that uses the title to predict a book`s success or failure.

Books that followed the group`s model to success all had figurative titles instead of literal ones -- the first word was a pronoun, a verb, an adjective or a greeting; and the grammar patterns either were a possessive case with a noun, or an adjective and noun or of the words "The ... of ...," Winkler said. Among the top rated titles were Agatha Christies' Sleeping Murder and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials.

Why don't American statisticians do some interesting studies like the British ones do? All we ever get to hear about in the U.S. are the various probabilities and estimates of exactly when everything from a McDonald's hamburger to the water we drink is going to kill us.

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