TIME

How Popular Will Your Name Be in 25 Years?

Wondering what to name your kid? Here is how every name will rise and fall in popularity over the next 25 years.

Popular names follow a familiar cycle: They become increasingly common as new parents jump on the bandwagon, only to peak and decline as everyone on the playground starts answering to the same name. Some old standards lie dormant for half a century before gradually returning–hello, Evelyn. Others skyrocket and decline in a few years (that’s you, Miley).

Parents who want to stay ahead of the curve have two major things to consider in a name: the present popularity of a name and where in its popularity cycle it currently sits. The first part is easy to get from the Social Security Administration, which published the most popular baby names of 2013 on Friday. (In the United States, Noah has unseated Jacob as the most popular boy’s name; Sophia still reigns supreme among girls.) The second is not so simple. Like stocks, hot names can stay dominant for a decade or flame out after a year.

The tool above, developed with Chris Franck, an assistant research professor in statistics at Virginia Tech, predicts how a name will rise or fall in the next 25 years by examining the performance of earlier names that followed similar patterns of popularity.

In the case of Adele, for example, our model found that the name is currently following a pattern very similar to names like Grace, Eva, and Lavinia, which were similarly popular in the early 20th century and enjoyed a comeback in the recent past. (Adele’s spike in popularity might have something to do with this one.) Because these names are farther along in their lifecycle, they offer some insight into what the next few years will look like for Adele.

Based on this method, here are a few predictions: Noah’s best days are behind him. We predict that 2013 was the most popular year the Biblical name will have in many years to come. Emma is very likely to be the top girl’s name of 2014. And keep your eyes out for Harrison and Emmett. Meanwhile, Sophia’s best days just might be behind her.

How it works

One can test a model like this by making predictions based on data from earlier years and seeing how those predictions compare to the actual results. Below is an image of how this method predicts the growth and decline of Madison, which peaked in 2001, based only on data about the name’s growth through 1990. By comparing Madison‘s early behavior to similar names (graphed here in gray), the model was able to produce a prediction (dashed line) that closely following the actual data (solid) over the next decade.

TIME

This model does not have the statistical rigor of a formal experiment, but it does produce surprisingly accurate results when tested against historical data. Others who have looked at baby names in detail have also found that first sound of in a name — the “K” sound in Katie and Christina or the “M” in Mary and Michaelalso rises and falls in popularity.

The source code for this project is available on Time’s GitHub page.

TIME

The Donald Sterling Fine Calculator

Let's say you own a basketball team and your ex-girlfriend caught you talking like an irrepressible racist. How much would you owe the NBA? Use our calculator to find out

On Tuesday afternoon, embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA and fined $2.5 million. That’s 0.001 percent of his reported $1.9 billion net worth. Ask and you shall receive, Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton.

TIME Education

Obama Thinks He Can Rate Colleges. Can You Do Better? (Interactive)

See how colleges stack up based on what you think is most important in a school

Last year, the Obama Administration announced a plan to assess schools on how well they serve their students, based on metrics like graduation rate, tuition, and the percentage of students who receive Pell Grants, the federally funded scholarships for low-income families. For a system that has yet to be put in place, the White House’s college ratings have created a great deal of panic.

To see how those ratings might play out, TIME gathered data for 2,500 college and universities and ranked them according to the proposed metrics. But we’ve left it to you to adjust how important each of those metrics should be. Adjust the sliders, and watch the the schools reshuffle.

As Haley Sweetland Edwards notes in the most recent issue of TIME, many college presidents are convinced that the ratings proposed by the Obama administration would fail to capture the value of their schools. The White House insists that far too many sub-par schools are cashing in on federal student loans and leaving their students in the lurch.

The White House is proposing to take a bunch a date of data about schools and determine a rank for each. This would produce an algorithm that functions in many ways like Google’s ranking of Web pages. In the case of search engines, the exact nature of this algorithm is a secret. The White House’s algorithm will presumably not be secret, meaning it will be quite easy for schools to game the system.

That sounds like a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be. When algorithms work well, they reward good behavior. In the same way that the Google algorithm rewards sites that offer clear descriptions of the content and coherent navigation, a good college ranking algorithm could inspire schools to offer better grants to those who can’t afford the tuition and provide help for those at risk of dropping out. A poorly designed algorithm, meanwhile, could incentivize them to shut out students who have lower statistical odds of graduating.

The interactive at the top of this article presents a simplified rating system based on three qualities the White House has mentioned: Graduation rate, accessibility and affordability. For accessibility, the interactive uses the percentage of students who receive Pell Grants. For affordability, we’ve used the net cost paid by families who makes less than $110,000 a year and receive some form of aid.

By rewarding both accessibility and graduation rate, this system corners one of the trickiest problems facing schools looking to climb the rankings: Students from low-income backgrounds are statistically less likely to graduate. The most expedient way for a school to boost its graduate rate would be not to admit students in this cohort. Doing so, however, would theoretically hurt the school in the accessibility category more than it boosted the school in the graduation category, resulting in a drop in the ratings. At least, this is how a good White House algorithm would work. Fine-tuning the formula to work as advertised would require a sophisticated statistical analysis of the data. In the meantime, you can drag the sliders around to see which schools would rise to the top given existing numbers.

Methodology

All data comes from the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Each school is evaluated according to its six-year graduation rate, the percentage of full-time, first-time undergraduates receiving Pell grants and the net cost for students receiving any form of aid whose families make less than $110,000 a year. That figure is calculated by TIME as the weighted average net cost for students in each of the Department of Education’s reported income brackets. Where that data is not available, overall net cost (tuition and fees minus grants and scholarships) is used.

These three data points are standardized, so that each school’s score is the number of standard deviations above or below the mean. The app then adjusts these values according to the position of the sliders, sums the square roots of those values, and takes the square of the sum. (A detailed discussion of that method is available here.)

The classifications of schools come from the Carnegie classification system. Schools without a Carnegie class are not included.

Update, May 6, 2014: Several more schools were added to the dataset.

TIME

‘Mean Girls’ Is Not a Comedy. It’s Mythology.

From left: Lindsay Lohan as Cady, Amanda Seyfried as Karen, Rachel McAdams as Regina and Lacey Chabert as Gretchen in Mean Girls.
Michael Gibson—AP

The Tina Fey teen comedy premiered ten years ago this week. What explains the movie's success? Not Hollywood. Try James Joyce, Carl Jung and Bantu folklore

Saturday marks the 10-year anniversary of the world premiere of Mean Girls at Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome. Decennials are often an opportunity for sober reflection, and in that spirit, I would like to suggest that the Lindsay Lohan vehicle has been with us far longer than a decade. The film is widely considered to be a comedy or even a “teen movie,” but in fact, it is neither. Mean Girls is American mythology. Let us examine the evidence.

In broad terms, Tina Fey’s first film adheres to the critical superstructure known as the “monomyth,” as described by 20th-century mythologist Joseph Campbell:

A hero [Lohan's Cady Heron] ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder ["Girl World"]: fabulous forces ["the Plastics"] are there encountered and a decisive victory is won [Regina George and Aaron Samuels break up]: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons [popularity] on his fellow man [Gretchen Weiners and Karen Smith].

There is no question that Cady views this new world as both mystical and possessing of separate natural laws. “Having lunch with the Plastics,” she says in voice over, “was like leaving the actual world and entering ‘Girl World.’ And ‘Girl World’ had a lot of rules.”

As with James Joyce’s Ulysses, Mean Girls imposes a mythological structure on the mundane concerns of its hero. The particular myth from which Mean Girls draws its inspiration is not so well telegraphed, though Fey leaves us several clear signposts.

Like the original Ulysses, Cady is recently returned from her own series of adventures in Africa, where her parents worked as research zoologists. It is this prior “region of supernatural wonder” that offers the basis for the mythological reading of the film. While the notion of the African continent as a place of magic is a dated, rather offensive trope, the film firmly establishes this impression among the students at North Shore High School. To them, Africa is a monolithic place about which they know almost nothing. In their first encounter, Karen inquires of Cady: “So, if you’re from Africa, why are you white?” Shortly thereafter, Regina warns Aaron that Cady plans to “do some kind of African voodoo” on a used Kleenex of his to make him like her—in fact, the very boon that Cady will come to bestow under the monomyth mode.

Where in Africa Cady hails from is never made explicitly clear, but several clues greatly reduce the universe of possibilities. In a brief flashback to her “one other crush,” Nfume, a young Cady is speaking Afrikaans (according to the subtitles). On her first day of school, Cady greets the Unfriendly Black Hotties with “Jambo,” a Swahili greeting. After Cady has carelessly cleaned up after a house party, her mother notices that her “fertility vases of the Ndebele tribe” are misplaced. The Ndebele tribes are native to Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, all places where at least part of the population speaks Afrikaans. Both Swahili and the Ndebele languages belong to the Bantu family, a branch of the Niger-Congo languages spoken among a network of sub-Saharan ethnic groups. This makes Bantu folklore a logical place to start our search.

Like many contemporary ethno-religious traditions, Bantu folklore often makes use of anthropomorphized animals, a form mimicked in Mean Girls‘ reciprocal use of zoomorphism (the depiction of humans in animal form). On several occasions, Cady imagines her peers transmogrified into great cats, monkeys, and other jungle dwellers. At Halloween, Cady observes, “the hard-core girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears.” At the mall, Janis Ian compares their teacher (played by Fey) to “a dog walking on its hind legs.”

Cady’s surname, Heron, is also both the name of a bird and phonemically similar to “hare.” This latter similarity is of particular note because so many of the Bantu folktales feature rabbits.

Armed with that clue, I can say with some confidence that Mean Girls is a retelling of the traditional Bantu fable “Ozibane! Zibane! Zibane!,” or “Dance Like That!,” as anthologized in the 1921 compendium Specimens of Bantu Folk Lore From Northern Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe).

In the fable, Miss Rabbit encounters a group of girls drawing water at the river. The girls “gave some of their beads to Miss Rabbit, telling her to put them on. They further dressed her head with other beads, so that she looked just like a civilised little girl.” The ensemble then dances as the girls sing: “How well dressed she is! Uwî-i! Ozibane!”

Miss Rabbit returns the beads. The next day, the girls bring an apron for Miss Rabbit, redress her, and the dancing recommences. At the conclusion of the day Miss Rabbit does not return the clothes, but instead lures the girls into the forest, where they are devoured by hyenas. The story concludes: “nko kâfwida ka kâno:” “This is where the story dies.”

The corollary between the fable of the dancing rabbit and Mean Girls are nearly too obvious to state: An outsider is adopted by a group of girls who dress her up in their own clothes and adopt her into their social circle, while still regarding her as something of an outsider. (“I love her,” Regina says. “She’s like a Martian.”) Unbeknownst to them, the newcomer plans all along to sabotage them. She refuses to return clothes. (“I want my pink shirt back,” Damian shouts.) Instead, she leads them to ruin.

A few more corollaries: Close readers will hear an echo in Cady Heron’s mock-conclusion to the film in the fable’s final line: “And that’s how Regina George died.” (Here the expectations of modern cinema take over from the story’s natural conclusion.) The word for “bead” in Afrikaans, kraal, also bears a strong phonic similarity to “grool,” the portmanteau of “cool” and “great” that Cady accidentally coins in her first substantial conversation with Aaron. Finally, there is some suggestion that “hare” is a more accurate translation than “rabbit” given the available species of Leporidae in southern Africa.

The mythological record surrounding this particular tale is too scant to establish a phylogenic progression from Miss Rabbit (Hare) to Cady Heron, as is now all the rage among folkloricists. Having at least established Mean Girls‘ place in the broader context of Bantu oral traditions, we then turn its one role as a modern myth.

Carl Jung viewed myths as a portal into the “world of the archetype,” as the critic Stephen F. Walker phrases it, which compensates for the “imbalanced aspects of the individual conscious mind.” Mean Girls opens with a classic Jungian archetypal event: Separation from the parents. The film’s enduring popularity is owed in part to its satisfying the core aspect of a traditional myth: It is a story that offers us a way to navigate the “psychological dangers” of the world, to again quote from Campbell. The spectacular popularity of BuzzFeed’s “Which ‘Mean Girls’ Character Are You?” quiz is sufficient evidence that the film possesses a diversity of valid archetypes to which we might anchor ourselves.

The film satisfies several other aspects of valid mythopoeia: It has an internally consistent set of rules (“We only wear our hair in a ponytail once a week”), its own neologisms (grool, fetch, mathlete), and a battery of lines that are so easily repurposed that even the White House has gotten in on the fun. This is the essential aspect of the film that separates it from a movie that is merely popular. One who refers to “making fetch happen” is not merely quoting from a beloved movie. He or she is invoking a mythological story (that of trying, in vain, to pass off an invented motif as genuine), in the same manner that one might invoke Sisyphus to describe a never-ending labor. The great irony here, of course, is that Mean Girls is itself an invented mythology passing into the realm of folklore. Fetch, in other words, has happened.

TIME Science

Find Out Which of Your Facebook Friends Makes You the Happiest

Research suggests that the emotions shared in friends’ Facebook posts have a real, measurable effect on the sentiment of our own status messages. The following interactive applies a scientific measure of sentiment to your friends’ posts to see whose updates are boosting your mood the most.

To determine your top friends, this tool takes into account mutual friends, who you appear with in photos, and whose posts you’ve frequently liked. Then it analyzes the posting behavior of the top 25 people on this list, discarding anyone who has written fewer than 10 status updates in the past year or whose privacy settings hide their posts from apps.

To measure the positivity and negativity of Facebook posts, this app uses the same method as the researchers who first announced the effect of emotional contagion on Facebook in March. For any given status, it compares each word in that status to a list of hundreds of positive words, like “hilarious” and “thoughtful”, and hundreds of negatives words, like “disaster” and “pathetic.” While it is blind to context and does not understand sarcasm, this method has been empirically shown to correlate to the emotional content of a written message. (This system, known as Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count, is a technology pioneered by a researcher at the University of Texas. TIME is using it with permission.)

MORE: Being On Facebook Can Actually Make Us Happier

Over large numbers of posts, researchers found familiar patterns in the data that this measurement produced. The rate of positive posts is considerably higher on weekends. Moods spike around holidays in both positive and negative directions and reliably dip when it is raining (something the researchers measured by comparing the location of users and the timestamps of their posts to local weather data).

Of course, since the system is based on words, it misses one important emotional activity when applied to Facebook. It doesn’t notice when you like others’ posts.

TIME

GM Leads Pack in Recalled Car Models

Has your car been recalled from the road? Search TIME's interactive to see how major auto companies compare to each other when it comes to total number of recalls

General Motors has issued more recalls on more of its models than any other auto manufacturer since 2004, according to a TIME analysis of federal safety data. In last ten years, GM has recalled an individual model for a specific issue 756 times. Ford Motor Company has the second highest tally with 559 such recalls. Chrysler has the third most with 411 model-level recalls.

This chart visualizes every major auto company’s recalled models in the United States since 2004. (The measurement is number of recalls issued, not number of vehicles affected.) Each vertical panel shows increasing divisions of the data: First by company, then maker, then model. Some companies use the same name for make and model (like Volvo) while others have multiple brands, like GM’s Chevrolet and Cadillac.

The faulty ignition switch at the center of GM’s most recent recall, a defect tied to 13 deaths that went uncorrected for years, is just one in a long series of parts that the auto manufacturer has had to correct in the past decade. On Tuesday, the company’s CEO Mary Barra will appear before Congress to answer questions about her company’s handling of the latest round of recalls.

Of course, auto companies can recall vehicles for a variety of reasons, from trivial defects to major safety hazards. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration prefaces much of its data with the warning that “There are a host of reasons why a manufacturer could have more or fewer recalls in a given year or over time – including, but not limited to, the introduction of new technology [and] its barometer for measuring risk.”

In the past several days, General Motors has dramatically stepped up voluntary recalls of its vehicles over a variety of electrical and other issues, bringing its total recalled vehicle count for 2014 to 6 million--a move widely seen as an attempt to bolster its public image regarding safety and responsibility.

While most statistics focus on the number of vehicles recalled, TIME chose total number of recalls by model as a way to compare companies in a way that was less skewed by the size of their fleets.

Methodology

This data is extracted from the 52,729 records in the NHTSA’s flat data file, retrieved on Mar. 31, 2014 at 8 p.m. Recalls often involve more than one model of car. This chart tallies recalls by model, so any given recall is counted once for each model it affects. However, recalls are only counted once per model even if multiple years of that model are affected. Models and makes are derived directly from government data and may not always perfectly reflect joint manufacturing arrangements between companies.

On a technical level, this means the data was grouped by manufacturer, make, model, and campaign number. The results were reduced to those that came from major auto companies, and exclude companies that primarily make trucks and motorcycles.

TIME

Interactive: How Influential Is Your School?

Forget March Madness. We're scoring schools by the prominence of their alumni.

For the next three weeks, many American universities will be measured up exclusively by the strength of their basketball programs. But for those less impressed by “a group of pituitary cases trying to stuff a ball down a hoop,” as one Annie Hall player once put it, TIME has devised an alternate way to score schools: by the influence of their alumni.

To start, we rounded up the 107,408 living people whose Wikipedia profiles list at least one alma mater in the U.S., and scored each according to the length and breadth of his or her page on the site—the bigger the number, the greater the influence (more on that below). Then, we added up each school’s alumni scores to get its overall influence factor. Check it out:

Findings

Some of the more interesting results run counter to what you’d expect from traditional rankings, including:

  • The University of Florida is 2.76 times more influential than Johns Hopkins. (It got a big assist from sports-star alumni like Tim Tebow and Aaron Hernandez.)
  • The University of Miami is 1.99 times more influential than Dartmouth College. (Notable alumni include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and singer Enrique Iglesias.)
  • UCLA is 1.19 times more influential than Princeton. (Credit prolific former students like Francis Ford Coppola and James Franco.)
  • Louisiana State University is 1.15 times more influential than Georgetown. (Thanks, Shaq!)

Methodology

Wikipedia offers an exhaustive and largely self-regulated source of data on living people. The number of words and links in a profile generally corresponds to the subject’s prominence. The site’s community of editors tends to edit down or remove obvious attempts at self-promotion, giving us valuable way to measure influence across a vast spectrum of people.

For each person in the “Living People” category, TIME used the MediaWiki API to gather four data points: The number of words in the text, the number of internal links to other Wikipedia pages, the number of external links, and the number of categories to which the page belonged. Given that these factors are all positively correlated to the subject’s prominence, we were able to reduce these four dimensions into a single measure of prominence using a well-tested method known as principal component analysis.

Thanks to Wikipedia’s “Alumni by university or college in the United States” category, we were able to identify alma mater information for over 100,000 of the people in the database. From there, ranking the schools was a simple measure of adding up the natural log of the score for each alumnus.

See Something Missing?

There are inevitable discrepancies in how alma maters are recorded on Wikipedia. Law schools and business schools are usually listed separately from a university’s undergraduate program, for example, though some graduates of a professional program are also listed under the parent school.

Once again, deceased people are not included in this database. For living people, feel free to report missing alma mater data to chris.wilson@time.com, or edit Wikipedia yourself. If you do so, review the editing guidelines and then add a person to a school’s category for alumni, which is found at the end of a profile and looks like this:

[[Category:Yale_University_alumni]]

TIME will rerun the alma mater counts once a day and check every new edition by hand to prevent any gaming of the rankings.

TIME movies

What Makes An Oscar Winner

Is it survival, honor or a punch in the face? A break down of all Best Picture winners since 1970 into their most common themes. See how this year's contenders stack up

Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards stick to a well-thumbed manual. It’s a pantheon crowded with mafia bosses, adultery, flashbacks, fist fights and dream sequences, not to mention a miles-long parade of naked bodies.

This chart uses IMDB keywords and original research to chart 30 of the most common themes, characters, locations and patterns from every winner back to 1970. See how the nine movies up for this year’s nod compare to past Hollywood royalty. Click the labels to reorder the boxes.

While packing a movie full of popular keywords doesn’t make you a winner—otherwise, The Wolf of Wall Street would be the runaway favorite—there are some lessons to be learned. Many past winners have laid off the opening credits, and nearly twice as many winners featured naked women rather over naked men. Houses of God also show up twice as often as nightclubs. With all the violence and infidelity going on here, that might be a good thing.

TIME politics

It’s True: Liberals Like Cats More Than Conservatives Do

Preferences for pets or particular kinds of food can accurately predict partisanship, research from more than 200,000 TIME readers shows

In January, TIME ran a 12-question quiz that guessed your politics based on things like your preference for cats versus dogs and the neatness of your desk. The survey’s questions were all taken from previous research projects that found differences between liberals and conservatives on matters not directly related to politics. (You can still take the original quiz here.)

Many readers were skeptical, to say the least. The comments section simmered with protests like “Since WHEN does being a cat-lover make one a liberal?” and “Having a neat desk isn’t political.”

Loving cats may not make a person a liberal, but it does increase the odds that a person already is one. To see how accurate our survey was, we analyzed the data from 220,192 TIME readers who took the quiz and then volunteered their actual political preferences, and found that all 12 items did in fact predict partisanship correctly.

Even seemingly innocuous questions like ones about the state of one’s desk or preference for fusion cuisine had at least modest predictive power. A majority of TIME readers, like a majority of Americans, prefer dogs to cats, but conservatives had a significantly stronger preference, on average.

Overall, the quiz’s predictions were quite accurate when compared to a respondent’s self-reported ideology. (The correlation coefficient was 0.682, for those of you keeping score at home.) The individual questions varied in their predictive accuracy, from low (but non-negligible) correlation of 0.124 for the “cats versus dogs” question to 0.471 for the statement “I’m proud of my country’s history.”

When you add together a bunch of these modest predictors, you end up with a pretty good guess as to how a person votes. Not as good as asking people about their views on taxes, abortion and gun control, but enough to show that partisanship nowadays correlates with many non-political attitudes and behaviors.

Interestingly, Libertarians—often considered as being on the political right—fell between the liberal and conservative extremes on most questions. Even when it came to an affinity for nature’s truest libertarians: felines.

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