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CMU Beef Of The Week #245: Madonna v Gravity

By | Published on Friday 27 February 2015

It’s a long-standing controversy within scientific circles, of course. You might remember that conference on the issue at MIT back in 2006, though most scientists agree no real conclusion was reached at that event.


A subsequent series of TED talks aired some interesting theories, but with little resolution. And countless dissertations on ‘The Great Question’ really just covered old ground. Though Brian Cox was reportedly working on a new documentary to be co-produced by BBC4 and VH1 with ambitions of settling the matter once and for all. The question of which I speak? Which is greater force in the 21st Century universe: Madonna or gravity?

It’s been mainly mavericks who have, in the past, proposed that gravity is the greater of the two forces. They have usually relied on the argument that it’s gravity that keeps this and all the other planets of our solar system in orbit around the sun, and that closer to home it facilitates the ‘orbitation’, to use the made-up term, of the moon around the earth. And where would be without the moon? One Pink Floyd album down for starters.

And then, of course, it’s the gravitational effects of the moon and the sun that cause the tides. Madonna has never caused a tidal movement, these scientists argue. And you can vogue all you want, but you can’t build a renewal form of power generation from highly stylized dance moves.

But while these may seem like compelling arguments, more mainstream voices have pointed out that…

1. Madonna is the best-selling female recording artist of all time. Gravity has never sold any records.

2. Madonna is the top touring female artist of all time. Gravity is yet to headline a show.

3. Madonna is the most successful solo artist in the history of America’s Hot 100. Gravity is yet to chart.

4. Madonna ran her own record label in Maverick. Gravity has never even worked in the music business.

5. In 2007, Madonna signed an unprecedented deal with Live Nation worth $120 million. Gravity’s financial arrangements are not known. Which is suspicious.

6. Madonna has long been known as the “Queen Of Pop”. Gravity isn’t the queen of anything.

7. Gravity has never been inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame. Madonna was inducted in 2008.

8. Gravity may have got a Golden Globe nomination in 2014, but Madonna’s film ‘Evita’ won one in 1996.

9. At last count Madonna had won five VH1 Fashion Awards. No one has ever acclaimed gravity’s dress sense.

10. And despite heavy lobbying by its PR reps, gravity has never won a prize at the Hungarian version of the Bravo Otto Awards. Madonna did, for Best Video, in 2008.

Which, you might think, pretty resolutely settles this matter in Madonna’s favour. And yet, this week, in an amazing turn of events, it was once again proven that in physics, the truth is often counter-intuitive.

A high-profile television experiment aired by ITV of all people (well and truly gazumping Cox and his BBC4/VH1 project), and beamed to science fans worldwide by YouTube, finally pitted Madonna and gravity against each other in a head-to-head battle.

It was an obvious way of settling the matter really, and you might wonder why it hadn’t been done before. But gravity is represented by WME and they drive a very hard bargain indeed. It took the investment of ITV and Mastercard to properly answer this question.

And answer it they did. And despite the expectation of the majority, it turned out the mavericks were right to doubt Madonna’s strength, which is ironic given the name she chose for her label, unless that was a clever rouse on her part to distract to the physicists. To ensure scientific credibility, the annual BRIT Awards were chosen as the site for this big test so that no one could claim any gravitas has interfered with the experiment.

Madonna was positioned at the top of a small flight of randomly selected stairs and surrounded by a team of well choreographed lab assistants, who monitored as a world-leading professor (and part-time dancer), using a special device called an Armani, set in motion a controlled test of strength between the two competing forces.

The outcome? Well, to quote New Scientist magazine: “Madonna fell on her arse”. Which, I’m pretty sure everyone will now have to concede, makes gravity the greater force in the world today. Controversial I know, but undeniable.

Can I go home now?