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Surprise: Fewer celebrities died in 2016 than expected

On social media, it seemed like 2016 was the worst ever for losing pop culture icons: David Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali, and more. But researchers at MIT Media Lab found that fewer celebrities died in 2016 than expected, according to trends since the year 2000. They defined celebrity as a person who is written about in 20 or more languages on Wikipedia, calling the site “a form of cultural memory.” However, when looking at superstars who were written about in 70 languages (Bowie can be read about in 104 languages, for example), 2016 does actually stand out considerably: Sixteen superstar deaths in 2016, whereas there were only nine in 2015. They also found that the total number of famous people has been increasing over time—even when taking overall global population increase in account. So, as nature runs its course: The more celebrities there are, the more celebrity deaths there will be, too. And you thought 2016 was bad.

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