5 Insane Pop Culture Questions Answered by Super Fans

Thinking too hard about pop culture is kind of what we do here -- far be it from us to mock someone for filling their head with minutiae about movies, songs, and comics. Still, sometimes we have to take a step back and marvel at the obsessive super-fans who make us look like novices -- the kind of people who spend months figuring out the average lifespan of a Lord of the Rings dwarf, or which exact day was Ice Cube's "Good Day."

These super-nerds are out there right now, crunching the numbers on things like ...

#5. How Much Damage Did the Avengers Do to Manhattan?

Walt Disney Pictures

You can't have a modern superhero blockbuster without completely leveling one of the world's biggest cities -- that's the rule. But action movies are like sitcoms -- by the time the next episode arrives, everything is fine again. You don't hear about how much it costs to clean up all that shit, otherwise the next four Man of Steel movies would be about the decade-long effort to rebuild Metropolis.

Warner Bros. Pictures
Instead of the decade-long effort to rebuild a ravaged movie franchise.

Well, Kinetic Analysis Corp., a group specializing in figuring out how much disasters cost, got bored enough to do a detailed analysis of how much damage was done during the finale of The Avengers. Let's just say that it's going to take a while for the New York economy to recover. Using complex computer simulations and fancy math with, like, letters instead of numbers (so you know that it's hardcore), a team lead by Chuck Watson and Sara Jupin put the Avengers' damage at a mind-boggling $160 billion, making it the most costly disaster in human history. That includes 9/11, Katrina, and the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan (the last one costing "only" $122 billion in damages).

The KAC team estimated that the total physical damage from all of those smashed-up skyscrapers and the ruined infrastructure would equal $60 to $70 billion. The cleanup costs take that number up to $90 billion (watch the finale again, and think about how many truckloads of rubble and broken glass would need to be hauled out of the city over the next several months). Throw in the medical costs of the thousands of casualties, and you reach the grand total of $160 billion -- CGI is good at rendering a crumbling skyscraper, but not at conveying how many hundreds of survivors now have lifelong disabilities and seven-figure medical bills.

Walt Disney Pictures
Thanks for nothing, Odin-a-care.

They helpfully noted that, because of the gods involved, Thor and Loki, the city could blame the damage on "an act of God," so thank goodness the insurance companies will be off the hook for the damage. Still, we've got a feeling that the team of vigilantes who took it upon themselves to fight off the invasion had better get ready for a drawn-out legal battle, especially since one of them helped facilitate the attack. We hope you've got good liability insurance, Hawkeye.

#4. Who Had the Larger Vocabulary: Shakespeare or Wu-Tang Clan?

Jacopo Raule/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Fans of hip-hop describe it as a form of poetry, while old white people complain that it's the tragic byproduct of a dumbed-down culture ("Isn't there a guy named Lil Jon who just screams the same five words all the time?").

But regardless of which side you're on, you can't seriously compare the verbal range of, say, Wu-Tang Clan with a master like William Shakespeare. Right?

Well, Matt Daniels wanted to find out. He's a data scientist from New York who used the magic of numbers to prove that some rappers have vocabulary skills that make Shakespeare sound as eloquent as a drunken infant. First, Daniels gathered a 35,000-word sample from Shakespeare's works and various songs from famous rappers, and then counted how many unique words each of them used. The results of the analysis showed that Shakespeare used 5,170 unique words. Wu-Tang Clan, on the other hand, bested him with 5,895 unique words in their raps. Ha! Eat it, you long-dead motherfucker!

Kevin Winter/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
"Motherfucker": One of 725 Wu-Tang words that Shakespeare never used.

Granted, artists like Lil Wayne and 50 Cent lagged behind the Clan and Shakespeare both, at 3,500 to 3,700 words (we could have guessed that, right?). Tupac's 3,970 unique words trailed not only Shakespeare, but also Kanye West (3,982). However, all of these are surprisingly comparable to the Bard, considering that the rappers needed them all to rhyme.

By the way, the highest-scoring person in Daniels' analysis was alternative/underground rapper Aesop Rock, with a score of 7,392 unique words, or enough to give a thesaurus an erection, making him the best-spoken rapper of them all. To give you a better idea of how impressive Aesop Rock's vocabulary is, it's generally believed that Shakespeare was ... the best at words. Daniels believes he might have known up to 100,000 of them, and yet, based on the research, he would still lose a rap battle with Aesop.

National Portrait Gallery
The guy hardly ever spit for more than 14 bars.

And because we know you're dying to know: DMX scored the lowest, with 3,214 words. But hey, it's not like you'd ever see him in a Shakespeare adaptation or anything.

#3. What Is the Exact Timeline for Every Event in the Marvel Universe?

Rich Drees & Andrew Norfolk

Marvel is the creator of one of the most inventive shared universes that doesn't involve different fictional characters having freaky butt sex. And now with half a dozen film franchises all crossing over one another, surely you must have wondered how it all fits together -- what was Bruce Banner doing while Tony Stark was farting around in Iron Man 2? How long did it take Tony to build the first Iron Man suit? Well, fear not, dear reader, because Andrew Norfolk is here to help you:

Rich Drees & Andrew Norfolk
Whoa, tomorrow's the fourth anniversary of Coulson hiring the Consultant. Clear our schedule!

Norfolk compiled the entire Marvel universe into one timeline, giving us specific dates and even approximate times for everything that's transpired in it. For example, did you know that Tony Stark attends a firefighter benefit on October 21, 2009, right between testing the Mark II Armor (October 20) and blowing up the Ten Ring gang in Afghanistan (October 22)? No, because you are sane and didn't sift through Iron Man and all of its supplementary materials with a fine-toothed comb, scanning for date clues. But really, it's as simple as obsessively studying every single frame of film and line of dialogue for dates, and then counting the days backward and forward to orient the other events.

For example, Norfolk knows that Killian initiated the testing of Project Extremis on June 25, 2009, because that date briefly appears in tiny print on the monitor in Iron Man 3 when Tony hacks the bad guys' computer. One glimpse of a partial date in The Incredible Hulk let him match it up with the "Days Without Incident" counter on screen, and boom -- we can now draw up an entire timeline of Bruce Banner's life.

Rich Drees & Andrew Norfolk
Remember that time Banner fled Pakistan? Andrew does.

The timeline contains a very user-friendly interactive slider that starts a few thousand years ago when "The Dark Elves of Svartalfheim attempt to conquer the nine realms" and goes all the way through the events of Iron Man 3 (December 2013). What, no Winter Soldier? Come on, don't be lazy, dude!

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