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How Patrick Dempsey and HDTV may be responsible for obesity.

Posted by on Jan. 27, 2009 at 3:00 PM
  • 3 Replies

Queen Latifah apparently lost 20 pounds recently, and Kelly Osbourne dropped 40 pounds. Too bad we can not notice this because most of us perceive them on our TV sets being 1/3 heavier than they actually are. They are all being stretched in the least favorable dimension (that is being horizontal, for those who are fortunate not to know).

Confused by the imminent digital TV switch deadline, and lured in by advertisers promising something bigger, flatter, brighter and sharper, many of us went and bought new HD TV sets. The high-definition picture does appear better because it is digital, it has a greater resolution and you usually watch it on a larger screen. But HD format also has a very different width-to-height ratio (called aspect ratio) of 16:9. It is the same as a movie theater screen. The problem is that most of the TV programs are still not in high definition format. They are produced in a standard format of 4:3 width-to-height ratio. That is the same ratio as (4*4):(3*4)=16:12 and (4*3):(3*3)=12:9. This means that when we fit a standard TV program or a movie into our new HDTV screen we have to either stretch the picture, or zoom and cut some of the frame.

Let's take Patrick Dempsey, voted TV's hottest gentleman. Assume that Grey's Anatomy comes via a standard definition TV signal with the aspect ratio of 4:3,

Displayed on a high definition TV set standard definition image is being lost on a black background:

HD TV sets allow us to enjoy the wide format of the screen by offering a number of display options for a standard definition signal. The most popular among them are zoom and stretch. The Zoom option leaves the image undistorted but cuts the image’s margins, which frequently includes people's heads:

Remembering how much we paid for this TV and dissatisfied with missing information from the frame’s margins, many choose the Even Stretching option. It distorts the content, but nothing is being lost:

When 4:3=12:9 is being stretched horizontally to fit 16:9 aspect ratio, what has been displayed on 12 inches becomes 16 inches. Everything starts to look 4 inches wider, which can be translated to 1/3 fatter. Surprisingly, we are getting used to it quickly. And who knows, maybe it can explain obesity...

The scary part about this is that for many of us TV is a kind of window to the outside world. We frequently believe that things are as they appear on TV. And used to newsmen and women with round faces, and compact cars stretched like limos, we may be disappointed to discover the real size of things.

More stories are at my website:

Puzzle of the week:

There are two beakers, one containing water, the other wine. A certain amount of water is transferred to the wine, then the same amount of the mixture is transferred back to the water. Is there now more water in the wine than there is wine in the water?

Submit the answers here . First one to respond correctly will get a prize.

by on Jan. 27, 2009 at 3:00 PM
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Replies (1-3):
by on Jan. 27, 2009 at 3:02 PM

Who even cares.

by on Jan. 27, 2009 at 3:04 PM

I'm glad i'm not on tv.i look big enough to myself in the mirror! and i can definetely see you're a numbers person.

by on Jan. 27, 2009 at 3:08 PM

Hmm that is very interesting. 

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