Oxford physicist develops equation to disprove conspiracy theories

Published: January 29, 2016
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PHOTO: REUTERS / NASA

PHOTO: REUTERS / NASA

A physicist at the University of Oxford has claimed to have developed a mathematical equation to scientifically disprove conspiracy theories.

David Robert Grimes focused on four well-known conspiracies for his formula: the mood landing was faked, vaccinations are unsafe, climate change is a lie propagated by scientists, and the cure for cancer is being withheld by big pharma, according a research published in PLOS ONE.

The formula is said to have a potential to measure the success rate of these conspiracies, i.e. how long such a massive cover-up could last before someone blew the lid.

The number of people involved in the conspiracy, the amount of time passed since the event took place and the intrinsic probability of a conspiracy failing have been factored in the formula.

Grimes also tested his formula on conspiracies that ended up being real, including the US government keeping an eye on its own citizen and the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment, in which the cure for syphilis —penicillin— was purposefully withheld from African-Americans by public health officials.

The study concludes it is quite difficult for a conspiracy to remain under wraps for too long as according to Grimes calculations, the moon-landing hoax, which would have involved an estimated 405,000 people, would have unravelled after three years and eight months.

The physicist also estimated the maximum number of people who could be involved in a generic conspiracy before it unravelled. For a conspiracy to last five years, Grimes reckons no more than 2,521 people can take part in it.

This article originally appeared on Quartz.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Buyile Dlamini
    Jan 29, 2016 - 8:48PM

    What a load of poppycock, it is impossible to equate such a thing, there are far too many variables involved.Recommend

  • curious2
    Jan 29, 2016 - 9:34PM

    The people who believe in these conspiracy theories aren’t prone to science, statistics, math or even common sense. Whether it’s moon landing, 911, OBL death, or whatever you are always going to find people who’s bias trumps facts.Recommend

  • Arsalan
    Jan 30, 2016 - 12:56AM

    There is a huge list of conspiracy theories that were later proved true. That includes India’s involvement in terrorism in Pakistan, presence of Blackwater in Pakistan, WMD’s in Iraq etc.Recommend

  • Rahul
    Jan 30, 2016 - 2:35AM

    On Pakistan TV it takes 4 people and a ‘Suboot’ folder to create a conspiracy theory. Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Jan 30, 2016 - 6:55AM

    Perhaps Mr. Grimes equation can also solve the problem of why about 50 CCTV cameras have not been able to show a plane crashing into the Pentagon. The equation may also show why weapons of mass destruction have never been found in Iraq. I can think of about twenty other serious events which have produced long lasting and puzzling outcomes, but will leave them for another day.. Recommend

  • Sexton Blake
    Jan 30, 2016 - 1:15PM

    Dear curious2, I have studied statistics and mathematics quite comprehensibly, but find the matters you mentioned somewhat puzzling. I can only presume that you are fortunate enough to have all the facts at your finger tips, or perhaps my problem is lack of common sense. However, I can only say that you had all the bases covered. It must be marvelous for you to have full knowledge of all the facts regarding all the worlds man made mysteries.Recommend

  • Quendex
    Feb 3, 2016 - 2:41AM

    There is another piece of David Robert Grimes´ “scientific” work, “String Theory – The Physics of String-Bending and Other Electric Guitar Techniques” (2014), starting with another false pretense: “Electric guitar playing is ubiquitous in practically all modern music genres.” It occurs to me, that David Robert Grimes´ perception of the concept of conspiracies is the same as his perception of musical variety – either filtering out what he dislikes or maybe just seeing and hearing the 1960s.
    The variables of his formula are based on flawed or false assumptions. His approach on conspiracies is naive at best, hardly scratching the surface of information and disinformation in existence. His definition of an exposed conspiracy doesn´t always fit the official accounts, his basic information about allegedly debunked conspiracy theories is incomplete and / or simply false. Also, there seems to be a basic mathematical flaw in the formula.
    There is another big issue with the work of David Robert Grimes: the attempt to establish conspiracy theories as a belief system and to discredit truthseekers as anti-scientific. It´s part of neurolinguistic permutations of many terms and concepts we can observe in today´s society, the shift of meaning of words and ideas.
    I don´t call David Robert Grimes an active agent of disinformation. He may be one, but there is also the possibilty, that the work on his formula is simply the attempt of an intelligent man to restore his faith in an obviously corrupt system controlled by obviously malicious liars.Recommend

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