In fact it’s not surprising that these equations are so stupid, because they come from the PR companies almost fully-formed and ready to have your name attached to them. I know that because I have received an avalanche of insider stories - Watergate it isn’t - including one from an academic in psychology who was offered money by Porter Novelli PR agency to put his name to the very same Sky Travel equation story that Arnall sold his to. In amongst their aggressive pitch they described how the story would go.
“Blue Monday - January Blues Day is Officially Announced: The 26th January is the most depressing day in the calendar for the majority of Brits as measured by a simple mathematical formula developed on behalf of Sky Travel.
“By taking into account various factors such as avg temperature (C), days since last pay (P), days until next bank holiday (B), avg hours of daylight (D) and number of nights in during mth (N), we create a formula such as C(P+B) N+D. This formula allows us to work out the day with the highest ‘depression factor’ which you can then use as a focus for making things better, booking your holiday etc …” This is almost exactly as it was when Arnall revealed his important work to the world.
So these equations are scientifically uninformative, and driven by money. But is there more to it than that? Because in my more extremist puritanical moments, I am of the opinion that these equation stories - which appear with phenomenal frequency, and make up a significant proportion of the total science coverage in the UK - are corrosive, meaningless, empty, bogus nonsense that serve only to caricature and undermine science.
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