Tag Archives: science

“You should be worried about all the things that can go wrong!” says insurance company

It’s not uncommon that the Daily Mail features worrying news, but it’s relatively rare that that their worrying news is specifically about worrying:

How much does your worry WEIGH? Quiz allows you to determine if your stress is the equivalent of a feather, a pig or a bear

Ever wanted to know much worry you’re carrying on your shoulders? Well now you can.

From a 100g feather to a 78st grizzly bear, a new interactive tool allows users to get a rough calculation of how much their stresses weigh.

Created using a formula, the ‘weight of worry’ calculator asks people how often they fret about various factors in their life.

Source: Daily Mail, 3rd March 2017

That’s right, this astonishing new interactive tool can actually tell you the weight of your worries! Like that’s a real thing, and like worries are measured by the gram! It’s amazing what they can do with nonsensical marketing science these days, isn’t it?

How might they calculate the weight of your worries, you may well ask? Well, you see, it’s simple: they ask you to rank a range of issues on a scale of 1 to 10:

Then they ask entirely-quantifiable questions, like:

How much time you spend worrying about money / finances each day, in minutes?

How much time you spend worrying about PERSONAL ISSUES each day, in minutes?

How much time you spend worrying about FAMILY each day, in minutes?

If you can’t spot the problem here, consider precisely how anybody is meant to quantify what “time spent worrying” means – do you add up the duration of every thought? Or do you only count time where you’re sitting down actively fretting? What if your mind wanders to money woes while you’re driving – is that counted as time worrying, or time driving? If you have two thoughts lasting 10 seconds, two minutes apart, is that two minutes of worrying or just 20 seconds?

None of these questions are answerable, because time isn’t a meaningful measure of worry, especially in self-reported studies. This is meaningless, non-data.

Still, once they have your meaningless data, they need to do *something* with it – which is why they use a specially-derived (aka ‘made up’) formula to turn your numbers into a weight:


The researchers used the formula 5a+Y+T = X to determine how much someone’s stress may physically weigh,

a = general worry level across all areas of life

Y= total level of other worries in each area of life (family, money, etc.)

T= total time spent worrying

X= weight

And then, obviously, they turn that weight into an equivalent-sized animal:

From a 100g feather to a 78st grizzly bear, a new interactive tool allows users to get a rough calculation of how much their stresses weigh

So that’s obviously bulletproof and rigorous research, and well-worthy of this story’s inclusion in the Daily Mail Health section.

Needless to say, this is not legitimate research, and is merely an advert disguised as science, created by insurance firm LV=:

Politics, economics and social affairs are just three of the potential concern factors in the tool developed by LV=.

The British car, home and life insurance firm has concluded the average weight of worry to be 496lbs (225kg) – similar to that of a panda bear, pig or lion.

Effectively, this spurious and nonsensical stress calculator is just a way of saying, “Hey, people, aren’t you worried that something bad will happen and you won’t be able to afford to pay for it? Get some insurance from us!”.

“Here’s how to take a penalty!” says World Cup sponsor ahead of World Cup, via academics

The science of penalties: Goal size, distance from the ball and reaction times put the odds overwhelmingly in a shooter’s favour

Picture the scene: Your nation has made it to the 2014 World Cup Final and the game has gone to a penalty shootout.

In dramatic fashion your opponents miss a spot-kick giving your captain the chance to win the tournament, but what are the odds on him scoring? As it turns out, exceedingly high.

Not only does he have an area bigger than a cargo container to aim for, but the slow reaction times of any given person compared to a kicked ball in tandem with psychological preparation should – should – seen him put the ball away with ease.

Source: Daily Mail, 18th June 2014


Who are the brilliant scientists yet again pouring over how to take a penalty, in the now-obviously-fruitless hope the England football team might make it to the knockout round?

In research commissioned by Gillette for Brunel University in London they found that World Class footballers can anticipate the actions of an opponent up to 80 milliseconds before they move.

As any scientist will tell you, the best research comes after being commissioned by a shaving company ahead of a tournament they’ve a sponsorial relationship with.

“It’s important to get Christmas dinner right!” says supermarket, via marketing scientists

“It’s important to get Christmas dinner right!” says supermarket, via marketing scientists

Christmas is just around the corner, and with it the annual stress over getting that family meal just right. Fortunately, research published in the Daily Express (by Nathan Rao, who potentially contributed barely a word to it) has the answer to your prayers: a scientific formula to follow.

Admittedly, if your prayers involve a scientific formula published in the Express and Daily Mail, to guide your Christmas Dinner preparations… well, you have a very curious idea of religion. But, I guess, evidence that yours is the one true god, so, y’know, Mazel Tov.

First things first – just how scientific is this article? Well, it’ll come as little surprise to you to find the scientist behind this is one David Lewis – founder of neuro-marketing company Mindlab International, and no stranger to this very blog. David has appeared in the press a number of times over the last few years, often (in my opinion) trading his scientific legitimacy in for publicity.

Personally, I find this deeply problematic – not least given that many people’s only experience of science is what they see in the newspapers. Stories such as this paint a skewed view of what legitimate science is, portraying scientists as little more than zany stereotypes, conducting silly work. Which leads to comments like this, from the Daily Mail story:

Really! I’m sure the science community has better things to do than spend time on this!! It’s the one time of the year when your definitely allowed to have a few extra spuds!

What the commenter – and many like him – doesn’t realise is that it’s likely no real science was done in the name of this article. Rather, a company looking to garner some attention in the press found an academic willing to lend their name – and with it, the legitimacy of their profession – to what is in essence an advert.

Which leads us to the company behind this story:

The perfect plate was created for Aldi by TV food psychologist, Dr David Lewis, of Channel 4’s Secret Eaters and eating expert Dr Margaret Yufera-Leitch…

An Aldi spokesperson added: ‘Everyone likes to treat themselves at Christmas but the traditional turkey dinner is the one meal where people feel most pressured that everything should be perfect…

‘By shopping at Aldi, families really can relax knowing that they are serving top quality, award-winning foods without breaking the bank.’

And by hiring scientists like David Lewis, Aldi can secure legitimate-seeming stories in at least two national newspapers, without breaking the bank.

“Nuts are actually really good for you!” says nut advocacy group