Category Archives: Science

Discussions about science based topics

Fortune teller

Fortune telling app

Click to open it*, click to enter then type your question. I guarantee an answer.

It’s an experiment in consciousness that you can do.

Admittedly I may have shot myself in the foot by putting anyone who wanted to try it in a state of fear. (I used the Trojan records link below in the type of embarrassingly faux-smart headline that this blog used to rely on, when it was careless enough of the potential side-effects of having opinions.)

So it’s also an experiment in trust, I suppose.

* (I can’t work out how to embed the bugger without it having a clickthrough. In any case, I made it in 2005. I can’t change it to make it look prettier, I can’t even work out how to get into it. It’s in some ancient version of flash but it does still play)

History lesson – WMD

This is an object lesson in how to get WMD. Don’t worry, you won’t get in trouble or anything. Well, this chap didn’t.
Public records, released under FOI for a 2006 BBC TV Newsnight programme and discussed in a New Statesman article, showed how the ~1960 Israeli government managed to get its hands on nuclear weapons materials.
The BBC reported that the programme has shown “Secret sale of UK plutonium to Israel “ Secret indeed. Even secret from government ministers and quite probably the sitting Prime Ministers, and over the objections of Defence Intelligence, the MOD and – sometimes – the Foreign Office.
The New Statesman has the fullest account. Read it.

Kelly and his colleagues .. (i.e. the Defence Intelligence staff who mounted a pretty spirited attempt to uncover what was going on and try to block it) .. however, found their views were being challenged. Chief of the challengers was Michael Israel Michaels .. who was a senior official at the science ministry under Lord Hailsham during the Macmillan government, and went on to serve at the technology ministry under Benn. He was also Britain’s representative at the IAEA.(my emphasis) quotation is from New Statesman

Mr Michaels was in fact so keen on the idea of supplying Israel with bomb-making materials that he just carried on doing it, even after Tony Benn became Energy Secretary. Michaels just didn’t think to bother ministers with the knowledge.

Mr Benn told the programme that civil servants in his department kept the deals secret from him and his predecessor, Frank Cousins.
He had always suspected that civil servants were doing deals behind his back, but he never thought they would sell plutonium to Israel. He told Newsnight: “I’m not only surprised, I’m shocked. It never occurred to me they would authorise something so totally against the policy of the government. (From the BBC)

“Michaels lied to me, I learned by bitter experience that the nuclear industry lied to me again and again.” He thought Wilson may not have known that Britain was helping Israel to get the bomb. (From the Guardian)

Astonishingly, Michaels had the effrontery to complain to the BBC Trust about the programme, rather than to give disbelieving thanks that he hadn’t been arrested for treason.
From the Trusts’s ruling on his complaint about Newsnight

Summary of the finding
The complaints concerned an investigation carried out by Newsnight, and presented by Michael Crick, that looked into the British government’s involvement in assisting Israel with its development of nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s. The item was based on recently released government papers suggesting that Michael Michaels, a senior civil servant and the British government’s representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency, had acted with dual loyalties when he had ensured the supply of plutonium and other radioactive materials to Israel without the knowledge of the Minister responsible, and possibly without the Prime Minister’s knowledge.
Both complainants felt that the inclusion and repetition of Mr Michaels’ middle name (Israel) was unnecessary and, therefore, anti-Semitic.
They also objected to the suggestion that he had dual loyalties, which they felt implied disloyalty……..
The Committee concluded as follows:
The use of Mr Michaels’ middle name did not breach the guidelines on harm and offence.
It was satisfied that there was no intention to endorse a stereotype, and it was not anti-Semitic. In general, the use of the name had been as a form of shorthand to highlight Mr Michaels’ association with Israel.
With regard to “dual loyalties”, the Committee was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence put forward to suggest that Mr Michaels might indeed have had dual loyalties in his dealings with Israel. However, the Committee concluded that this was not the same as suggesting that Mr Michaels had been disloyal.
The Committee also felt that the report had raised the possibility that the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, might have known about the shipment to Israel. The item therefore did not breach guidelines on impartiality…
The Committee did not uphold the complaints.

Qualified win

“Free” Schools won’t get public money to teach creationism. A rare bit of good news in UK politics, which seems determined to outdo its own Worst News record on a daily basis.

“Free” schools are a rubbish idea for so many reasons that adding creationism into the mix was almost superfluous. But, nevertheless, it was in there:

Several creationist groups have expressed an interest in opening schools in towns and cities across England, including Bedford, Barnsley, Sheffield and Nottingham. Critics say they seek to promote creationism, or the doctrine of “intelligent design”, as a scientific theory rather than as a myth or metaphor.(from the Guardian)

I’m not too sure about the wording of the exclusion, though:

Under the new agreement, funding will be withdrawn for any free school that teaches what it claims are “evidence-based views or theories” that run “contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations”.

This seems to spread the banned-ideas disturbingly wider than stopping science lessons becoming an outpost of bible study. It implies that “non-evidence-based” religious nonsense is fine – but, as “non-evidence-based” pretty well defines creationism, surely it will be allowed.

Maybe I’m being too bloody literal, assuming that words are supposed to have a meaning. Charitably, maybe it’s just that officials at the DofE aren’t allowed to release any document that doesn’t have the words “evidence-based” in it, even if they have only the vaguest idea what it means.

I’ll err on the side of optimism and assume that it won’t mean that schools can’t debate ideas that challenge “established” ideas about history and science, as, surely, that process would define a real education….

Some sort of tribute

Benoit Mandelbrot died on 14th October.

(Non-breaking news from me. i.e. Probably 4 days after everyone else knows it. A good tribute on the BBC by the way but the images are poor.)

He was the main man for making maths beautiful, even to mathematically challenged people like me.. Fractal mathematics is the mathematics of life. In fact, for atheists, fractal maths is pretty much a direct route to what simpler people call looking at the face of “god” .

Here’s a beginner’s guide to what fractals are with links to some image galleries.

In the mid-nineties there were any number of graphics packages that let you play around with creating fractals, from a standing start, on a 486…. Especially the venerable and respected fractint.

I found a version that’s still online. version 20. It’s been updated to work on Windows 3.0…. Hmmm, even my PC isn’t quite that elderly.
(Wahay. I found a 2008 ftp site. Must try it out again.)

Here are a few fractal image links from tinterwebs.

* The classic Mandelbrot set.From a site that explains why it isn't evidence of Intelligent Design

I like the source that I got this image from. It points out that someone might see a visual representation of a Mandelbrot set as evidence for “Intelligent Design” and answers

But in fact, the Mandelbrot set is the product of a relatively simple mathematical equation.

That’s the non-divinely miraculous nature of fractal images. A few simple changes in start conditions and/or a slightly different equation and another infinite set of magical things appears.

* A fractal vegetable.

from wikipedia- image of a romanesco broccoli
Romanesco broccoli

Ok that’s cheating. Pretty much any living thing is “fractal.” The difference is that romanesco broccoli LOOKS like a generated fractal.

* The coastline of Norway
Space view of the coast of Norway

The coast of Norway looks like a generated fractal too. But, then, any coast is fractal. Zoom in and it breaks up into infinitely recursive self-similar patterns.

In fact, everything is pretty much fractal. Incredibly simple and endlessly complex. And we can see this mainly thanks to teh work of Mandelbrot.

Genius

Facing the dole because of the cuts that have made the IMF so pleased with the Condem government?

(Who knew the IMF had a UK vote? To be honest, I prefer IKEA’s furniture.)

Well, you can now retrain for an easy and rewarding new career as a science journalist, thanks to Martin Robbins in the Guardian who has provided a template for any and every science article you’ll ever write.
This is a news website article about a scientific paper

It’s brilliant.

Eztra: I forgot to mention the links which are pretty funny too.

Product stop press

This blog having temporarily started acting like Which Magazine’s Provisional Wing, I have to draw your attention to another amazing wonder-product….:-) It costs more in a their real-world shops, but you can apparently make a saving if you buy Boots Hot Weather Cooling Spray online. Only £3.89 for 125ml (plus £2.90 delivery charge for delivery in 4 days, though free if you pick it up from your local shop.)

£31.11 per litre. (Not counting delivery costs.)

What’s the magic cooling ingredient?

Hmm, water. Well , “Aqua.” Not even bloody drinking water. Just water in a spray can.

As a random comparison of the cost of fluids, you can buy a 70cl bottle of 10 year-old Isle of Jura single malt whisky from Waitrose for £27.59.

OK, it wouldn’t cool you down much (indeed, it could make you smell pretty rough if you sprayed it on your face on a hot day) but it would be the product of centuries of brewing and distilling skills. It would have had to sit round using up caskspace for a decade. It’s lavishly bottled and packaged. And it manages to pay a huge cut to the revenue and still appear on Waitrose’s online shop for less than the cost of a litre of spray-on water.

Quite apart from the bottles of Evian and Highland Spring, Boots sells expensive water in many more forms. In the homeopathic department, anyway.

Water converted into pill form even. Or “pillules”, “pills” and “tablets.” (The distinction may be technical.)

Their homeopathic remedies actually contain water so expensive that it makes the cooling spray seem relatively cheap. Because they are pills (sorry, pillules) so they are dry, containing only the memory of the water that was used in making them. But that water itself only contains the memory of the active ingredient that was used to make it, many dilutions in its past

But, as the the water’s magical healing powers get stronger with each dilution, doesn’t it follow that you could increase its potency by another order of magnitude by dropping one of these dry pillules in a bath full of water.

The bathwater would then be imbued with the memory of the memory of the memories of the first water, but made even more memorable after conversion into and out of dry water-memory states in the middle stage. And so, these remedies could be strong enough to wipe out all disease on the planet….

New business plan – to take homeopathic remedies and sneakily intensify them by this method, then sell them as being EVEN more effective than the ones you can buy from a high street chemist, if that were indeed possible.

Genius, huh?

Simon Singh gets result

Simon Singh has won his libel appeal against a case brought by the British Chiropractic Association.

Take pleasure in the instance of the right thing being done but the case cost the defence £200,000.

So just to be on the safe side, not having £200k to spend on legal protection, I want it on record that this blog will never “question claims made by companies or organisations “……..

That leaves us with loads to blog about. Erm.

To start with, all alternative medicine works. Oh yes, the Rapture is imminent. ID cards are a brilliant idea that the UK population is crying out for, except of course the bad people who have something to hide. Political correctness has indeed gone mad. etc

Well, that should guarantee our future.

Quantum physicality

Quantum physics has become the new handbag-dog accessory for actors and tv presenters.

You think I’m making this up. Here are some sources:
Courtney Love
Anne Hathaway
Takulah Riley
Anne-Marie Jordan, Actress.
Josie Lawrence
Flux Theatre Ensemble

and so on beyond the point at which I can bear to google any more.

All-time best example of the emerging celeb-quantum physics crossover must be this one: Peaches Geldof in conversation with Fearne Cotton. Kathryn Flett provides an accurate transcript there. The most appealing quote is

“I’m really interested in quantum physics. Which is how I got involved in, like, spirituality and stuff, and, like, the religious path I choose to go down, and stuff.”

An odd aspect of a professed interest in quantum physics is the way it’s so often part of a worldview that involves “spirituality and stuff”

Here’s a youtube video where the fruit-flavoured Geldof offspring explains her scientology beliefs.

I have to admit that I don’t understand quantum physics. In my school Physics lessons I couldn’t master Mechanics, ffs. So maybe quantum physics does prove that any bullshit crap must be true. (There’s a good example on Ben Goldacre’s BadScience.net)

However, lLooking into it any further to check this out would involve me in having to do hard maths. Which I already know I couldn’t manage. So I may have to yield and accept the Z-list-Celeb Model of quantum relativity as the long-awaited new Theory of Everything.

Evolutionary agony

The Guardian has an “evolutionary biology agony aunt.” This doesn’t appear to be a deliberate joke.
The agony auntiness is basically standard newspaper-standard morality, dressed up in an evolutionary biology overcoat.

Readers send in their problems. So far, none of these have seemed to relate to the types of arcane technical or theoretical issues that you’d expect to worry evolutionary biologists.

The “problems” seem to be the dull wrangles between conscience and desire that we all experience, though you would hope that fewer of us share the problem-sharers’ capacity for self-justification.

To paraphrase one: “I am a good catch and my wife can’t breed any more, doesn’t evolutionary biology require me to get a younger model?”

Amazing that people with no capacity far self-knowledge can apparently survive into middle age. Obviously human intelligence wasn’t really that important to the survival of our species… (well, until now, anyway, what with climate change and ecological devastation, and all … )

Is this garbage there to give aid and comfort to creationists? It pretends that biology can somehow replace human morality. It misunderstands basic concepts of evolution, in ways that you would normally expect from the Discovery Institute.

I guess I’ll take it as a joke after all.

Akhenaton’s many identities

Answers in Genesis has a new page entitled “Chapter 21: Akhenaten-and Nefertititi the Beautiful” . This is part of a series claiming to show “How Egyptian Archaeology confirms the Biblical Timeline.”

Naturally, the article doesn’t “confirm” anything of the kind, even for those who have never doubted for a moment that the Bible is a historical record of the early Jews rather than the writings of a god.

Indeed, it is rather cheering that AIG feel compelled to search out dull old scientific secular evidence. Blimey, it’s almost as if they suspect that all answers can’t be found in Genesis…..

My knowledge of the book of Genesis is close to absolute zero. Still, I would be surprised if it has a mention of Akhenaton and Nefertiti. My knowledge of Akhenaton and Nefertiti is hardly more comprehensive than my knowledge of Genesis, based as it is on Discovery Channel output and a liking for the beautiful sounds of their names.

Hence, I googled “akhenaton in genesis”, on the offchance that Google would come up with biblical Verse x that mentioned this specific Pharaoh. No luck with that project, as yet. But there are plenty of (hmm, what shall I call them, ah ..) original thinkers.

  • A book by Ralph Ellis claims that Adam and Eve were actually Akhenaton and Nefertiti.
  • Joseph Tasset claimed that Ahkenaton was Abraham.
  • Thomas Mann wrote a novel, Joseph and His Brothers, in which Abraham worked for Akhenaton. (Note that this has the decency to be a novel, rather than a wild claim, but the idea was apparently based on the work of 19th century German scholars)
  • In Moses and Monotheism, Sigmund Freud suggested that Moses was a follower of Akhenaton.
  • There’s a whole blog devoted to connecting Moses and Akhenaton. (I dare not mock, as it now seems that I am guilty of producing a blog post on the same demented topic) His or her theme is expressed in “Did Moses and the Ten Plagues Influence Akhenaten to Convert to Monotheism?” This certainly implies a belief that Akhenaton predated Moses.
  • The World of Jah has a complex comments discussion about whether Moses predated or post-dated Akhenaton.
    I am in awe at the detailed study of chronologies from thousands of years ago and am tempted to see this site as Answers in Exodus, which comes with the built-in advantages over its longer-established brother, AIG, of having a better soundtrack and no known currency with the religious right.

So far, Akhenaton has been revealed as Adam, Abraham, Abraham’s boss, a follower of Moses, and someone who was followed by Moses.

There may be a theme developing, here. All of Akhenaton’s noms de Bible start with A. Hmm. Might I lobby for Ajax, Alexander the Great, Aristotle and Archimedes? I know they’re not actually in the Old testament but they are really ancient.

I balk at reading the remaining 25,000 or so results. If you look for Answers in Genesis, it seems you may find many more than you bargained for, each one pretty well as valid as the next…..

Scienz teeching

This monumentally silly page on the CIF belief bit of the Guardian website was probably just there to stir up knee-jerk responses. (There are, naturally, thousands of comments.) But, hey, my reflexes are in pretty good shape. So, here goes.

Alistair Noble wrote that “Intelligent design should not be excluded from the study of origins”

As a former science teacher and schools inspector, I am disturbed that proposals for science education are based on near-complete ignorance of intelligent design. I also think the views of “most British people” in this matter should not be so readily set aside.

Even if it were true that “most British people” believed in ID, this doesn’t make it a valid scientific theory nor imply that “most British people” are qualified to decide what pseudo -science is taught in schools.

The fact is that that “most British people” (hmm, me included) don’t know enough about biology to get a GCSE in it. Choosing a theory of life is not like casting a vote on XFactor.

He argues that ID is nothing to do with religion; life is complex and beautiful; it seems designed so it must have been….

It is easily overlooked that the origin of life, the integrated complexity of biological systems and the vast information content of DNA have not been adequately explained by purely materialistic or neo-Darwinian processes. Indeed it is hard to see how they ever will.

But hey, this is not about religion….

It is an all too common error to confuse intelligent design with religious belief.

The intellectual dishonesty of this claim – that it’s not religiously based – is quite telling. What specific “science” did he teach?

If Intelligent design constitutes a good scientific theory, why draw the line at using it in biology? What about physics? What about cosmology?
“A magic man did it” applies even more aptly to these subjects, surely?

It’s certainly possible that our models of “evolution” will be proven to be false by some new and better explanation of biological processes. That’s science. ….. It is well nigh inconceivable that science will ever decide that the magic man is an explanation for anything.

Alistair’s Guardian profile says

Dr Alastair Noble is an educational consultant and lay preacher, and a former teacher and research chemist

Research chemistry? Why bother? Surely, the magic man made all the chemicals and chemical transformations. Why not just read Genesis instead of messing about getting research results?

Lay preacher? He argued that ID is real science, and can’t be confused with religion (see above) So his being a lay preacher is just a coincidence. Indeed a coincidence so uncanny that it can only have been designed by a superior being.

A few links, chosen randomly by my own intelligent design, to other blogs discussing this nonsense better than I have, and indeed, having done so in a rather more timely fashion.
evilburnee.co.uk
Wonderful life
Richard Dawkins, net

Old Scientology News

This is ‘old news’ in 2 senses. (Sense 1) It’s old news because it’s from the the Times of 6 August 2009. (Sense 2) And it’s also really old news because it’s “formerly secret news” from 3 decades ago. The gist of it is:

L Ron Hubbard was a fraud….. No, really. (It is also rumoured the Pope is Catholic. There may be secret files on this.)

The Times filed a Freedom of Information request to access the National Archive files on Scientology. The Department of Health yielded the information on diplomats’ efforts to find out if Hubbard was really a PhD.

(Quick pause to wonder how confusing the government filing system must have been if this item ended up in the Dept of Health.)

Britain’s secret mission to expose Scientology leader as ‘fraud’
The founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, was exposed as a fraud 30 years ago by British diplomats who were investigating his qualifications.
The science-fiction writer, who invented a religion now followed by celebrities such as Tom Cruise, awarded himself a PhD from a sham “diploma mill” college that he had acquired, the diplomats found. …..

Bit of a damp squib. Given the relatively enticing headline, I was hoping for something more shocking than L Ron’s postgraduate qualifications being imaginary. I suppose at that point maybe the claim that

“…L. Ron Hubbard was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Sequoia University on February 10, 1953, in recognition of his outstanding work in the fields of Dianetics and Scientology and that the said degree was recorded with the Department of Education of the State of California,” John McMaster stated.

might have passed for academic support for the idea of the sciencey- sounding Dianetics actually being a science. It’s still hard to imagine a world in which any reasonable person would accept that, even if it turned out to be supported by a PHd or a full professorship or an NVQ Level 1 in Customer Service.

Links to the Times Scientology Archive don’t work today, but this Times link did:

Simpsons producers ‘have a cow’ as Bart lends his voice to Scientologists
Bart Simpson used to be an underachiever and proud of it. These days, it seems, he’s an Operating Thetan VII in the Church of Scientology and proud of that, too.
At least, that is what Scientologists were led to believe this week when they received an automated telephone message featuring the voice of Bart inviting them to the Scientology Flag World Tour, an event being held in Hollywood tomorrow.

Blimey, those Scientologists are real celeb-magnets. Even the voice of a cartoon character – whose defining characteristics are mischievousness and stupidity – is grist to their celeb mill.

Although, it turns out that, in the real world, Bart’s voice belongs to a woman who is an Operating Thetan VII “and therefore an individual who can operate independently of her body” (The Times). Hmm, sorry, did I say “in the real world”?

Well, it seems her body can operate independently of her mind anyway, because

Ms Cartwright, who earns an estimated $400,000 (£280,000) per episode, was recently awarded Scientology’s Patron Laureate Award after reportedly donating $10 million to the organisation

As it happens, I have a Nobel prize from Oak University, awarded for my sterling work in Camillanology. I have produced a rigorous science-filled training plan that will allow dedicated students to gain the mystical power to talk out of their bottoms. And I love cartoons.

Don’t pay out another dollar please, Ms Cartwright until you have checked out the secret system that I was taught by hyper-intelligent entities from the planet Zeta,

Empty Argument

I know letters pages are traditionally fertile grounds for finding crazy opinions and attitudes but its not that often you get in on the Guardian (especially when compared with the Mail or even BBC Online). Today however we see a familiar empty argument trotted out by someone who apparently has taken offence that Atheists have dared to try and teach children – when everyone knows only the Church are allowed to brainwash.

Patrick Smith, from Essex, writes:

It is great that young people are being taught to think (Summer camp offers ‘godless’ alternative for atheists, 30 July). Alas, it seems Camp Quest will be assuming science is the only way to find truth, a view not shared by most of humanity. Experience of love, music, art and (yes) religion are just as important. Atheists can brainwash as shamelessly as any cult!

Now, correct me if I am wrong but this seems completely flawed. Mr Smith is missing the point by such a large amount it seems he must be talking about something else. I have no personal experience of the atheist camp, so I am (like Mr Smith, I suspect) forced to use the article referenced for background reading.

It seems the children are being taught to think:

The idea behind the camp is to give a “godless” alternative to traditional religious summer camps. In the morning the participants discuss philosophical ideas and learn about subjects such as astronomy.

But nothing there makes me think that it assumes “science is the only way to find a truth.” (I am a bit confused as to otherways to find a “truth” though). Children, 12 years old, discussing philosophy fills my heart with joy and renews some of my faith in human nature. (all irony is intentional). But it continues:

Then in the afternoons they take part in more traditional camp activities. They swim, they run, they climb, they row. In the evening – if the rain relents – they sit round the campfire and toast marshmallows.

Ok – this strikes me as all wholesome, childrens activities. It also carries the implication that they are still active in the evenings. Unless we assume they sit silently around the campfire then they are likely to be listening to music, talking about artistic subjects or learning how to interact with others.

This sort of leaves me confused what Mr Smith is objecting to – unless he feels, like lots of Christians seem to do, that without god being invoked at every sentence then the lessons are meaningless and unimportant. The unintentional irony in that viewpoint is there is a religion where god is mentioned in almost every sentence, and Christians seem to hate it.

For those with strong irony meters and in need of some laughs at the unintentional idiocy that “people with faith” can demonstrate, the comments on the Guardian article about the camp are very funny.

While the cat’s away

Ben Goldacre seems to be on holiday. (His most recent post on badscience.net was dated 18 July.) The temporary absence of the scourge of pseudo-science may have given the green light to new levels of absurdity.

The Times Science Editor, no less, wrote that

Women are getting more beautiful
FOR the female half of the population, it may bring a satisfied smile. Scientists have found that evolution is driving women to become ever more beautiful, while men remain as aesthetically unappealing as their caveman ancestors.
The researchers have found beautiful women have more children than their plainer counterparts and that a higher proportion of those children are female. Those daughters, once adult, also tend to be attractive and so repeat the pattern

Now, being in the female half of the population, I’m not showing a satisfied smile. In fact, he only physical expression that you could detect me making would be the Sign language sign for “bullshit”, which a QI repeat showed last week.

(Arms crossed on your chest, with the fingers of one hand making horns and the fingers of the other hand opening and closing as if to drop a load. How beautifully expressive is that?)

If I knew the Sign Language for “ideological and sexist bullshit”, I’d be putting that here instead. But I bet even Steven Fry doesn’t know that one.

“Beautiful” women have more children? Can anyone pretend for one second that there is an objective standard for beauty? Ideals of beauty vary enormously over time and between cultures. Indeed,you wouldn’t find agreement on a common standard between people living a few miles apart. (Certainly not in the city where I live.)

And “having more children”, nay even, having more female children? WTF. That might have been a sign of evolutionary success in the paleolithic, but would surely have depended much more on the capacity to raise children to adulthood than to breed them even then. In modern societies, having a smaller number of offspring is pretty well directly associated with higher levels of education, health and wealth, at the household level, and with economic development, at the social level.

To follow the “logic” of this argument, uglier women would be more reproductively successful in modern society, then, surely?

Quite apart from anything else – because I’m bored with pointing out blatant absurdities in this report – just look around. Opening your eyes on any public street will soon put paid to any idea that good-looking people reproduce more than homely people.

This is the nub of the science bit:

In a study released last week, Markus Jokela, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, found beautiful women had up to 16% more children than their plainer counterparts. He used data gathered in America, in which 1,244 women and 997 men were followed through four decades of life. Their attractiveness was assessed from photographs taken during the study, which also collected data on the number of children they had.

Hmm, that sounds sciencey but, just having numbers in doesn’t make it science. (Pause to remember that “up to 16%” more children can include anything from fewer children right up to 16% more. )

I can’t find this study online, although there are plenty of newmedia refernces to it. The only works I can find with the name of Markus Jokela are apparently legit: a study of childhood risk in the the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and a study of IQ, Socioeconomic Status and Early Death: The US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in Psychosomatic Medicine.

I’m pretty tempted to let Dr Jokela off the hook here and suggest that the whole beautiful women reproduce more “study” is an obscure internet jokela. One can but hope.

In any case, Ben Goldacre, please stop sunning yourself, and sort this nonsense out.