According to Dr. Cliff Arnall, you should be quite happy indeed – today, June 19th, is supposed to be the happiest day of 2009. Dr. Cliff, as reported in today’s Telegraph, has a formula for working this out based on access to outdoor activity and social interaction. Apparently, Andy Murray fits into it somehow too.
But before you let this news raise your spirits, Dr. Cliff has made similar pronouncements in the past. If in doubt when it comes to a science story, I turn to Ben Goldacre, and lo and behold he’s discussed Dr. Cliff before:
You might remember Dr Cliff Arnall. He is probably the most prodigious of all producers of bogus “equations”: proving that some arbitrary date in mid-January is the most miserable day of the year for Sky Travel; proving that some arbitrary date in mid-June is the happiest day of the year for Walls ice cream; and so on.
And that was back in 2006.
I think the lesson here is to beware all simplistic equations that you encounter in the popular press – especially when they are nonsensical, as the following example from Ben Goldacre’s article demonstrates – the case in point is the formula for a perfect long weekend:
It is “(C x R x ZZ) / ((Tt + D) x St) + (P x Pr) >400” (Tt = travel time; D = delays; C = time spent on cultural activities; R = time spent relaxing; ZZ = time spent sleeping; St = time spent in a state of stress; P = time spent packing; Pr = time spent in preparation).
So far, so confusing.
This equation is dimensionally half-cocked, as rude mathematicians would say, since it adds a time quantity (the fraction in brackets on the left) to a time-squared quantity (PxPr); but more importantly than that, it’s just stupid, because if you pack for 10 hours and prepare for 40, then you get a result of 400, meaning you’ve apparently had a great weekend.
And if great isn’t good enough, then you can have an infinitely good weekend by staying at home and cutting your travel time to zero (because dividing stuff by zero makes infinity).
Perhaps there is something to this date after all – re-reading several of Ben Goldacre’s articles has definitely brought a smile to my face.