two newspapers use a decades-old story about maths & marriage to sell some pop-science brain-training nonsense, dragging tv's hannah fry & the error bar down yet another silly season rabbit hole  

reported in: The Daily Express by Leah Stanfield on 3rd August 2021 & The Mirror by Emily Sleight on 3rd August 2021

this story was in episode 15 #marriage #divorce #maths

the error bar says

in the second science news rabbit-hole this episode, i was drawn in not by an imaginary rabbit, but by the Express - again - telling us that scientists have now revealed an equation that predicts whether married couples will divorce. with 90% accuracy.

at first i was amazed - can this be true!? then i remembered that it was The Express - a tabloid misinformation outlet that is yet to post a single reliable story after 15 episodes.

as i fell down this second rabbit hole & back into the past, years & years went by & nothing happened. until 2015, when mathematician Dr Hannah Fry recorded a youtube video about the maths of marriage. then in 2014 she gave a TED talk on the maths of love.

i kept falling & falling until a 2004 BBC story & a 2003 book called the Mathematics of Marriage, where the 90% claim was made.

the original research papers where this equation was devised come from about 1995 to 2002. the abstracts say they used multivariate statistical methods to predict, with 80-95% accuracy, which of about 100 to 200 couples per study will divorce. this based on just a few minutes' interview with each couple.

can divorce be predicted with 90% accuracy?

i don't know.

the error bar does not fact-check 25-year-old psychotherapy studies. the only reason these 'stories' appeared in the newspapers is because they are trying to sell some pop-science maths brain-training gizmo. yes listeners, this is just an advert. after 15 episodes of fake science news, the Express & Mirror are permanently barred.

what i will do, however, is name the women involved in these maths studies. every single newspaper article, the TED talk & the youtube video named only the two men involved - let's call them Man A & Man B, but failed to mention the multiple female co-authors. only the BBC, in 2004, named one of them.

so, to Dr Catherine Swanson, Dr Kristin Swanson, Dr Sybil Carrère, and Dr Rebecca Tyson, may your marriages & your maths be bless-ed.




The Daily Express: fiction - no scientific story here

The Mirror: fiction - no scientific story here