As a rapper and flat-earth conspirator continues his bizarre online spat with a prominent astrophysicist, new research has emerged claiming to prove that conspiracy theories are probably never right.
On Tuesday (AEDT), rapper Bobby Ray Simmons, aka B.o.B, tweeted multiple theories, links and images he said proved the earth was flat, prompting a storm of support and abuse.
“A lot of people are turned off by the phrase ‘flat Earth’ … but there’s no way u can see all the evidence and not know … grow up,” he said in one post.
“No matter how high in elevation you are … the horizon is always eye level … sorry cadets… I didn’t wanna believe it either.”
American astrophysicist and cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson intervened to disprove his claims, after the rapper insisted a photo of the New York City skyline from 60 miles away validated his theory.
B.o.B was so passionate about the conspiracy theory he wrote a song called Flatline to “diss” [discredit] Tyson.
But it might not take an intervention like this to disprove the flat earth theory, or indeed most other conspiracy theories.
A complex yet easy way to explain mathematical theory might have done that.
A new study in the PLOS One journal – published on Tuesday – presented evidence showing how big conspiracy theories are destined to be de-bunked in short periods of time after they are created.
By examining the viability of the NASA moon landing conspiracy, climate change conspiracy, vaccination conspiracy and the conspiracy over a cancer cure being withheld, the study’s author Dr David Robert Grimes asserted that the more supported a conspiracy is, the more likely it is to be wrong.
“For a conspiracy of even only a few thousand actors (believers), intrinsic failure would arise within decades,” the study wrote. “For hundreds of thousands, such failure would be assured within less than half a decade.”
The study goes on to predict the maximum time it would have taken for each of the conspiracies to be proven right, after they first emerged.
Dr Grimes worked out a mathematical method that could calculate the chances and time length by which a plot would be accidentally uncovered or leaked by a whistleblower.
For example, for a conspiracy theory to go five years with no definitive proof it was correct, the maximum number of believers could be 2521.
Based on this rule, he found the NASA fake moon landing conspiracy would have been proven within 3.68 years, climate change conspiracy within 3.7 years, vaccination conspiracy by 3.15 years and suppressed cancer cure by medical companies in 3.17 years.
See the timeline of findings below:
To do this he worked out a “conservatively” estimated number of people involved with each conspiracy theory.
He went on to list the maximum number of believers there could be attached to a conspiracy theory, paired with the proportionate timeframe before it could be disproven.
For example, for a conspiracy theory to be proven before it existed for 20 years, only 628 people could be believers.
‘Everyone involved in conspiracy theories’: expert
University of Sydney lecturer and co-author of Modern Conspiracy: The Importance of Being Paranoid, Dr Chris Fleming, told The New Daily he agreed with the study’s findings.
He said it was “another line of evidence” working against ardent conspiracy theorists all over the world.
“The very term conspiracy theory already assumes it is wrong,” Dr Fleming said. “It is basically another good reason to have a degree of scepticism about these claims.”
He explained it made sense by using the simple logic of a surprise birthday party – the more people involved, the more likely the surprise would be ruined.
“The label is only something we ever apply to things we think are stupid or wrong” he said.
“But expand it to this: if you organise a surprise birthday party, you are involved in a conspiracy.
“They [conspiracies] happen all the time. But the bigger the party is, the bigger the chances are that the person is going to find out.”
Dr Fleming also offered insight into why conspiracy theorists remain so ardent in their beliefs, despite evidence that mounted against them.
“There is something very neat and reassuring about a big conspiracy theory,” he said. “To them, every event in the world can be explained by the malevolent intentions of human actors.
“It means everything makes sense and everything can be explained.
“It makes you a part of a select few who know the truth, while everyone walks around like zombies not knowing.”