Ever wanted to know why it is that the more you drink, the more attractive the people you see in a bar seem to be? Ever wanted to be able to precisely quantify the magnitude of this effect? Well, you need suffer from ignorance no longer: the site "Howstuffworks" provides precise answers to both of these vexing questions.

In fact, the answers provided are so precise that I'm calling "bullshit" on this one. Just look at the formula on that page and tell me that it looks even slightly plausible to you - who's ever known of a behavioral equation uniformly describing all humans without any variation whatsoever, and why does this one so serendipitously do so without a need for a fudge constant of some sort, something even theories as precise as general relativity and quantum mechanics can't do without? At best this is junk research, at worst a hoax perpetuated on gullible BBC reporters who seem to be the original sources for this nonsense; if the inventors of this prattle had really wanted to do a good job of fooling the less ignorant, they'd have used a linear regression of some sort with an error term, rather than an equation with no fudge constant, but quadratic terms in the numerator *and* the denominator (and the latter stuck next to a square root at that).

I predict that this ridiculous story will be propagated uncritically by many, many blogs over the next few days, just like the nonsense over "blondes dying out" from a while back. It will be interesting to see how my forecast pans out.

Yes, of course, it's "junk science." But anyone should know that anyway from the failure of the researchers to include the (by far) most highly correlated variable: time remaining before the place closes.

Posted by: gene berman | February 10, 2007 at 05:32 PM