By Taylor Kubota via Live Science
A faked moon landing or a hidden cure for cancer are just a couple of large-scale conspiracies that, if true, would have come to light within five years following their alleged cover-ups, according to a mathematical formula put together by one physicist.
David Robert Grimes, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Oxford who studies cancer, is familiar with conspiracy theorists. His mainstream writing for the likes of The Guardian and BBC News has included controversial topics that lend themselves to conspiracies, including homosexuality, climate change and water fluoridation.
“The charge that there is a scientific conspiracy afoot is a common one,” said Grimes, in an email interview with Live Science, “and almost inevitably those making these charges will descend into accusing one of shilling or being an agent of some malignant entity.” In response to his work, conspiracy theorists have threatened him, even tried to get him removed from his academic position. These interactions made Grimes curious about why conspiracies have such a strong hold on so many people, and the chances that they might be true. [Top 10 Conspiracy Theories Explained]
For this new study, Grimes considered four common conspiracy beliefs: that NASA faked the 1969 moon landing during the Apollo 11 mission, that human-caused climate change isn’t real, that vaccines are unsafe, and that pharmaceutical companies are hiding cancer cures from the public. He created an equation to figure out how long these four cover-ups would likely last (if indeed they were cover-ups), given how many people are involved, the likelihood of leaks from the inside (whether on purpose or by accident), and how much upkeep would be required to keep everything under wraps.
To estimate the chances that any one person would reveal secret activities, Grimes looked at three actual leaked conspiracies: