http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science ... ludes.html
Dr David Grimes' paper can be downloaded from PLOS.Major conspiracies theories, such as a faked Moon landing, would have been exposed within just a few years if they were really true, a scientist has concluded.
Oxford University physicist Dr David Grimes worked out a mathematical way to calculate the chances of a plot being deliberately leaked by a whistle-blower or accidentally uncovered.
He was able to show that the more people share in a conspiracy, the shorter its lifespan is likely to be.
For a plot to last five years, the maximum number of plotters turned out to be 2,521. To keep a scheme operating undetected for more than a decade, fewer than 1,000 people could be involved, while a century-long deception had to include fewer than 125 collaborators.
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/articl ... ne.0147905
In the very first paragraph of the intro (first footnote) is dear old Cass Sunstein.Abstract
Conspiratorial ideation is the tendency of individuals to believe that events and power relations are secretly manipulated by certain clandestine groups and organisations. Many of these ostensibly explanatory conjectures are non-falsifiable, lacking in evidence or demonstrably false, yet public acceptance remains high. Efforts to convince the general public of the validity of medical and scientific findings can be hampered by such narratives, which can create the impression of doubt or disagreement in areas where the science is well established. Conversely, historical examples of exposed conspiracies do exist and it may be difficult for people to differentiate between reasonable and dubious assertions. In this work, we establish a simple mathematical model for conspiracies involving multiple actors with time, which yields failure probability for any given conspiracy. Parameters for the model are estimated from literature examples of known scandals, and the factors influencing conspiracy success and failure are explored. The model is also used to estimate the likelihood of claims from some commonly-held conspiratorial beliefs; these are namely that the moon-landings were faked, climate-change is a hoax, vaccination is dangerous and that a cure for cancer is being suppressed by vested interests. Simulations of these claims predict that intrinsic failure would be imminent even with the most generous estimates for the secret-keeping ability of active participants—the results of this model suggest that large conspiracies (≥1000 agents) quickly become untenable and prone to failure. The theory presented here might be useful in counteracting the potentially deleterious consequences of bogus and anti-science narratives, and examining the hypothetical conditions under which sustainable conspiracy might be possible.
Footnote 1: Sunstein CR, Vermeule A. Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures*. Journal of Political Philosophy. 2009; 17(2):202–227.We shall clarify the working definition of conspiracy theory here as being in line (sic) the characterisation of Sunstein et al “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who attempt to conceal their role (at least until their aims are accomplished)”.
I'm sure most readers here are aware of who Cass Sunstein is.
There is then a lot of maths used to support the "debunking."0.1 Anti-Science conspiracy narratives—A brief overview
Conspiracy theories which posit some nefarious underhanded action by scientists are ubiquitous. In these work, we shall restrict our focus to four prominent beliefs of this genre. These are listed below.
NASA Moon-landing conspiracy—The successful 1969 Apollo 11 mission first put men on the moon, a seminal achievement in human history. Yet even since that historic day, there has been a persistent fringe belief group that strongly believe the moon-landings were faked, mocked up for propaganda purposes. In 2013 it was estimated that 7% of Americans subscribe to this view . Those advocating this conspiracy claim there are inconsistencies in pictures taken on the moon’s surface, despite these claims being comprehensively debunked .
Climate change conspiracy—Climate-change denial has a deep political dimension [7, 8]. Despite the overwhelming strength of evidence supporting the scientific consensus of anthropogenic global warming , there are many who reject this consensus. Of these, many claim that climate-change is a hoax staged by scientists and environmentalists [18–20], ostensibly to yield research income. Such beliefs are utterly negated by the sheer wealth of evidence against such a proposition, but remain popular due to an often-skewed false balance present in partisan media [20, 21], resulting in public confusion and inertia.
Vaccination conspiracy—Conspiratorial beliefs about vaccination are endemic in the anti-vaccination movement [18, 22]. It is estimated that roughly 20% of Americans hold the long de-bunked notion that there is a link between autism and the MMR vaccine , a belief which has reduced uptake of important vaccinations  in several countries. Anti-vaccination beliefs and scare-mongering are also endemic in the internet age, with vaccine critical websites asserting dubious information [23, 24]. Ill-founded beliefs over vaccination have been darkly successful in stirring panic and reducing vaccine uptake, which has led to damaging resurgence in diseases such as measles .
Cancer cure conspiracy—The belief that a cure for cancer is being withheld by vested interests is a long-standing one . It is often used as a universal deus ex machina for those pushing an alternative alleged cure, and assertion of the conspiracy theory functions as an explanatory device to explain the complete paucity of clinical evidence for such claims . Such claims can be detrimental to patients, some of whom abandon conventional treatment for the lofty but ill-founded promises of alternative medicine .
Grimes uses the figure of 411,000 NASA employees in his "modelling". I did wonder if that included the guy who sellotaped the US flag to the lunar lander? LMAO
I wonder if Dr Grimes has ever heard of the psychological term - projection?The grim reality is that there appears to be a cohort so ideologically invested in a belief that for whom no reasoning will shift, their convictions impervious to the intrusions of reality. In these cases, it is highly unlikely that a simple mathematical demonstration of the untenability of their belief will change their view-point. However, for the less invested such an intervention might indeed prove useful.