Conspiracy Theories

People who believe in mass-scale conspiracy theories simply suck at math

While all of us can keep a secret individually, a study suggests that this ability does not translate well to large groups.

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While all of us can keep a secret individually, a study by Dr. David Robert Grimes published in the online journal PLOS ONE suggests that this ability does not translate well to large groups. Simply put, large groups participating in a conspiracy will quickly expose themselves.

Dr. Grimes is a physicist, cancer researcher, science writer, and broadcaster. His work often brings him into contact with conspiracists, which compelled him to look into whether or not large scale conspiracies were feasible:

‘A number of conspiracy theories revolve around science. While believing the moon landings were faked may not be harmful, believing misinformation about vaccines can be fatal. However, not every belief in a conspiracy is necessarily wrong – for example, the Snowden revelations confirmed some theories about the activities of the US National Security Agency.

‘It is common to dismiss conspiracy theories and their proponents out of hand but I wanted to take the opposite approach, to see how these conspiracies might be possible. To do that, I looked at the vital requirement for a viable conspiracy – secrecy.’

An equation created by Grimes factors in the number of believers in any given conspiracy theory, the length of time, and even the effects of those who were responsible for the plot dying. It accounts for both death by old age and far more sinister means. Grimes then took a realistic estimation of any one individual revealing the conspiracy from three real life instances, including the NSA Prism project revealed by Edward Snowden.

In each case, the number of conspirators and the time before the conspiracy was brought to light were overestimated to ensure that the odds of a leak were on the side of the conspirators. This ended in a four-in-one million chance of deliberate or accidental exposure.

In other words, the more people required to be complicit in a plot over time, the faster it would theoretically fall apart.

According to the equation, popular conspiracies such as the moon landing being a hoax and a suppressed “cancer cure” would have been discovered in roughly 3 years. A coverup of a single event is likely to be blown if more than 650 accomplices are involved, while a century-long scheme requires fewer than 125 collaborators in order to maintain secrecy, making the probability of successful large-scale conspiracies nearly impossible.

But since math is logic, don’t expect to change a conspiracy theorist’s mind anytime soon.

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  1. Naaah

    February 1, 2016 at 12:01 am

    I love how this blatantly brushes over several variables, including the use of cut outs or people who preform a specific task and need only know knowledge of a specific task. So control of information, misdirection , also u know in th e military u have ur orders that u carry out, hell th ey could have told pilots that they were dropping supplies to friendlies and it really was a bomb or chemical or bio weaponry , next what about the use of sociopaths people with no morales who will do what ever they want. Soo statistically speaking as a rule of thumb any statistic has a two actual readings, the possibility of the unlikely happening charted against the probable the two numbers give u a variance range but even that doesnt account for everything so no matter what anything is still possible.

  2. Simon Peters

    February 1, 2016 at 4:28 am

    Lisa, what a disgraceful and disgusting comment. You should be heartily ashamed of yourself.

  3. Duppy Conqueror

    February 2, 2016 at 2:38 am

    What was Lisa’s comment? Couldn’t be more disgusting than this “article.” Also, conspirators are way more likely to not leak if they’re being paid tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Also, a conspiracy is easy to pull off on a society of apathetic consumers who can have evidence dangled in front of their noses and still believe the boob tube. Also, who was it that got prosecuted and convicted of perpetrating 9/11? Nobody, because the conspirators are not able to prove a case against anyone except themselves. So you’re saying that all of the Architects and Engineers For 9/11 Truth suck at math? You suck at lying, try harder

  4. valerie

    February 2, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Excellent response! Thank you!

  5. Robert Carl Miller

    February 2, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    It’s like we’re told that there’s no conspiracy in the death of JFK but the CIA still has classified documents about it. The 9/11 Report has thirty pages about Saudi Arabia that’s classified. How come? Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudi. Let’s do the math together.

  6. Alejandro

    February 3, 2016 at 7:42 am

    A lie becomes the truth if everyone believes it to be true.If a large group know something to be a false then it’s a matter of time before it is revealed(like they say a rumor only last about a month), but in cases of conspiracies, it is a pyramid of false information only the guy at the top knows the whole truth. Everyone else is regurgitating what they are told or second guessing it because of lack of information.They say that if 9/11 was a conspiracy we would have known it by now, but this an absurdity for their own words could be used against them by trying to debunk it with this allegation we are to ask if it isn’t a conspiracy then why is it that you can’t prove it to be true in the first place?

  7. Mike Ramirez

    February 6, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    Manhattan Project, Invasion of Normandy, Unternehmen Barbarossa, Pearl Harbor, Kennedy Assassination. To name a few, and people died to keep all these secrets.

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  17. TaK

    January 3, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    Also known as “Common Sense”.

  18. John

    January 4, 2018 at 10:32 pm

    Hilarious how all you conspiracy nuts are so desperate to defend your inane beliefs. And that’s all they are–beliefs. The opposite of science; the opposite of facts. If any of you believed in a single conspiracy, but dismissed all (or even most) others, I’d listen to you, but most of you belief in a myriad of conspiracies: the moon landings were faked, LBJ killed JFK, Bush orchestrated 9/11, etc. What’s confounding is that you just don’t see how ridiculous you appear to rational people.

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