This mathematical formula shows why large-scale conspiracies are quickly exposed

As if.
As if.
Image: Reuters/NASA
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We have believed that the Earth is round for over 2,000 years. But have we all been duped? Rapper B.o.B certainly thinks so.

He spent the past week trying to convince his 2.3 million followers that the earth is in fact flat. You don’t have look far online to come across these so-called “flat-earthers“ who argue that since the planet feels flat and looks flat, how can it possibly be round?

Whether it’s the belief that the earth is flat, that man has never landed on the moon, or that governments are hiding evidence of aliens, conspiracy theories have a way of resonating with unusually large groups of people. To scientifically disprove these theories, David Robert Grimes, a physicist at Oxford University, developed a mathematical equation.

Grimes focused on four well-known conspiracies for his formula: the moon landing was faked, vaccinations are unsafe, climate change is a lie propagated by scientists, and the cure for cancer is being withheld by big pharma. The formula measures the success rate of these conspiracies—namely, how long such a massive cover-up could last before someone blew the lid. He factored in the number of people involved in the conspiracy, the amount of time that passed since the event took place, and the “intrinsic probability of a conspiracy failing.”

Grimes also tested his formula on conspiracies that ended up being real. These included that the US government was watching us all (thank you Edward Snowden) and the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment, in which the cure for syphilis—penicillin—was purposefully withheld from African-Americans by public health officials.

The study, published in PLOS ONE (“On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs”), concludes that it’s quite difficult for a conspiracy to remain under wraps for long. The moon-landing hoax, which would have involved an estimated 405,000 people, would have unraveled after three years and eight months, according to Grimes’ calculations.

Grimes also estimated at the maximum number of people who could be involved in a generic conspiracy before it unraveled. For a conspiracy to last five years, Grimes reckons no more than 2,521 people can take part in it.

Since the moon landing took place some 50 years ago, the hoax would have probably been revealed by now. So its probably time to let that one go.