Monday, March 24, 2008

Rock Stars Die Younger

The No Shit Institute is proud to present our first lifetime achievement award. The work of these Liverpool and Mancherster scientists is not only qualified, it embodies everything we a the NSI stand for: painfully unnecessary and wasteful research of something everybody already knows.

The paper is "Elvis to Eminem: quantifying the price of fame through early mortality of European and North American rock and pop stars". And in case your brain is refusing to translate that on the grounds that the conclusion is ridiculous: yes, a bunch of scientists actually studied "Do rock stars die younger?"

But it must be proper science - look, they have a graph!

This figure reveals a lot about the study: for one thing, it reveals they don't know how to make a graph. "Years of fame" isn't actually applicable to the general population, so they've screwed up that difficult "X-axis" component. There's also the visible graininess in the pop star curves, indicating that the sample size isn't big enough.

But how could a team of elite scientists not collect enough data? If you said "By basing the entire study around a single piece of marketing fodder", correct! They based the entire study on the "Virgin All-Time Top 1,000 albums". Science apparently consists of taking a piece of mob-pandering trash and shouting "To hell with the labs and rigorous study, we can just use this!" But wait, they claim they also "describe and utilise a novel actuarial survival methodology which allows quantification of excess post-fame mortality", proving that they're absolutely the worst people for this unnecessary job. Anybody who can describe actuarial methodologies as novel, or indeed at all, doesn't even understand what a rock star does that's fun, let alone how they could enjoy it so much it kills them.

The "researchers", and I only use that word because none the alternatives are PG-rated, recommend further study. Obviously. Because when you've worked out how to stay employed by watching MTV then googling the artists' names you want to keep that misappropriation of funding train going as long as you can - you sure as hell aren't getting work anywhere serious after that.

"Ah, Professor Bellis, you want to join our team studying the neurological causes of schizophrenia. Unfortunately, your CV indicates you spent four years studying why rock stars die young, and another three investigating why sailors drink so much in port. I'm afraid this doesn't really qualify you for our team, but if we find any obvious conclusions that need to be slowly and painfully graphed, we'll let you know."

A paper on "Why is the sky blue?" would honestly be of more scientific value - at least there's some vital optical physics there. We look forward to Prof Bellis's next paper: he lists his research interests as " Nightlife Health incorporating environmental design, sexual health, substance use, violence, transport and legislative aspects", which does sound an awful lot like getting academic funding for a week long bender complete with bail and a taxi home.