Saturday, January 29, 2011

The neverending stupidity of astrology and Allstate

I won't get into the long-recognized shifting of the Sun's position and the calendar with regards to the zodiacal signs--as someone who has done a lot of astronomy astrology is one of those things that is like asking a chemist about alchemy--the rolling-eyes chemist can't believe the general public believes you can turn things into gold.

But Allstate, a statistical insurance companies with many many actuaries and other employees incredibly well-versed in mathematics, put out a press release (no longer available) claiming new Virgos were the worst drivers. The Chicago Tribune then put out a story on the press release. The new Ophiuchus was the best driver.

Now, for the shockingly bad details--whomever at Allstate failed to normalize the fact that the new signs have really different lengths--the Sun being in Virgo for a long time as it's a longer constellation (45 days) versus the short 6 day dip in Scorpio. Neither did the Tribune do its diligence in fact-checking this story, leaving it to an anonymous commenter to point out the utter stupidity of it.

I expected better from Allstate. You should have a few of the statisticians on your payroll take the PR people and their management for a little talk. You've lost the confidence of many customers who might know a little science or math, and it's embarrassing to have a company 1. Give a statement in a press release about astrology and 2. Completely get the numbers wrong. I also expected more from the Tribune press--unfortunately it appears companies can just put advertising up for free, caged as PR, and the newspaper will call it a story straight.


Fred M said...

Re: "a press release (no longer available)", thank the stars (or something) for Google:

Anonymous said...

"-the rolling-eyes chemist can't believe the general public believes you can turn things into gold."

Uhh... you may want to rethink this. Never in a million years would I want to say anything to support the nimrods in the astrological community... but my 1st thought to your above statement was "what about neutron activation?". So while I might not be cost effective I do seem to recall getting a gamma decay pattern for gold after some good quality time with some Americium 241. So while the transmuting of metals isn't possible *chemically*, it is far from impossible. You may want to file that for later use. :)