The Infamous Cliff Arnall
Two days ago on the 19th June 2009 the Telegraph published an article with the heading “Happiest day of the year is June 19th, according to formula”.
Psychologist Dr. Cliff Arnall is credited as the creator of “the complicated mathematical formula” that underlay this discovery and the article also included some of his sage advice on the best ways to be happy this summer.
Here is the formula in full:
O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He.
Put simply, he gave values to each symbol and added being outdoors (O) to nature (N) multiplied by social interaction (S), added memories of childhood summers (Cpm) divided by the temperature (T), and added excitement about holidays (He).
And here are some of Dr. Cliff’s comments on finding happiness:
People may be less able to afford other leisure activities but it’s free to walk in the park or paddle in a stream.
The most important thing in our lives are our relationships – and no amount of money can buy that.
Now, there are several issues that could be taken with all of this, namely:
The American magazine Newsweek set the internet abuzz last week ago when it published a detailed six page article discussing ‘Why Health Advice on Oprah could make you sick’, which it also ran as its front page story. The article in question was extremely critical of Oprah focusing on how she uses her remarkable amount of influence to promote various dubious health ‘experts’ who were guilty of promoting ineffective, and occasionally dangerous, pseudoscientific treatments.
A good example of this is her continuing promotion of Jenny McCarthy, the ex-playboy model turned staunch anti-vaccine advocate. Jenny McCarthy claims that her ‘mommy instinct’ trumps the scientific evidence in relation to whether vaccines cause autism (oh and by the way they don’t!) and Oprah not only gives her a platform to promote her views but also allows her arguments to be presented without any real challenges being made to her claims. Eugh…
Anyway, the article was in general excellent and I recommend everyone read it now if they haven’t done so but inevitably it did include one or two hiccups. Namely contrary to the articles claims 1) Oprah’s resident doctor ‘Dr. Oz’ does not always promote evidence based medicine in actual fact he quite frequently promotes dubious alternative treatments and 2) we do have a very good idea why autism rates have risen (wider diagnosis and increased reporting).
That is probably being too nitpicky though as the important facts about this article are 1) it was a critical and skeptical mainstream article about a popular show that reached a wide audience, 2) it illustrated all of its criticism of Oprah and her show with numerous forehead slapping examples and 3) all of the major issues with Oprah’s show that the article raised were entirely valid and explained very clearly.
Well that’s a title that’s sure to mean practically nothing to almost everyone… nevertheless it’s still true!
The Theosophists were a group that came into being at the end of the nineteenth century lead by an eccentric medium named Elena Petrovna Gan better known as ‘Madame Blavatsky’. They were akin to what we would recognise today as new age enthusiasts; they believed in a wide variety of psychic and paranormal phenomena and were very interested in reinterpreting the ‘ancient wisdom’ of religious traditions particularly ‘exotic’ traditions such as those found in East Asia and India. Reading any Theosophist work is a fascinating and extremely frustrating experience. In that if you have any familarity with the subject they are discussing you are immediately aware that they are, by and large, talking rubbish but at the same time their deep fascination with all manner of quirky subjects together with their old fashioned style of writing makes their works strangely appealing.