Ever get the feeling that we live in peculiar times? Well, it seems that last year was the weirdest on record. This is according to Fortean Times, the magazine which tracks all sorts of strange phenomena-from mass hallucinations to inexplicably exploding pigs. The carefully calibrated FT Weirdness Index, published last month, shows that 1998 was 4.1 per cent weirder than 1997. Weeping statues and miracles were up, although spontaneous human combustion was down, while sightings of mystery big cats were stable.
But this is only reported weirdness which, as all stats-watchers know, is not necessarily the same as actual weirdness. And it does seem we are becoming increasingly gullible as a nation. A new Mori poll shows that we trust 11 out of 13 professions more to tell the truth now than we did 16 years ago. The only two groups we are increasingly suspicious of are journalists and the clergy. The survey did not ask about investigators of the paranormal.
The most trusted professionals are doctors-91 per cent generally trust them to tell the truth (up by 9 per cent on 1983). Is this na?ve or what? A survey of consultant ophthalmologists, just reported in the British Medical Journal, asked what they would do if they made a particular mistake during eye surgery. Only one in three said they would tell a patient about the mistake and its possible adverse effects on the patient’s eyesight.
Do you think about what happens to your rubbish? According to the charity Waste Watch, 36 per cent of people do (incidentally, 84 per cent of rubbish goes to landfill). But Liverpudlians are more likely to think about what doesn’t happen to their rubbish. On average dustmen leave behind 53 out of every 100,000 rubbish bags, but in Liverpool they “miss” 6,244. Perhaps the city’s binmen are victims of blundering eye surgeons who haven’t owned up.
Compiled by Martin Rosenbaum m.rosenbaum@MRC1.poptel.org.uk