The meaning of life? (Not quite but this formula will tell you much of it you have left*)
That’s how the Guardian today publicised its article on life expectancy. It then attempted to ‘explain’ the formula with a tiny note saying *Details overleaf. These ‘details’ were:
- The force of mortality at age is defined as: , with parameters and fitted by maximum likelihood. For example, where . The the equation above shows the probability that someone aged will die within one year. Still puzzled? See page 8.
On page 8 is the article So, how long have we got? which sheds no light on the formula; it doesn’t even mention it.
So why was this formula there? To make the journalist or the paper look clever? Who knows. But it certainly is completely useless even to mathematicians. The example just makes the whole thing even more obscure. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more mathematically trained journalists who wouldn’t just show off but instead make things clearer?