A new baldness calculator, touted as being very accurate in an article at a British newspaper's web site that just lost even more of my respect, is little more than an advertisement cloaked in a quiz framed under the guise of science.
It preys, of course, on the nearly universal fear among men that they'll go bald, a fear I've never understood. Interestingly, scientists speculate that since so many men go bald, it must've had some evolutionary advantage, such as acting as a sign of physical and social maturity, thereby increasing status.
The web-based program — designed mysteriously for UK men only — asks you 12 questions, including your age, what state your hair is in now, whether you wear a hat frequently, and how often you are stressed out, and where in the UK you come from. Apparently those in London have different odds for baldness than, say, someone from London who now lives in Wales. Yeah, right.
The calculator is, as you'd expect, provided by a company with an ulterior motive: It makes shampoos.
Anyway, the claim: "Based on genetic information, the male baldness calculator can produce reliable results," the web site states. But: "While the result is scientifically substantiated, it can not replace a physician's diagnosis. If you wish to obtain more information later on, ask your hair stylist or pharmacist."
I'll save you even going there. At the end, you get an answer.
Mine was: "Congratulations! The male baldness calculator determined that you will likely not go bald even in old age." Of course, I said I was from London, though truth be told I'm from Phoenix, and before that Philadelphia, and before that New Jersey, and then there was California, with a brief stint in Sweden. Sheehs, for all I know I'll be bald in a year.
Oh, yeah, you also get a recommendation — you guessed it — some shampoo made by the company that runs the web site.
I'm loathe to even pass on the link, but here you go. Even though that may increase your odds of going bald, please don your skeptics cap.
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In The Water Cooler, Imaginova's Editorial Director Robert Roy Britt looks at what people are talking about in the world of science and beyond. Find more in the archives and on Twitter.