Eu-clidding us? Mathematical BS from BJ

Screenshot 2020-05-12 at 07.11.51

Boris Johnson is a classicist, but he’s not a mathematician. When Boris’ spin doctors decided to formulate the Covid-19 risk rate – this is what they came up with.

To the delight of genuine mathematicians who were able to display their posting skills to make this grandiose claim all the more ridiculous.

You don’t have to be a genius to work out where this formula goes wrong

Once again Boris Johnson had brought Britain together in gleeful mirth

and even the curmudgeons had to admit

Credit where it’s due, it’s in keeping with the overall themes of opacity, imprecision and general confoundedness displayed by Johnson since the glory days of Brexit.

“Euclidding us?”

Euclid was a Greek scholar , alive in the third century BC and considered one of the founders of maths. Apart from having a punnable name, little is known about Euclid.

Because the lack of biographical information is unusual for the period (extensive biographies being available for most significant Greek mathematicians several centuries before and after Euclid), some researchers have proposed that Euclid was not a historical personage, and that his works were written by a team of mathematicians who took the name Euclid from Euclid of Megara (à la Bourbaki)

Although Euclid of Megara was opposed to arguments by analogy, I will make the analogy between this version of Euclid and our version of Boris Johnson. Boris Johnson is delivering stuff and nonsense with Churchillian grandeur as if he was Euclid. But unlike Churchill, who put forward content he’d thought through.  Boris Johnson  is spouting the nonsense of his researchers/advisers.

Eu’s Clidding who?- Euclid of Megara left and the Euclid of Alexandra right

Some may think that Boris Johnson is not a historical personage either, and that his work is done for him by Sage and those advising him in #10. Right now he’s sounding a lot more like the “imperfect Socratic” Euclid of Megara.



Is Boris fake news?

I’d like to think that the NHS, who’s logo gives spurious legitimacy to this ridiculous formula, will have given #10 the appropriate bollocking. In the meantime there are serious mathematicians who do want to know the link between the Covid Rating, R and the number of infections

This is very much the point, and Edward Russell drives it home

Boris is no Euclid – but he’s better than this.

As my Mum keeps telling me, “it’s no use having a go at our leader if it just makes people like me frightened”. She thought he was good on Sunday night and so did most of the media.

Boris Johnson is no chump but his advisers seem to want to make him look one.

What comes out of Boris Johnson’s mouth, or from his tweets, needs to inspire confidence and not be damned wrong.

We have a lot of people like Kat Arney, Mike Harrison and Edward Russell who can do the maths, and even mathematicians like me lie awake in the wee-small hours reading Covid-19 Actuary Response Group papers so we know.

Knowing is reassuring , science helps us know things and the abuse of science undermines out learnings , mocking the very science it seeks to promote.

The Government has committed to daily press conferences and a torrent of social media, but right now a little less might be more. Let’s have tweets that are right and helpful, inspiring us with confidence in the Government’s strategy and not delivering fake news


NHS – Proper measurement

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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