Parachutes Don’t Do Squat, According to Highly-Flawed Study

December 21st, 2018

by Marco G.

Parachutes are kind of useless, according to one study whose whole utility has been put into question.

A new study in the British Medical Journal should serve as an example for journalists who rush to report the most sensationalist of scientific papers without doing their due diligence.

The Premise

The paper, titled ‘’Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: randomized controlled trial’’, claims that the respective safety devices don’t have that much of an impact on the likelihood of death or suffering major injury after jumping from an aircraft.

The Data

They compared two groups – one that jumped with safety devices attached like normal people, and one that jumped with empty backpacks. Also, they had a smaller control group than expected – 92 people in total, with 69 excluded and 23 randomized.

Their conclusion?

Skydivers don’t need parachutes. Or so you would believe, until you find out that all participants jumped from a stationary, grounded plane, from an altitude of 0.6 meters. To give credit where credit is due, this paper has all the makings of a marketable, click worthy study. You can see the Today Show jumping on this like rabid dogs.

The Motivation

Studies don’t just happen without a reason. There’s a whole industry dominated by politics. Scientific politics, that is. Thing is, in order to receive a grant to conduct a real study, you need funds. However, you can obtain funds by publishing papers. The more of a wow factor you give to your study, the more free publicity you get, the higher the chances of obtaining a grant to study something actually useful.

However, things are more complicated than this. Sometimes, lucky scientists stumble upon findings while researching data for entirely different things. These random findings usually give birth to sensational news like the one we’re reporting today.

Other times they just have the result in mind and manipulate the data to prove a point. This is the bad part of science, but it does exist and, unfortunately, it happens more often than naught.

After all this, one would wonder: how did this study happened? What’s the purpose behind it? Who funded this? Was this study financed by anti-parachute lobbyists?

All jokes and snarkiness aside, we shouldn’t rush to blame the scientists for their faulty methodology. This study is actually symptomatic of a modern climate that finds easy, poppy, trivia-like science facts appealing.
And in order to survive, scientists were forced to adapt to this reality in order to ensure funding for their more serious projects. That’s why for every groundbreaking study that makes a real contribution to the field of science, there are ten praising the incredible benefits of kiwis or something along those lines.

But don’t believe us, here’s John Oliver talking about this subject at length. So next time you see a clickbaity study, please, please don’t take it for granted just from the title and read the actual paper.

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