Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why Doomsday Forecasting And Bad News Sells: Learning From the Black Hole Machine Experience

``You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." -- Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) former First Lady of the US

Bad news does sell! It had been a fortuitous event to have seen it happen first hand. And it was not just bad news, but a sci-fi version horror story as well.

It was not to my expectation that such an article would command tremendous response when I posted at my blog in the late afternoon of September 9th, about the next day launching of the world’s largest ever scientific experiment called the Large Hardon Collider (LHC).

“Doomsday” was the battlecry of some the critics, see Will Tomorrow Be Doomsday? “Black Hole” Machine Switches On., who vehemently argued that any glitch encountered from such experiment could lead to an insurmountable growth of man made “black hole” that would eventually “consume” the world; our real time Armageddon.

And I thought of sarcastically relating such theme to the financial world: Financial pundits promoting for a global meltdown/depression could have perhaps wrongly premised their theme-instead of selling for financial or economic reasons, selling should have been recommended as the best approach to monetize on everything we own to enjoy the last moments of our lives (that is if there would be any buyers at all).

Figure 1: BAD News/Horror Story Causes Readership Spike!

When I checked on my blog counter ( on September 10th, I was stunned by the number of hits (which had spiked by fourfold) registered mostly from the said article as shown in Figure 1.

It was enough proof that many people can be easily swayed by horror stories!

Why People Love Horror Stories or Bad News

Some scientific research shows that the attachment/addiction to horror movies are partially due biological reasons such as “anxiety disorders” which carries either a genetic component or influenced by the environment where the trauma from horror movies results to the “release of opiate enorphins” or the revving up “the body's sympathetic nervous system” (

Others say that scary movies could represent our legacy of “tribal rite of passage.” Dr. Glenn Sparks of Perdue University quoted by ``There's a motivation males have in our culture to master threatening situations," Sparks says. "It goes back to the initiation rites of our tribal ancestors, where the entrance to manhood was associated with hardship. We've lost that in modern society, and we may have found ways to replace it in our entertainment preferences". In other words, enduring hardships (from horror movies) implicitly signifies as kind of psychological “ego” booster.

For others, it’s all about our alternative emotional safety valve outlet or other means to ease our aggressive impulses. From MSN’s celebrated financial pundit Jim Jubak,

``Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Bruno Bettelheim all theorized that we read fairy tales about evil stepmothers, parental abandonment in dark woods and child-eating witches to help us express and then cope with our darkest fears.

``The psychological value of these tales, in this theory, lies in the formulaic, repeated return to archetypical fears in what the reader knows -- even a reader as young as my 6-year-old daughter -- is a fiction. It also helps that, unlike real-life horrors, these tales usually have happy endings.”

Or similarly, why does bad news sells?

It can be little bit of Schandefreude (finding delight on other’s misery) or the release or ease of one’s stress by knowing of the suffering of others or social sympathy (misery loves company?) or occasionally “bad news is better than no news” (

Overall, bad news or horror stories easily connect to the base human emotions of fear or anxiety or insecurity. These psychological aspects represents as an easy way to sell information (or even TV programs -e.g. reality TV as Fear factor!).

What lessons can be learned?

Incidentally, my blog (inspired from kiddy blogs then) had been originally setup for archiving purposes (where I can retrieve or search back issues faster) and secondarily, for public consumption. Although I’ve got a relatively small readership base, I hardly thought of it as a business model until the ad sponsorships came (yes, now I am also open to write for company blogs who are in need of outsource writers). Furthermore, I am delighted to see a small but increasing trend of readerships.

Nonetheless, since we knew that bad news sells all along, and if I were to simply aim for more readership in order to expand on my business model, then I would have concentrated on drilling on the bad news theme. But again, since my primary goal is to be profitable in financial market space, I would commit to assiduously to work on to be as objective as possible.

Famed self improvement author Dale Carnegie once said, ``When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion." (highlight mine)

Emotions such as fear, insecurity and anxiety can be used as Core Buying Emotions (CBE) or from a marketing perspective, a purchase trigger mechanism that could move people into action.

For some, doomsday forecasting can be an attractive CBE platform to promote one’s business. Whether or not such theme could be real world applicable isn’t perhaps the main concern by such promoters, but the business or popularity that could be generated from adhering philosophically to such dire scenarios.

The Black Hole Machine Encounter and Possible Investment Themes

As for the LHC or the “black hole machine”, we are not science experts to agree to disagree with the argument of the risks of its operation. One thing we know is that if the dissenters are right there won’t be anyone left to argue against it since we’d all be gone.

However from the benefit side, the Large Hadron Collider is suppose to uncover the underlying structure of the universe; the Higgs boson “elementary particles cause matter to have mass”, validity of the Grand Unification Theory (are electromagnetism, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force a single manifestation?), existence of the superstring theory (quantum gravity) and dark matter and dark energy [Yes I am glad to learn that if scientific observation is accurate, the latter two forces dominate the Universe, from the BBC, ``The latest astronomical observations suggest ordinary matter - such as the galaxies, gas, stars and planets - makes up just 4% of the Universe. The rest is dark matter (23%) and dark energy (73%)].

Not only that, the LHC project will allow us to “accelerate computing cycles” ( for “safely storing and then processing huge amounts of data” (guardian) which should revolutionize the way we utilize the internet and vastly enhance the research capabilities in the world of science.

In short, from an investment perspective, the LHC could be the nexus or the springboard for the next generation technology BOOM and a great enhancer of the lives of our children and hopefully including us, if scientific discoveries arrive on time and at affordable costs.

1 comment:

admin said...

What a useful post here. Very informative for me..TQ friends...
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