SCIENCE: Is the world getting weirder?

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The Independent Online
The FT Index rose by 2.9 per cent last year. This may not be good news for investors, for this FT Index is not the usual economic indicator, but the "weirdness index" calculated by the Fortean Times, the journal of strange and inexplicable phenomena. For the past few years, it has published an index based on the number of weird stories spotted by their readers in the pages of the world's press. And the figures show that 1996 was 2.9 per cent up on 1995.

The magazine's publishers add the reassuring information that the figures reflect an interest in weirdness rather than weirdness itself. Indeed, were it not for the attacks on farm animals by the Puerto Rican goatsucker and the discovery of possible life on Mars, the index would scarcely be higher than in the previous year. With spontaneous human combustion going through a relatively damp patch and swarmings considerably down, the evidence of a general upward trend in weirdness is weak.