science Tuesday, January 5, 2010. Post by David Bradley
Ancient “Woolworths” sites follow a precise geometrical pattern, according to Matt Parker of the School of Mathematical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London, who analyzed the locations of the 800 UK Woolworths stores and ignored the vast majority to allow the patterns to emerge. He explains that the study is based on the work of Tom Brooks (a retired marketing executive of Honiton, Devon) who found similar patterns in prehistoric monuments across the UK.
Brooks looked at 1500 sites and found that some of them follow geometric patterns and he concluded that they must have been part of a sophisticated navigational system. This was reported in the UK national press on 5 January 2010, with the [renowned scientific journal] the Daily Mail reporting that the patterns were so ‘sophisticated and accurate’ that Brooks ‘does not rule out extraterrestrial help.’
Parker applied the same technique to another ancient and mysterious civilization: that of the Woolworths hunter-gatherer tribe.
“We know so little about the ancient Woolworth stores, but we do still know their locations,” explains Parker, “so I thought that if we analyzed the sites we could learn more about what life was like in 2008 and how these people went about buying cheap kitchen accessories and discount CDs.”
The results revealed an exact and precise geometric placement of the Woolworths locations. Three stores around Birmingham formed an exact equilateral triangle (Wolverhampton, Lichfield and Birmingham stores) and if the base of the triangle is extended, it forms a 173.8 mile line linking the Conwy and Luton stores. Despite the 173.8 mile distance involved, the Conway Woolworths store is only 40 feet off the exact line and the Luton site is within 30 feet. All four stores align with an accuracy of 0.05%.
The bisector of this same triangle then passes through the Monmouth, West Bromwich and Alfreton store locations with an accuracy of 0.5%. There are also grids of isosceles triangles – those with two sides of equal length – on each side of the Birmingham Woolworths Triangle. One such isosceles triangle made with Stafford only has an error of 3% and it points directly at the Northwich Woolworths store that is itself only 0.6% off being exactly isosceles.
Parker concludes that “these incredibly precise geometric patterns mean that the people who founded the Woolworths Empire must have used these store locations as a form of ‘landmark satnav’ to help hunters find their nearest source of cheap sweets that can be purchased in whatever mix they chose to pick. Well, that or the fact that in any sufficiently large set of random data it is possible to find meaningless patterns of any required accuracy.”
Parker’s patterns were found among the 800 random ex-Woolworth locations by simply skipping over the vast majority of the sites and only choosing the few that happen to line-up. Parker confesses an envy of Brooks who with 1500 locations, had almost twice as much data from which to pull meaningless patterns. In the Daily Mail write-up, Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology, essentially concurs with Parker’s conclusion: “The landscape of southern Britain was intensively settled and there are many earth works and archaeological finds. It is very easy to find patterns in the landscape, but it doesn’t mean that they are real.”
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