Fuzzy Math

In 1975, Mika Vartonnen, a PhD student in Medicine, had an idea for a research project, which, little did he know then, could improve the quality of life of ALS / MND patients.

Mika Vartonnen, 1971

Vartonnen wrote to medical faculties worldwide, outlining his ambitious project, namely to determine if musical preferences between the ages of 14 and 21, would result in different health outcomes. The research team met at Helsinki University for a month long conference in July 1976, and data collection started in January 1977.

Delegates at first conference, 1976

5,000 people were chosen per country, and were given a $25, inflation adjusted record token, or equivalent local currency amount, allowing for different purchasing power. They had to record their music preferences, by noting down what they bought, where they went clubbing, preferred clothing and radio station. At the same time, they should record any illnesses, use of legal and illegal substances, family bereavements and changes in their personal circumstances. They met in Vartonnen’s lakeside home in 1987, 1997, 2007 and, as an exception, in July 2018. The populations were divided into statistical cohorts, based on the music they liked between the ages of 14 and 21. The following categories were identified:

New Romantic
New Wave
Two tone
Heavy Metal, Really heavy metal, like Slayer and Slipknot
Dub step
Acid House

The cost of these gatherings, always held in Helsinki, had reached €3.2 million by 2018. It was funded by Vartonnen’s uncle, Esa, who had always worshipped his baby nephew, Mika.

Professor Vartonnen’s home

The research led to very few discoveries and most medical professionals saw Vartonnen as a freeloading fake. The key findings of the research are as follows:

– It disproved the Cause of als revealed, which stated that MND was caused by exposure to Heavy Metal music. MND was equally observed across the music types.
– Listening to the New Romantics causes brain tumours in the Balkan countries, New Zealand and Ethiopia.
– Ska and Two Tone cause liver disease in the Magreb countries and South Sudan.
– Punk causes deafness west of the Rockies and in Paraguay.
– Dub Step and Rap cause kidney disease in Japan, China and Sweden.
– Based on the 40 people over the period, who had MND, 5 experienced the neck muscles as the last major muscle group to fail, and all 5 had Motorhead, AC / DC and Black Sabbath in their music collection. Interviewed by Medical Online Daily, Professor Mika Vartonnen said ‘there is a clear inverse correlation between the amount and vigour of headbanging and the rate of neck muscle wastage in MND patients. There is some proof that pre-onset muscle mass is indicative of MND survival, look at Andrew Knowlman, Sample UK324, as an example. Mr Knowlman displayed less than cohort average leg and arm muscle mass, yet his neck muscles were those of an giraffe and were still working 2 years after the legs and arms failed, albeit with much less function than pre-MND, in July 2018. Many people lose the ability to move their head within the first year. The conclusion is to like heavy metal and to headbang’.

‘I definitely put Mr Knowlman’s neck muscle survival to headbanging at Poppy Disco, York pubs, 18ths and the Guild at Aston University. We’ve looked at New Romantics and Mods with MND, and they were wearing neck braces three months after diagnosis’, continued Professor Vartonnen.


Summer 2017 was when I stopped swallowing, I had it in my head that the neck muscles would not fail. ‘Daddy, would you like me to lift your head up?’, Sebastian and Valentina asked me on different times. Jane, too, of course. Can you imagine how it feels to have your son, daughter ask this and then lift your head, for them and me?, An eye blink means yes, and they lift my head up, like it’s normal. Yet one more deterioration to cope with. Sometimes, I can control my neck more than others. Carers and nurses have to learn about the latest version of Andrew. Again, I see the vastly different levels of common sense and willingness to learn. More patience, skills and concentration needed by everyone. Summer 2018 was my summer of the neck. It’s tough, can be painful and the neck brace is yet one more piece of equipment.

Local NHS Trust agrees to fund 12 hours daily one to one care for me. Thank you. My overheating appears to be a problem of the past. Good.
Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley closed forever in July, and we are grateful for giving us all some great times. Move on. Through friendships, mastery of the appeals process, Jane’s determination, Caron and Gerwyn and a couple of letters by me, Valentina and Sebastian started new schools this week , Hemel Hempstead School and Townsend Church of England School . Jane fixed our school of choice for Sebastian in 24 hours. Proud of you both. As the Spanish say, ‘ya tienes el no’. Too right. School closure is already affecting the community, but we move on.

Pretty gutsy for Jane to drive 2,000 miles, with two angelic children, on the other side of the road, in the US. The de Ropp and Dexter families are forever in our hearts, for enabling a great summer vacation. Warm and welcoming hospitality.

We also had the Valentina’s Parisian host family here, and it was good to meet them. Great also to catch up on news from Singapore and Brisbane, with Alex, Damien, Oscar and Gracie here.

Speaking with Medical Online Daily two weeks ago, Director General of the United Nations World Health Organisation, Ethiopian Tedros Adnahom, said ‘People such as Professor Vartonnen are a danger to the public. They spread fear, based on poor research methodology. I spoke to the Chancellor of Helsinki University, and he agreed to commence the process of terminating his professorship. How can anyone seriously believe that music, fashion and lifestyle choices in teenage years cause serious illness’?


Following up on a Agence France Presse newswire yesterday that Mr Adnahom has a brain tumour, Professor Mika Vartonnen shared the following details of the Director General’s teenage years:

– He attended Human League, Spandau Ballet and Boy George concerts in Addis Ababa and travelled by bus to Khartoum to see Nik Kershaw’s only African date.
– He queued overnight to buy Limahl’s first twelve inch single, coloured pink.
– He was expelled from the prestigious Addis Ababa Boys Academy for wearing mascara, lipstick and a dress’.

‘I rest my case’, said Professor Vartonnen. The Director General was one of three people in the study with Ethiopia as country of residence.

‘He might be wanting to rest his case’, said Professor Gerwyn Williams, Emeritus Visiting Professor of Statistics at The Department of Applied Statistics at Yale, Chairman of the Welsh Board of Mathematical Excellence and Head of Mathematics at the University of Abergavenny, ‘but his work is highly unsound. He provides no proof that liking these music styles actually causes the diseases. He has inconsistent samples by country, and he doesn’t allow for people’s changing tastes. Laughable at best, and dangerous at worst’.

Author: Andrew Knowlman

I am a 50-year old father of two children, married to Jane. I live in Hertfordshire, UK. I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in April 2015.

3 thoughts on “Fuzzy Math”

  1. Very amusing post, Andrew. Finlanders are rare and surprising people. 3.7 million of them took on approximately 170 million Soviets in 1939 and the country retained its independence – though losing Karelia to the Soviet Union.
    I wonder what Professor Vartonnen would have made of an old hippy like me, born in 1947 in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Sheffield. Beatles, Dylan, Incredible String Band, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, English and Irish folk music. Then I discovered classical music. Now I listen to everything (even Country and Western)
    I find it very moving the courageous way you live your life with MND. I guess it must be very difficult not to fall into despair sometimes, and very difficult when there is a step change in your condition.
    And it is also very moving to read about your wife and children standing by you through the days and changes.

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