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Facebook uses Princeton students' own methodology to predict demise of university and humanity.Reuters

Princeton University will have no students by 2021 and humanity will perish due to a lack of air by 2060 - according to a Facebook report using the same research methods Princeton students used to claim the social network's demise was imminent.

The New Jersey university caused a stir earlier this week when an 11-page report written by two of its PhD students claimed Facebook would act like a "cured disease" and lose 80% of its billion-plus members by 2017.

Authors John Cannarella and Joshua A. Spechler of Princeton's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering had made their predictions based on analysis of Google Trends and search query data which was then extrapolated to show Facebook's certain death.

But Facebook remained unconvinced, and one of its data scientists, Mike Develin, used Princeton's own research methods to predict its inevitable demise.

Correlation equals causation

Develin said: "In keeping with the scientific principle 'correlation equals causation,' our research unequivocally demonstrated that Princeton may be in danger of disappearing entirely."

Looking at Facebook page Likes for Princeton in comparison to Harvard and Yale, Develin finds what he calls an "alarming trend," as Princeton's Likes are considerably lower than its rivals.

Worse still, a search of Google Scholar reveals a dramatic and sustained fall of published articles from pPrinceton between 2000 and now; extrapolated to the year 2020, the number of Princeton articles published annually on Google Scholar falls to zero.

Facebook Princeton data
Graph showing percentage of Princeton University publications on Google Scholar by year.Facebook

Being a university, Develin suggests: "As long as it has students, it'll be fine. Unfortunately, in investigating this, we found a strong correlation between the undergraduate enrollment of an institution and its Google Trends index."

Develin added: "This trend suggests that Princeton will have only half its current enrollment by 2018, and by 2021 it will have no students at all...Based on our robust scientific analysis, future generations will only be able to imagine this now-rubble institution that once walked this earth."

Breathable air to disappear by 2060

But worrying about a single university is trivial when the fate of humanity itself is in doubt - as when the same methodology is applied to air a similarly alarming trend is found.

Google Trends for 'air' have been declining steadily over the past eight years, and Develin predicts "by the year 2060 there will be no air left."

Facebook Princeton data (air)
Using the Princeton students' methodology, Facebook finds air will no longer exist by 2060.Reuters

Facebook admits that its research has not been peer-reviewed, but suggests that readers clicking 'Like' will probably amount to the same thing - and more than 4,000 esteemed academic peers/Facebook users have already done so.

In conclusion, Facebook and Develin admit that, as data scientists, "we wanted to give a fun reminder that not all research is created equal - and some methods of analysis lead to pretty crazy conclusions."