Purpose – This paper seeks to consider certain characteristics of the human mortality table, and the possibility that mortality rates are governed by an underlying natural law. Design/methodology/approach – After providing a brief overview of the mathematics of the mortality table, explores the reasonableness of using a simple analytic function to model the mortality hazard rate. Findings – By comparing the perceived accuracy of Makeham's Law in actuarial science with that of the Titius-Bode Law in astronomy, it is seen that simple mathematical rules are not always as useful as they may appear initially. Originality/value – The editorial identifies a problem common to all branches of the natural and social sciences: the possibility of “discovering” formal mathematical relationships where none in fact exists.
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