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Correlation vs. Coincidence vs. Fun!

Many people have helped me on this website by alerting me to interesting things--websites, books, resources, and even events. M.J. (a teaching colleague plus!) is to be thanked for sending me info on this week's website, which by serendipity, was featured on The Rachel Madow Show the next day....Thanks to both sources!

The website involved is the blog Spurious Correlations, provided by Tyler Vigen, a Harvard law student. The underlying point is that we cannot trust visual correlations, that actually are coincidences...something every teacher of statistics has tried to drum into their students' intuitions!

Vigen puts up new "spurious Coorelations" daily...via a video at the bottom of the page, you can hear Vigen's description of his process, etc.

But beware and don't jump to fast...maybe some of these visual correlations actually are correlations. One example concerns the graph showing the number of people who drowned by falling into a swimming-pool compared against the number of films Nicolas Cage appeared in!

Or, the graph relating per capita U.S. consumption of chicken compared to total U.S. crude oil imports...especially if the chicken is fried in oil!

Visit the page regularly...as it will provide some humorous motivation for discussions...and wondering: Are these things actually correlated?

NOTE: The graph above is actually not from Vigen's website, but from Mark Lee's post on the website OverthinkingIt.com. The post was made on September 23, 2008...long before Vigen sarted his blog.