If you read up on interesting new studies and research, there are four very important words you've likely heard before — correlation is not causation. Just because two sets of data might correlate with one another doesn't mean there's any cause-and-effect relationship between the two, wonderfully demonstrated by Harvard Law student Tyler Vigen's awesome blog, Spurious Correlations.
The concept is pretty simple — find two things that correlate with one another, and present it as though it means something. The blog lists a bunch of extremely funny examples, for example: Did you know the number of people who drown by falling into swimming pools correlates with number of films Nicolas Cage has appeared in? Or that the rate of divorce in Maine correlates with national per capita margarine consumption? We certainly didn't!
It all serves as both a welcome dose of comedy, and a firm warning to all those prone to jumping to conclusions. Even better, it lets you "discover a new correlation" by selecting from a drop-down menu of different, curious variables to see what comes up. Here's a few we worked out...
Make no mistake, as goes the number of lawyers in the Northern Mariana islands, so goes precipitation in California. (If this is true, there aren't very many lawyers in the Northern Mariana islands rights now.)
The waning tide of high fructose corn syrup consumption over the last 14 years has been a happy sign for married couples of the Sunshine State, bringing along with it a reduction in their rate of divorce.
Here's an especially weird one, this time an inverse correlation — whenever we as Americans start eating more turkey per capita, the age of our Miss Americas goes down! Take it easy on the turkey, and the age goes back up. What on Earth could this mean!?
The answer, of course, is absolutely nothing. Hats off to Vigen — this might just be the cleverest, most fun you'll have with graphs in, well, ever.
Images: Spurious Correlations