web analytics

Repeat after me, “correlation…”

This goofy looking sod is Tyler Vigan and he’s studying for his doctorate at Harvard. But that doesn’t matter right now. He also runs a site called Spurious Correlations.

He’s written a little algorithm that compares shit tons of data sets and finds correlations. Really stupid pointless ones, for the most part (if his algorithm has found any likely meaningful ones, he doesn’t say). Like, there’s a 0.992558 correlation between the divorce rate in Maine and the US per capita consumption of margarine.

That’s lots of fun, and I invite you to browse his charts. Could come in handy next time you get into an argument with a green. But his bigger point is that computers are terrific at sifting and finding correlations, but they’re absolutely crap at weeding the meaningful ones from the silly ones. “Meaning” isn’t an easily quantifiable characteristic.

If I asked you to tell me the current population of Uruguay, I assume you don’t know. Thing is, if you don’t know, somehow you knew instantly that you don’t know. Many years ago, I read that this is something they haven’t worked out how to do build into computers: how to recognize instantly when they don’t have data, without sifting through all the data they DO have. I’ve been puzzling ever that ever since. Somehow, I think those problems are related.

p.s. Did you have any idea that seven hundred people died in 2009 by becoming entangled in their bedsheets?


Comment from dissent555
Time: May 27, 2014, 10:44 pm

Yes, I’ve seen this. Fun to browse the lists of correlations.

Oh, and apparently bedsheets are much more hazardous that cute fuzzy lambs.

Comment from LesterIII
Time: May 27, 2014, 11:11 pm

Have referred argumentative idiots and many patchouli saturated “debate artists” to this site when pointing out that correlation does not prove causality. It usually reins in the ones that are worth having a civil discussion with, and pisses off the type that I REALLY enjoy pissing off.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: May 27, 2014, 11:47 pm

‘The two curves go together….GLOBAL WARMING!!11!!!eleventy!!’

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: May 28, 2014, 1:23 am

p.s. Did you have any idea that seven hundred people died in 2009 by becoming entangled in their bedsheets?

says the world population at midyear 2009 was a laughably precise 6,834,721,933. This means that 6,834,721,233 people did not die by becoming entangled in their bedsheets. They either died of something else or didn’t give anyone the satisfaction by dying at all.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: May 28, 2014, 1:29 am

Oops. Should’ve been US numbers. So, about 299,999,300 Americans didn’t die by becoming entangled in their bedclothes. Spoilsports.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: May 28, 2014, 1:38 am

I didn’t die last year, or any year before that. So when I finally die it will be unprecedented!

Comment from Vincent
Time: May 28, 2014, 3:47 am

Hey Weez! Massimo Vignelli just kicked the bucket! Did I win the Dead Pool?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: May 28, 2014, 7:38 am

Oh, dear. I’m’onna say no, Vincent. I had no idea who Massimo Vignelli was without the Wikipedia assist, and I’m a trained professional artard.

I’m going to need famouser than that.

Comment from Mike C.
Time: May 28, 2014, 7:41 am

I was looking at some time-depth curves yesterday, and how well a derived 3rd order polynomial curve fit them (simple automated exercise you can do in Excel.) One of them had an R squared 0f 1.0. And people are telling me this is actual, measured data from a deviated oil well. Seriously? I can see we’re going to go round and round on this one…

Comment from As If I Cared
Time: May 28, 2014, 8:17 am

True statistical fact: 100% of all people alive have never been as old as they are right now.

No, right now?

Yeah, right now!

Comment from Some Pastafarian
Time: May 28, 2014, 1:27 pm

My personal favorite comes from the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster, Praise Be To His Noodly Goodness.

There is a lovely inverse correlation between the number of pirates, and the global temperature. Note that that temperatures rose as the number of pirates in the world fell. Ah, you say, cute but recall that in recent years pirates have had a resurgence in Africa capturing ships for ransom. Interestingly enough(but not surprisingly to true believers) the correlation still holds. As pirates began to reappear in the seas, the earth’s temperature has begun to fall.

Comment from Brother Cavil
Time: May 28, 2014, 1:47 pm

OK, check to see if someone had Maya Angelou then. I’m sure someone did. It’s that kind of party.

Comment from mojo
Time: May 28, 2014, 3:35 pm

Maya Angelou has left the universe. Winner?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: May 28, 2014, 7:16 pm

Nope. Nobody had her this round.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: May 28, 2014, 7:39 pm

Well, even if nobody won, I’m still going to celebrate that terrific example of affirmative action going to a wet & sodomy-filled grave.

She was like the Double-E Cummings of shitty poetry, except he already won that, so she’s an also-ran. She could write her way out of a wet paper bag, if the bag had already been torn open by the rampaging dick of a fat, rich, white guy with two middle names from Arkansas. She had a certain je ne sais quoi, which is because I don’t like typing the words “dumb”, “illiterate”, “trite”, “fucking”, “horrible”, & “dreck” over and over.

Thus endeth the gratuitous abuse of the recently dead. Amen.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: May 28, 2014, 8:13 pm

To be fair to Dick, before anyone leaps to any conclusions ands accusingly shouts “Hyperboyle, Buddy!”, here, from 2003 is a section of her poem,

“I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”

“The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing”
Breeze, Trees
Lawn, Own
Tied, Sings

In case you are wondering, the 2003 poem is a rehash of the book of the same name which she wrote in 1969.

The book begins when three-year-old Maya and her older brother are sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their grandmother and ends when Maya becomes a mother at the age of 16. In the course of Caged Bird, Maya transforms from a victim of racism with an inferiority complex into a self-possessed, dignified young woman capable of responding to prejudice.

She also writes in new ways about women’s lives in a male-dominated society. Maya, the younger version of Angelou and the book’s central character, has been called “a symbolic character for every black girl growing up in America”. Angelou’s description of being raped as an eight-year-old child overwhelms the book, although it is presented briefly in the text. Rape is used as a metaphor for the suffering of her race. Another metaphor, that of a bird struggling to escape its cage, is a central image throughout the work, which consists of “a sequence of lessons about resisting racist oppression”.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: May 28, 2014, 8:35 pm

Hey, she was poet laureate under a rapist, so there’s that.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: May 28, 2014, 8:57 pm

Finally, today, at last, there’s something to thank Maya Angelou for. Her way-too-late demise pushed Elliot R. off of Drudge, and not just his creepy photo but all links are absent. Praise Grid!

Comment from Mojo
Time: May 28, 2014, 11:51 pm

Open the cage, let the noisy critter fly away. Oh, wait, not artsy enough…

Comment from Steve Skubinna
Time: May 31, 2014, 2:48 am

700 dead from becoming entangled in bedsheets. That’s nearly twice the number who are killed in the US with rifles every year.

What does Bloomberg have to say about that? I suppose he’s in the pocket of Big Sheet.

Comment from musical mountaineer
Time: June 3, 2014, 6:08 pm

They say that “data” is not the plural of “anecdote”, but I’ll tell you…just the other day I was consuming a bedsheet, and I got tangled up in my cheese. I didn’t get alarmed at the time, just patiently worked my way out, but in retrospect it was potentially dangerous.

I vote for more study of the connection.

Write a comment

(as if I cared)

(yeah. I'm going to write)

(oooo! you have a website?)

Beware: more than one link in a comment is apt to earn you a trip to the spam filter, where you will remain -- cold, frightened and alone -- until I remember to clean the trap. But, hey, without Akismet, we'd be up to our asses in...well, ass porn, mostly.

<< carry me back to ol' virginny