Algorithm Reveals Link Between Sour Cream And Traffic Accidents

Visualizing the unexpected correlations that surround us

Data suggest: marriages in Alabama are causing deaths by electrocution, divorces in South Carolina are causing bees to produce more honey, and Nicolas Cage movies are saving thousands of lives each year.

Tyler Vigen created a program, appropriately titled Spurious Correlations, that finds correlations between random data sets and produces a chart every minute. Thus, the .95 correlation between mozzarella cheese consumption and civil engineering doctorates is finally uncovered. The sets appear to use easily available information, includings loads of statistics about deaths, which lends the correlations a hilariously dark humor.

Funny? Yeah. Clearly it’s a sendup of the sometimes dubious findings of certain studies. But, hey, good time for a reminder: we know “correlation is not causation” but don’t immediately dismiss every correlation as irrelevant. Otherwise how will we recognize and stop the swimming-pool-related deaths caused by The Wicker Man?


[Spurious Correlations via Flowing Data]