Category Archives: lies damned lies and statistics

Angels make the universe turn

Praying to Change the Past

In 2001, Leibovici published the results of a rather phenomenal experiment.

Medical files of over 3000 patients were split into two piles; one was left alone, and the other received a small prayer. The result: Patients who had been prayed for spent (statistically significant!) less time in the hospital, as well as having less fever and a lower mortality rate. Oh, and did I mention that the medical files were from patients who had left the hospital more than 4 years before the study was performed?

How is this possible? Well, God is not “… limited by linear time, as we are”. The amazingly titled: Effects of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients with bloodstream infection: randomised controlled trial explains it all!

Damn you, Ava!

Say it with me kids: correlation does not imply causation. Now repeat that 10 times.

I’ll wait.

And if you still haven’t got the message, maybe you can ask Ava to repeat it for you. If she isn’t too busy causing housing bubbles, that is. Oh you hadn’t heard about that?

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For more magnificent correlations (which do not imply causation! Although you never know! And at the very least it causes suspicion!), check out this collection of graphs in businessweek.

Hat tip: Marina Fridman

Effects of Sexual Activity on Beard Growth (and Critical Thinking)

Scientists are critical, dedicated, and passionate about their work. The author of “Effects of Sexual Activity on Beard Growth in Man” was definitely two of these.

In 1970 a scientist (who chose to publish his findings anonymously) observed that after spending multiple days working in isolation, his beard growth accelerated in the days before returning back to civilization. The reason seemed obvious: in anticipation of resuming sexual activity, his beard was growing faster.

Not content with a single observation, Anon decided to pursue these findings. For a period of 10 weeks, he limited his ‘sexual relations’ to weekends only. Lo and behold: his beard growth on Friday was through the roof!

During this period, Anon was also careful to record his levels of tension, anxiety, nervousness, mental fatigue, alcohol consumption and libido. Interestingly, each of these factors was correlated with an increase in beard growth. Except for libido. Nevertheless, our anonymous author concludes that the most plausible explanation was that his beard was growing faster in anticipation of the oncoming weekend’s promiscuous activities.

We cannot question the dedication and passion Anon showed in his work. Clearly we need to dedicate more time to investigating the nature of autonomous beard lust.

(Pro-tip: For those of you who do not have access to Nature publications from 1970: The first page of the article is available for free via Nature’s “Readcube”, and the second page only has a 5 line conclusion and references. You can read almost the entire article and figures for free!)