Correlating death and research spending (sort of)
Spurious Correlations is the virtual embodiment of a useful rhetorical cudgel: correlation does not equal causation. Sift through its data sets, and you’ll find all sorts of statistics that can be mapped onto each other — margarine consumption and the divorce rate, crude oil imports and number of train collision deaths, bee colony growth and the marriage rate. If you ever need to demonstrate that two things can appear connected purely by chance or some entirely separate factor, this is your site. If you need “news of the weird” fodder and are willing to play fast and loose with the facts, the charts are still technically accurate.
The clever thing about Spurious Correlations is that it’s fairly transparent about how it generates relationships. When you “discover a new correlation,” you select a variable from a list of categories (“interesting causes of death,” “sunlight by state,” and so on), then let the site show you a long list of other data sets that follow roughly the same curve. The resulting charts can be marked as “interesting” or “not interesting,” the surefire recipe for success being an obscure and mildly interesting social factoid combined with a grisly death statistic.
Click here to read more from this May 11, 2014 article in The Verge by Adi Robertson.