Winners of the 1998 Purdue University Indianapolis

"Spurious Correlations Contest"



Designed by Engin A. Sungur


The winners of the Purdue University Indianapolis "Spurious Correlations Contest" are announced below. The contest was fiercely humorous with entries that spanned the globe. The contestants put on their conceptual Rube Goldberg caps and spinned some mighty tall tales to win the fabulous prize money (which will be delivered with post-haste).



The individual category winners are:


1. Amount of ice cream sold and deaths by drownings (Moore, 1993).


Dr. Paul Gardner

Monash University, Australia


Increases in nuclear power generator accidents (Chernobyl, Three Mile Island...) have resulted in greenhouse gas increases, ozone layer reduction, average world temperature rise and increases in the fraction of heavy water in rain. Concerns about nuclear catastrophe have resulted in increases in eating disorders, especially among those with a genetic predisposition to obesity. Heavy water in rain has resulted in an increase in the specific gravity of cream produced by cows, while theincreasing world temperature has resulted in an increasing attendance at beach resorts, coupled with increased consumption of ice cream. The increased weight of fat worried people whose centre of gravity has been lowered by a rising consumption of heavy ice cream has caused an increased number of deaths by drowning. For a detailed account of the research methods used to investigate this complex effect, see my forthcoming paper, "Path analysis methods in lacto-sociological research".



2. Ministers' salaries and the price of vodka.


Heli Olkkone

Land of the Midnight Sun


When ministers' salaries are low the price of vodka rises because when ministers' salaries are low they are so unmotivated and stressed from trying to make ends meet that they deliver terrible sermons one cannot simply listen to. So people stop going to church and stay at home instead and in their idle time start to feel guilty because they have chosen not to listen to god's message. To dull the guilty feelings people turn to alcohol, vodka being a premier choice because it is strong and relatively not too expensive. When vodka producers realize the increased demand for vodka, they in turn raise their vodka prices. All this because the ministers' salaries dropped!



3. Doctors in a region and number of people dying from disease


Ben Dunford

soon to be of Cornell University


The number of doctors in a region is correlated with the number of lawyers in a region because of all of the malpractice protection needed by doctors. The higher number of lawyers in a region leads to an increase in the number of frivolous lawsuits in that region. The quantity of frivolous lawsuits drives up insurance premiums in general. The high price of insurance premiums leads to a greater percentage of the region that cant afford adequate health care. The inability for a large percentage of the region to afford adequate health care results in a large number of people dying from disease.



4. Number of police officers and number of crimes


Eric Harrell

Purdue University Indianapolis


In efforts to clean up Indianapolis, the police chief hires some New York City police officers to join the force (the officers helped clean up NYC a few years ago). Unfortunately, there aren't nearly as many doughnut shops in Indy as there are in NYC and the police officers grow restless. The officers roam the streets and neighborhoods in search of doughnut shops. The few doughnut shops they find are in the suburbs and so the officers begin to spend most of their time patrolling these areas and less time in the downtown area (which has more crime anyway than the suburbs). The obvious absence of police presence downtown encourages several crime families to increase their "business" activity.



5. Number of storks sighted and population of Oldenburg Germany over a six year period were positively correlated (Glass and Hopkins, 1996).


Ron Malzer

from America Online (a country unto itself!)


Oldenburg Germany has the world's highest proportion of adults who read the works of Immanuel Kant, and each year its population is increased due to the immigration of Kantonians from other places. As Kant discussions increase, there is pressure on the cooks to prepare ever-increasing quantities of wurst. As quantities increase, quality decreases. Bad wurst in Germany has been known to lead to thought disorders. This in turn causes misinterpretations of Kant, which are known as Unkantverstehenlassenhummels. As these increase, so do visual impairments, as a result of having to read this word. Double vision is one result, thereby causing at least a doubling of stork sightings each year.



6. Teacher's salaries and the price of liquor (Moore and McCabe, 1993).


Katie Brandt

Purdue University Indianapolis


The government regulators know that if teachers made enough money, they would simply sedate their ADHD students (and students with behavior problems) with small but strong strains liquor (on a regular basis - mixed in with Kool-Aid or soda). To prevent the legal problems this would cause, the regulators are sure to keep the cost of liquor high enough so that teachers cannot afford to do this.


7. Number of fire trucks and amount of fire damage (Judd, Smith, and Kidder, 1991).


Katie Brandt

Purdue University Indianapolis


While this could be another case of intentionally starting fires in effort to attract the fire people, this seems highly unlikely. Firefighter salaries are modest. The only logical explanation is that the community just feels so darn safe knowing that there are more fire trucks around, that they simply are not as careful and concerned with fire safety. They feel so confident that a truck would rescue them in an instant, before a fire could spread very far, so they are just careless. With this inappropriate assumption and subsequent increase in fires, the firefighters are even less able to arrive at a scene on time. Thus, more damage occurs.



And the overall winner is:


RON MALZER!!!! for his double-visionary KantWurstian theory!


Give an example where correlation exists but causation does not



Create a scenerio like the ones presented in the contest