Spurious Correlations

If you have used Plotly even just a handful of times, chances are that you have encountered the load screen that offers the age-old advice “correlation does not imply causation.”

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Click the link on that load screen, and you will land on this site. There, a simple comic reaches into the correlation and causation cookie jar.

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An increase in sales can’t directly be attributed to a new marketing startegy, just like cheese consumption can’t directly be attributed to death by tangled bedsheets (despite the graph below!). A “correlation means causation” argument needs to pass further testing, analysis, and study.

Harvard Law’s Tyler Vigen authored Spurious Correlations, a “ridiculous book of charts” involving bizarre correlations. For fun, we plotted some of the goofiest ones we could find. If you’ve got an interesting find, tweet it @plotlygraphs.

These interactive graphs were made using Plotly’s web app. To securely share graphs and data within a team and make interactive dashboards, sign up for a PlotlyProfessional plan or contact us about Plotly On-Premise.

1. Californian Sunlight and Visitors to SeaWorld

Sunlight in California conveniently dipped in 2010, aligning itself nearly perfectly with a reduction in visitors to SeaWorld. The Californian sunlight minimum was related to a drop in the Pacific Decadel Oscillation.

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See the interactive plot

2. Sour Cream Consumption and Motorcycle Deaths

A correlation means causation argument might be more believable if the title was “attempting to consume sour cream while riding a motorcycle.”

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See the interactive plot

3. Death by Tangled Bedsheets and Cheese Consumption

Of most concern: Why has death by tangled bedsheets increased by over 200% between 2000 and 2009?

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See the interactive plot

4. Age of Miss America and Murders by Hot Objects

The relationship between these two from 1999 to 2006 has the wow factor.

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See the interactive plot

5. Honey Produced by Bees and Drowning

A decrease in honey production in the U.S. is better correlated with how harsh the winter is — not the number of folks drowning after falling out of a boat.

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See the interactive plot

6. Money Spent on Pets and Death by Stairs

These two things have independently increased at alarming rates.

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See the interactive plot

7. Juvenile Arrests for Marijuana and U.S. Crude Oil Imports

Preferably, both of these are much lower come 2020 — let the spurious correlation continue!

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See the interactive plot

8. NYC Precipitation and Chicken Consumption

When its dry in NYC, folks are outside enjoying the sunshine, not indoors eating chicken!

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See the interactive plot

9. Superbowl Points and Death by Venemous Spiders

Despite a loss, the Panthers scored 29 points in this thrilling back-and-forth affair. Even spiders got excited.

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See the interactive plot

10. Saudi Oil and Banana Cost

Not even a banana oil salesman could convince someone of a real correlation here.

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See the interactive plot

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