Monday, July 3, 2017

Book Review: 'Spurious Correlations' by Tyler Vigen

Review by David Wineberg

We drown in data. Supposed trends assault us daily. Idiotic predictions are based on current data only. Who puts all this data together to get these conclusions? Tyler Vigen has asked a computer to pair charts by how similar the curves were. Relevance was irrelevant. The results make little sense, but point to how laughable the data we live by can be. My fave: there is a 99.3% correlation between alcohol purchased in liquor stores and the number of bridges in the United States. Hmmm, I hear you say. What can we make of this?

Which is precisely Vigen’s point. 

The book is largely white space. One page has the titles of the two data streams, and the other has the actual chart of them, with a sidebar of some trivia associated with one of the streams, showing he actually did some research. Maybe. Very cute, very enjoyable, and very telling.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of David Wineberg. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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