The black cat


Economists' search for "truth" has over the years given rise to the view that economists are people searching in a dark room for a non-existent black cat; econometricians are regularly accused of finding one.

~ Kennedy (1992)

Causation and correlations

“Right after word leaks that the iPhone has been tracking your location at all times, we find Osama. Coincidence? Thanks Apple!”

December 6, 2011 - 8:33am

An engineer, a chemist and a statistician are staying in a hotel. (It’s a triple room, very cosy.) The first night they are there, a fire breaks out and wakes them up. The engineer gets up, grabs the fire extinguisher and puts out the fire. Later, they’re all woken by another fire (very dodgy health and safety). The chemist thinks “the fire reaction requires oxygen”, grabs a fire blanket and smothers the flames until they go out. Even later, the engineer and the chemist are woken by the statistician lighting a series of fires in the corner. “What are you doing?”, they cry in unison.

November 15, 2011 - 7:40pm

A physicist, an engineer and a statistician go hunting. 50m away from them they spot a deer. The physicist calculates the trajectory of the bullet in a vacuum, raises his rifle and shoots. The bullet lands 5m short. The engineer adds a term to account for air resistance, lifts his rifle a little higher and shoots. The bullet lands 5m long. The statistician yells “we got him!”


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