Stop spreading unconfirmed COVID-19 symptoms around

Over at Slate, Shannon Paulus kindly reminds us that correlation is not causation — especially when it comes to a novel coronavirus for which we have very little knowledge, let alone enough scientific controls to do an accurate study of a fully representative sample set.

“A small but important subset of people with the coronavirus also really hate puppies.” That’s what I keep thinking to myself as I see story after story linking various, so-called surprising symptoms to COVID-19: pinkeyeloss of hearingloss of smellbrain impairments, and “staring off into space.” These pieces provide varying levels of evidence, from a Twitter dispatch to a patient to surveys conducted by researchers to propose that the mere correlations their authors are writing about might actually have some sort of firm, causative relationship.

Each of these symptoms lacks substantial peer-reviewed evidence connecting them to the novel coronavirus; at best, there are a couple studies.

So look, it's an upper respiratory infection. Leave it there until we know more, and stop talking about that drug that Donald Trump keeps pushing because he has a financial stake in the company that makes it.

The Supposed Symptoms of the Coronavirus [Shannon Paulus / Slate]

Image: U.S. Air Force Graphic by Rosario "Charo" Gutierrez (Public Domain) Read the rest

The mysterious correlation between avocado and Bitcoin prices

For a while, I blamed myself. I had that noticed my paltry Bitcoin investment was doing well, so I threw some extra cash in, just to say what it would do. That was just this past July. Days later, the value tanked. By September, I was down nearly 25 percent. Things have started to settle, but it's seemed so unpredictable that I've been hesitant to celebrate.

Now I know the truth. It wasn't my fault. It was the avocados—those same god damn avocados that ruined everything for millennials like me. But at least I got to enjoy them for cheaper while I stuffed my face to escape the pain of my crashing investment.

This isn't the first time someone has noticed the correlation, either. Back in April, the price of both jumped 35 percent. The avocados made sense—at the time, Trump had threatened to completely close the US-Mexico border, which would have seriously diminished our access to those delicious Aztesticles. Of course, we can always grow more avocados, whereas there will only ever be a finite 21 million theoretical Bitcoins in the world.

Clearly, there's a deeper meaning here. Correlation is not necessarily causation, it's true. But it's hard to deny the synchronicity, so weighted as it is with meaning. Perhaps the answer lies in the last untried home investment for millennials: Bitcoin Toast.

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More chocolate = more Nobel Prizes

Reddit has resurfaced this 2012 paper from the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates," by Franz H. Messerli, M.D.

From the abstract:

Chocolate consumption could hypothetically improve cognitive function not only in individuals but in whole populations. Could there be a correlation between a country's level of chocolate consumption and its total number of Nobel laureates per capita?

For other amusing spurious correlations here you go.

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Age of Miss America correlates with murders by steam and hot objects

Once the senators who oversee the science committee see this graph, they will pass a law forbidding Miss America to be over the age of 12.

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