Think like a scientist: correlation

Correlation does not equal causation. Done!

Just kidding. It isn’t enough simply to state that classic phrase because in the real world, we’re often still stuck with using correlations. If you want to know how lifelong exercise habits affect lifespan, you can’t take two groups of people and force one group to exercise and the other not to (“GET BACK IN THAT CHAIR! That is TOO MUCH walking to the corner store for one day!”), while keeping everything else exactly the same between the groups (“I don’t care if you’re not hungry, everyone eats one cupcake on Tuesdays!”), for their entire lives. Even if you didn’t mind knowing that you, too, would be dead before the study was over, it would be completely unethical. Instead, you study people’s natural exercise habits, and try to correlate them with lifespan. Continue reading

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