Idea: The Correlation Project
I want to see a website that lets me keep track of something simple for a set period of time, and then compares it to a database to search for correlations. For example, over the course of a week or month or year, or even on an ongoing basis, it could ask, “What did you have for breakfast today?” or “What color shirt did you wear today?” or “How many calls did you get on your cell phone today?” Maybe a daily e-mail would remind you to log in with the answers.
Then it would compare the answers to other things that are already tracked such as the stock market, phases of the moon, sports scores, etc., and spit out some correlations.
It could tell you “On 93% of the days on which you ate eggs for breakfast, the stock market went up.” Or, “When the moon is waxing, you are 88% more likely to wear a green shirt than when it is waning.” Or, “On days when you get more than 7 phone calls, the Yankees win their games.”
Or, if you opt in to share your information with others, it could tell you, “For the past year, you’ve been on the same Green Shirt Schedule as Joe Shmoe of Hackensack, NJ, who has worn a green shirt every day that you did.”
There would need to be a notice reminding people that there is no causation implied by these findings, just correlations. People have a tendency to apply too much meaning to these sorts of things, and think they are evidence of paranormal phenomenon or conspiracy. But I think it’s interesting just to look at these things for the sake of seeing how easy it is to find coincidental correlations retrospectively. If such a project existed, maybe it could show people just how common coincidence really is with an experiment they can participate in themselves.