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Busting the MythBusters' Yawn Experiment

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the it's-not-the-company-it's-the-hour dept.

Math 397

markmcb writes "Most everyone knows and loves the MythBusters, two guys who attempt to set the story straight on things people just take for granted. Well, maybe everyone except Brandon Hansen, who has offered them a taste of their own medicine as he busts the MythBusters' improper use of statistics in their experiment to determine whether yawning is contagious. While the article maintains that the contagion of yawns is still a possibility, Hansen is clearly giving the MythBusters no credit for proving such a claim, 'not with a correlation coefficient of .045835.'"

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Well... (5, Insightful)

Dyeane (1011019) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848461)

If they find out, they may very well make an announcement on the show. Wouldn't be the first time.

Re:Well... (1)

Cleon (471197) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848511)

Yeah. They've always been really good about revisiting myths and correcting themselves if they screwed up.

Re:Well... (5, Insightful)

nocomment (239368) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848597)

I still wouldn't care if they did. I just like to watch them blow shit up. I'm not a fan of the show because of thorough statistical analysis.

Submitter gets an F on this one (4, Insightful)

paiute (550198) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848661)

You do not report five significant figures derived from data with only two.

Re:Submitter gets an F on this one (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848753)

why not?

I put 8 inches into your anus which is only two inches wide when stretched tightly around my man rocket

Re:Well... (2, Insightful)

Reaperducer (871695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848941)

While the MythBusters is entertaining, it's not exactly science. It's closer to tabloid junk science. Rarely are there control groups for most of their "experiments," and there are many other transgressions.

Sure, it's popular on /. because things go up in flames, but I think the show is giving a kids a bad idea of what science is. Won't they be disappointed when they get to college and have to follow strict scientific procedures instead of watching things to boom.

Re:Well... (4, Insightful)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849007)

Hey, they're teaching kids to go out and prove things for themselves rather than believe them off the bat, and that's never a bad thing.

Re:Well... (0, Offtopic)

alexjohnc3 (915701) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849237)

Hey, they're teaching kids to go out and prove things for themselves rather than believe them off the bat, and that's never a bad thing.

Not if you're a Creationist parent.

In some scenarios it's not that good idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18849281)

Picture this...

Guy 1: Hey did you know humans can fly?

Guy 2: No way man, you're trippin!

Guy 1: Na-ah, I've seen it in my own eyes! I saw it... in a movie!

Guy 2: OK, if humans can fly - prove it!

Guy 1: No problem, watch this...

-----
And the crowd goes chanting "Darwin! Darwin! Darwin! [darwinawards.com] "

Looks like it really was contagious! (2, Funny)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848465)

*yawn*

Any sheeple who watches Mythbuster (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848471)

is a fucktard who should go slit their fucking wrists.

Wonderful, then there would be no fucktarded shitdot sheeple.
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!

No one ever said trolls were smart. (2, Insightful)

Thexare Blademoon (1010891) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849233)

If you dislike people who post on Slashdot so much, does that mean you hate yourself?

Frist Ywan! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848473)

*YAWN!*

Yawn... (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848487)

Yawn...

Re:Yawn... (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848931)

Yawn...

I can't wait to see the irony of that getting modded "Redundant"

well... truthfully... (5, Insightful)

evwah (954864) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848489)

it always seems to me that their conclusions are specious. I can't think of any specific episodes right now but they over simplify the data, build elaborate setups that are prone to error, and use inadequate controls.

not to mention that they always try to prove stupid crap like "a rolling stone gathers no moss". I'm waiting for them to try "the grass is always greener on the other side", or "it takes one to know one".

Re:well... truthfully... (3, Informative)

EvanED (569694) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848573)

The example I like to use, though apparently they revisited this one (I "can't" afford cable unfortunately), is they were trying to figure out whether the aerodynamic drag of running your car with your windows down was greater than the engine drag of running the A/C.

But to test this, they used SUVs (if you are concerned about fuel efficiency, are you driving one?) going at about 40 mph (air drag I think increases by the square of the speed at those speeds, so highway speeds could significantly change the results), and, most stupidly, running the A/C cold enough that Jamie was commenting that he was glad that he was wearing a fairly heavy jacket and (IIRC) a scarf!

Yeah, real useful result that test was.

Re:well... truthfully... (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848667)

If AC on full is better than windows down at low speed, AC on half is quite likely to be better than windows down at higher speed. It's a reasonable first test for a television show. It would have been nice if they tried it in a couple of different models though.

Re:well... truthfully... (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848797)

They later came back and said that above 50Mph is about when A/C is more efficient than windows down, 50mph being about when it crosses over. I'm surprised it made much difference, but then, for my car, A/C on vs. off is practically negligible.

Re:well... truthfully... (5, Insightful)

alshithead (981606) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848809)

They also tested tailgate up or down on a pickup truck for mpg. Up won and they fully explained why. I also really enjoyed the show that included bullets being shot into a pool including a big .50 cal. with the idea of being submerged could save your life if you're being shot at. I don't think you can completely pan them for a couple of specious results when overall their show is REALLY cool.

Re:well... truthfully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18849009)

Whenever I even read slashdot now, I yawn. This is my own response to even reading the word "yawn". I find it contagious.

Re:well... truthfully... (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848977)

Bob knows how you got modded insightful. Orders of magnitude (pushing things until they're measurable)
is perfectly reasonable and useful.

Re:well... truthfully... (2, Informative)

Frank Battaglia (787673) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849105)

YMMV (hah!), but in my last car, the AC was either "on" or "not on," and temperature was controlled by the cooled air being blown over the engine to a varying degree (standard heater). You may have a little dial on the interface that you think is adjusting "how much cold," but the reality and energy consumption may be functionally quite different. In other words, having the AC on full or not does not always have an appreciable effect on gas consumption. Just something to think about.

Re:well... truthfully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18849165)

You know, if you're going to use the words 'most stupidly', it would help if you were right ...

The air conditioning compressor in automobiles (and most homes) has two states: off, and on. The air coming off of the AC coils is one temperature - the air temperature is adjusted by adding heat from the engine.

So, it doesn't matter what setting the they used - the effect from the AC would be the same. They probably left it at the lowest temp just so folks wouldn't complain (but they didn't take you into account :-).

The Mythbusters guys do a pretty good job within the constraints of a TV show that doesn't have time to run several iterations. If you had watched the episode you're complaining about, you would have known they originally planned to go faster, but ran into some constraints with the track they picked. They corrected that issue when they tested tailgate up or down.

Re:well... truthfully... (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848601)

not to mention that they always try to prove stupid crap like [...] "it takes one to know one".
Surely this is a good time to mention Unskilled and Unaware of It. It seems it does, indeed, take one to know one. :)

Re:well... truthfully... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848673)

Tonight on this episode of Mythbusters: Whoever smelt it, dealt it!

Re:well... truthfully... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18849089)

Get real. Everyone knows it was Adam.

Re:well... truthfully... (1)

ekgringo (693136) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849287)

Spleen: Well, it all started when I was just 13 years of age. One day, while walking with some friends, I accidentally cut the cheese. Well, in my adolescent awkwardness, I blamed it on an old gypsy woman who happened to be passing by. BIG MISTAKE! The gypsy woman placed a curse upon my head. Because I smelled it, she decreed I would forevermore BE HE WHO DEALT IT!

Re:well... truthfully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848691)

To quote from the King of Queens, "How specious are we talking?"
Then the lawyer replies, "Very specious."

  [ Then Doug stalls the lawyer while Carrie searches for a dictionary. ]

Re:well... truthfully... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848793)

You have to understand that the show is strictly for entertainment. They don't claim that their findings could be used to sway a room full of academic graduates. They realize they don't have all the necessary equipment to arrive at the most accurate results, but it's fun to see what they come up with using common items and in most cases a bunch of explosives to liven things up.

Everyone who has been alive for along than 12 minutes knows that yawning is contagions. This was just a bit of fun to put a number to the theory, and though they got it wrong, it was entertaining nonetheless.

Precision? (4, Insightful)

Bill Walker (835082) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848509)

I dunno, the fact that he's willing to state the correlation coefficient so precisely makes me leary of his own statistical expertise.

Re:Precision? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848555)

precise or not, reading that article sure did make me yawn...

Conversation slayer (3, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848519)

Facinatingly detailed observations like this must go down a treat at the parties you attend Brandon Hansen.

yawn (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848523)

*yawn*

Re:yawn (1, Funny)

pyro_peter_911 (447333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848679)

*yawn*

Where's the +1 Redundant moderation when you need it.

Peter

Re:yawn...here you go (2, Funny)

ScottyMcScott (1003155) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848713)

**yawn**

Mythbusters is not scientific (4, Interesting)

slughead (592713) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848525)

In almost every episode they do something that invalidates their own findings.

Sometimes they don't things more than once (even when required), other times they don't adequately recreate the conditions of the "myth."

The show is entertaining as hell, and sometimes they do conclusively prove things.

Re:Mythbusters is not scientific (2, Insightful)

vertigoCiel (1070374) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848563)

In prime time television, Blowing Shit Up > Conducting Scientifically Sound experiments. That said, I love the show. My favorite is when they put an air-powered ejection seat inconspicuously into a normal car. And it worked!

Re:Mythbusters is not scientific (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848759)

Announcer: In today's episode, Jamie and Adam test whether Slashdot poster slughead is capable of posting intelligent, insightful comments.

{Commercial break. }

{ Adam and Jamie read slughead's comment. }
{ Jamie chuckles. Adam laughs really hard, pisses his pants, and continues to laugh really hard. }

{ Commercial break. }

Announcer: BUSTED! slughead can apparently only state nothing but the blatantly obvious!

Re:Mythbusters is not scientific (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848935)

Well shit, I lolled.

Re:Mythbusters is not scientific (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848871)

Mythbusters is to science/engineering what CNN is to news.

It's junk science, but in an entertaining format. Many of their "experiments" are flawed with bogus conclusions. But I join others in delighting to see *someone* try those experiments.

Re:Mythbusters is not scientific (1)

Worthless_Comments (987427) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849039)

Just because it's not actually broadcasted doesn't mean they didn't do something more than once. Think about it, do you really want to watch the same experiement done multiple times when the outcome is similar/the same?

Re:Mythbusters is not scientific (4, Informative)

wesmills (18791) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849321)

They have stated both on the show and in other interviews that a lot more testing goes on than just what we see on the show. For the "showcase" experiment on each show (the one that opens and closes the program), the producers have taken to placing video of most or all of the tests on their Discovery website: http://www.discovery.com/mythbusters [discovery.com]

Surprising how many people take them seriously! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848531)

I'm often surprised at how many people take the MythBusters seriously. Their show is entertaining, but it's important to realize that neither Jamie nor Adam really have a scientific or engineering background. To think that they could "bust" a "myth" with any degree of certainty is laughable. But every so often I hear somebody use MythBusters as a reference, even intelligent people with at least some scientific background, like medical doctors and geologists.

I'm all for watching their show for its entertainment value. But that's about it. I'd feel like a vagine if I were to use one of their "experiments" to back up my claims.

Re:Surprising how many people take them seriously! (1)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848653)

My favorite episode is when they proved that diving in to water is effective in evading gunfire. They placed a gelatin mold 18inches under water in a swimming pool and fired a .50cal at it. The gelatin wasn't pierced. They repeated this test time and time again at several calibers (IIRC even went to 12inches below surface).

Sometimes they don't do so good, but other times they do extremely well.

Re:Surprising how many people take them seriously! (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848735)

They occasionally do stuff worth pointing at; they spend big piles of money on stupid shit, and often demonstrate that 'simple' approaches are worthless for doing this or that.

Re:Surprising how many people take them seriously! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848807)

Speaking of entertainment value, keep in mind that science generally doesnt have any, in the eyes of the tv crowd. I wouldnt be surprised if any scientific vigor is edited into oblivion.

Re:Surprising how many people take them seriously! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18849159)

But every so often I hear somebody use MythBusters as a reference, even intelligent people with at least some scientific background, like medical doctors and geologists.
MythBusters provides an entertaining and visual way for common people to understand myths. Scientists aren't going to find anyone interested in hearing their highly scientific 60 page white-paper on why bullets react differently to being shot into water, depending on the bullet velocity. Complete with all the complex equations involving imaginary numbers and other concepts common people don't have a clue about. MythBusters can get to a simplified result within minutes just by showing people (in an entertaining way) how physics, chemistry, etc work in the context of urban myths. They bridge the gap between common people and lengthy boring technical information in scientific papers.

Do you really need to know the statistic particulars surrounding whether mobile phones can ignite fuel vapour? Or whether shooting out a window in a plane at altitude will cause explosive decompression? This is why people watch MythBusters: interesting topics, explosions, the "what would it take to confirm this myth, if we remove all limitations" mindset and a lack of rather unwanted numbers and statistics.

Science (5, Insightful)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848543)

Science and entertainment do not play well together, it is mostly true because science requires real thought and watching TV basicly does not. If you attempt to put real science on TV today you will watch the other 6.9 million TV stations each gain 1 more viewer while you get a dust bowl rolling through. Maybe it's time we started to realize what the mass public want are crappy reality shows, cooking and some bullshit made to look information but that is infact 75% CGI or "docudrama".

The above is why I wouldn't trust Mythbusters as far as I could throw them. The entire show screams entertainment rather than Science. Unfortunaely I can't find the name of a program that aired in the UK about 6 months ago. It took a team of 4 people to a deserted island and each week they had a task to complete each, they were only allowed to use what was on the island and what was given to them each week (as well as a tool set because, well no tools = screwed). They had to do things like make fireworks, record a song and various other "minor" things which required them to render down various things to achieve the chemicals they needed to complete each task. What they did and what it resulted in was very clearly labeled, having real science explained behind it.

Saddly as I recall it basicly got replaced with some crappy school based soap opera where the kids say "innit" and the teachers fuck anything with two legs (including the kids as the current trailer at least implies). So after this long rant, I guess we just give up on science and go back to the discoery channel, maybe we can catch the 3 minutes of it that isn't Nazis or some form of sport!

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848659)

You mean Rough Science http://www.open2.net/roughscience/ [open2.net]

Re:Science (4, Informative)

Excors (807434) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848781)

Unfortunaely I can't find the name of a program that aired in the UK about 6 months ago. It took a team of 4 people to a deserted island and each week they had a task to complete each, they were only allowed to use what was on the island and what was given to them each week (as well as a tool set because, well no tools = screwed). They had to do things like make fireworks, record a song and various other "minor" things which required them to render down various things to achieve the chemicals they needed to complete each task. What they did and what it resulted in was very clearly labeled, having real science explained behind it.

Would that be Rough Science [open2.net] ? In particular, it sounds like the second series [wikipedia.org] . I've seen a couple of the series over the past few years, and I believe it did a pretty good job of being a science show – the interest comes from watching people who actually know what they're doing, designing and building ingenious solutions (admittedly with very convenient tools and materials available) to problems that aren't inherently interesting (like making toothpaste or measuring the speed of a glacier), rather than relying on 'interesting' problems that are large/dangerous/explosive and lacking focus on the solution process.

Re:Science (1)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848823)

you mean the History Channel? since afaik Myth Busters is on Discovery - granted aside from the WW2 stuff, the history channel is also IMHO going to crap with how much they show of UFO's. But I suppose at least they do it in a "semi-scientific" manner and actually examine why UFO's are or aren't real, along with the history and social phenomena of the matter...

Re:Science (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848875)

I'm in the UK, there is like 2 discovery channels here and they all show diy or fishing constantly.

Re:Science (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848909)

12

Re:Science (1)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849207)

If you attempt to put real science on TV today you will watch the other 6.9 million TV stations each gain 1 more viewer while you get a dust bowl rolling through.
To this I can only say: "Cosmos"

Lies (1)

ect5150 (700619) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848567)


Lies, Damn Lies and !!!! .... oh, you know...

Re:Lies (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848979)

Lies, Damn Lies and !!!! .... oh, you know...

Slashdot?

Not quite, OmniNerd (5, Informative)

Miang (1040408) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848587)

TFA's conclusion is correct but their methods are wrong. For these kind of data, correlations aren't the appropriate test; they should have used a chi-square distribution test. Using TFA's assumptions -- total sample size of 50, 4 yawners out of 16 not seeded, 10 yawners out of 34 seeded -- the chi-square value is .10, which pretty strongly misses the critical value of 3.84 for significance. Not that it matters anyway, but it's pretty funny to read an article debunking statistics that employs inappropriate statistics itself...

Re:Not quite, OmniNerd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848649)

This analysis is closer to what should be done, the correlation version is inapproriate.

Re:Not quite, OmniNerd (1)

twifosp (532320) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848795)

I agree, however, they didn't have enough of a sample of a chi-square. Or an fitted yx ANOVA for that matter. But yes, any kind of coeffecient using an R or R squared is definitely not the appropriate test in this case.

It always bugs me that they don't even try and collect data to fit a normal distribution or do any proper means testing. But oh well, it's TV, thems the breaks.

News for Nerds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848877)

Not that it matters anyway, but it's pretty funny to read an article debunking statistics that employs inappropriate statistics itself...

Only on slashdot would a statistical analysis done by a painter [artbyhansen.com] that contradicts an experiment done by a couple of TV show stars make front page.

What's a matter, slashdot? There aren't any alpha releases of obscure Linux apps out today that you can fill the front page with?

references (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848891)

I like his references, too..

reference 5 is an episode that won't air for 2 days (maybe he's from the future!)

references 7 and 8 are forum posts (ref. 8 has just 2 replies)

two references are news stories..

these do not suggest a thorough exploration of the matter, but he cites them as if they are authoritative sources

Re:Not quite, OmniNerd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18849097)

Well stated- the use of correlation here is absurd! The article could have employed a Fisher exact test using a 2 by 2 contingency table. For the table (aa=10, ab=14, ba=4, bb=12) p=0.329 so this is definitely NOT significant.

Re:Not quite, OmniNerd (0, Troll)

Slurpee001 (1024293) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849137)

Kari Byron: BUSTED. [imageshack.us]

Re:Not quite, OmniNerd (1)

neil.orourke (703459) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849241)

WARNING:
The image above is not safe for work, nor is it particularly funny.

Spam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848609)

Wow, the guys at omninerd didn't give up after not being allowed to spam Wikipedia, and apparently they keep at it submitting poor stats work like this to Slashdot.

Yawns.... (1)

methangel (191461) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848621)

I yawned while reading that link. Does that prove it?

Re:Yawns.... (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848647)

I yawned while reading that link. Does that prove it?

Hey, me too! It *is* contagious!

And to think, I usually dismiss 'mythbusters' as garbage...

Re:Yawns.... (1)

kabz (770151) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848655)

I'm yawning like hell reading this.

Re:Yawns.... (1)

loconet (415875) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848727)

I indeed yawned many times while reading the article. Almost every time I saw the word "yawn" I imagined a person yawning which automatically made me yawn.

OT: But still Mythbuster related (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848677)

I thought I remember them busting this yawning myth. So I went to the site to confirm. I never got around to it, though. You folks need to check out the "Web Exclusive Ask a Ninja." Hilarious. And can someone confirm, is the Ask a Ninja Ninja the guy that does Strong Bad? It sounds like him and the humor is the same.

Quick quote, "Of course ninjas can walk on water. I have to walk on water to get out of my room in the morning."

Doesn't anyone know statistics any more? (5, Informative)

Ichoran (106539) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848681)

Not only was MythBusters embarassingly statistics-free, but the "busting" was done using a wholly inappropriate statistical technique. Hansen used a correlation-based test, which assumes that the data follows a Normal distribution (which a bunch of 1s and 0s do not).

There is a very well-known test, the chi-square test, that deals with exactly this case. (Given the small sample sizes, the Fisher exact test may give better results.) Someone should point Hansen to the Wikipedia page on the topic.

For example, if there are 16 non-primed people, with 4 yawning and 12 not (for 25%), and there are 34 primed people, with 10 yawning and 24 not (for 29%), the chi square test gives a p value of 0.74.

The values Hansen supposes are significant 4,12 and 12,24 are not: p = 0.29.

You have to go all the way to 4,12 and 17,19 (i.e. 47% on a sample of 36) to get significance.

MythBusters was wrong to conclude that their results were significant, but Hansen was equally wrong to conclude that he had shown that Mythbusters was wrong.

Re:Doesn't anyone know statistics any more? (4, Informative)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848773)

You were actually right that it's Fisher's exact test that you want, it's similar to doing a complete permutation test which is exact. Because this is a 2x2 table, there's no reason not to use the exact test. The actual result has a p-value of 1.0 in a two-tailed test (whoops!) and even 4,12 and 17,19 has a p-value of 0.22 in the two-tailed test. In deed, it would have to go all the way to 4,12 and 21,15 to be significant at the 5 percent level for the two-tailed test. The two-tailed test is the right one because you had better believe that they would have made a big stink if it had come out the other way!

But all this aside, I'm not sure I like the experiment. Why bore people? Why have so many in the room. the 4,12 number is way too high, I'd say the were better off looking at narrow time slices and natural yawns (i.e. do yawns happen at random or do they set off avalanches). Then there is only one group and you're just testing the Poisson process assumption of uncorrelatedness.

Re:Doesn't anyone know statistics any more? (1)

Ichoran (106539) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848911)

Yeah, I didn't check my calculations before posting (always a bad idea when saying that someone else is wrong--I had 16 instead of 12 in one spot). And I didn't check the Fisher exact test to see if they were close enough, which they weren't at all. Your numbers for the Fisher exact test look right.

You're also right about the experimental design being iffy. That isn't how I would have set it up. But given that that's how it was set up, one could at least do reasonable statistics.

Re:Doesn't anyone know statistics any more? (1)

ozbird (127571) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849111)

Perhaps, but there certainly seems to be a strong correlation between discussions on the finer points of statistical analysis and yawning... Perhaps you've discovered the Yawndot effect?

Re:Doesn't anyone know statistics any more? (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849157)

I'd say the were better off looking at narrow time slices and natural yawns (i.e. do yawns happen at random or do they set off avalanches). Then there is only one group and you're just testing the Poisson process assumption of uncorrelatedness.

The advantage of their way is that you know the causality of an increased yawning rate. In your design, it's harder to rule out temperature fluctuations or conversations about, say, the appropriateness of a correlation test for binary data.

Re:Doesn't anyone know statistics any more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18849227)

Statistics quetsion for the statistician :P -- Is the correlation coefficient r or is it r^2?

My dogs make me yawn but, (0)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848687)

when I yawn it doesn't seem to make them yawn.
Maybe it's because I'm always tired and my dogs are always full of piss and vinegar.

Thanks a lot (0)

Megane (129182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848721)

You've just applied the slashdot effect to yawning. That sound you hear isn't a web site crashing, it's the whole world yawning, even while watching Heroes.

Busting the MythBusters busters (3, Informative)

ingo23 (848315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848733)

Actually, the article shows only a basic understanding of statistics. Correlation is indeed a measure of a relationship between a cause and effect, but it's only a part of the picture. Yes, a correlation of 0.04 is far from obvious dependency, but that's not the point.

MythBusters numbers may mean that someone is 20% more likely to yawn if seeded. Now, what's important is to evaluate the margin of error for this statement given the sample size.

What the article is definitely wrong about is that the sample size does not change anything. The sample size basically reduces the probability of error. The higher the sample size, the more likely that the statement "someone is 20% more likely to yawn if seeded" is true. However, at their sample size, it is not unlikely that the error marging is comparable with that 20% difference, which would invalidate the experiment.

The detailed calculations for sufficient sample size are left as an excercise for the reader.

Re:Busting the MythBusters busters (0)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848855)

Correlation is indeed a measure of a relationship between a cause and effect

No, it's not. Correlation does not mean causation. Assuming that correlation means causation is considered a logical fallacy.

Re:Busting the MythBusters busters (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849103)

Correlation is indeed a measure of a relationship between a cause and effect

No, it's not. Correlation does not mean causation. Assuming that correlation means causation is considered a logical fallacy.
Correlation is to causation what a rectangle is to a square.

If you take two groups, introduce factor X into one of them, and see a correlation between something and factor X, you've got a piece of data for causation. Do it a few more times, explain the mechanism if you can, and you've got a causal relationship.

While seeing correlation and assuming causation is indeed a misunderstanding of statistics, believing that there is no relationship between them is a more serious error.

Re:Busting the MythBusters busters (1)

imkonen (580619) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849183)

Correlation is not sufficient to imply causation, but it is necessary. Statistical analysis by itself can only ever indicate correlation, but it is certainly valid to go from correlation to causation based on other information. In the yawn experiment, for example, the counter-hypothesis is that the seeding yawn has no effect on the likelihood of being followed by another yawn and should therefore show no correlation.

Boat running into channel marker was also bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848757)

They *really* screwed up that one the other night where the boat ran into the channel marker. I really lost some of my interest in the show because they did such a poor job with it.

Re:Boat running into channel marker was also bogus (1)

stanmann (602645) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848957)

Ok, how did they screw up. enlighten us oh great anonymous cowtard.

Re:Boat running into channel marker was also bogus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18849171)

The biggest problem I had with it is they did the test on a boat trailer and not actually in the water. They assumed that a moving boat in water performs the same as a moving boat on a boat trailer and my novice understanding of hydraulics would tell me that the test would have been vastly different if they had actually recreated the test in the water with a boat being propelled by an engine/propeller. A moving boat in water behaves more like something on rails. That is while moving through the water it would be hard to be pushed sideways even when bumping into an object. Air on the other hand (the trailer method) provides very little resistance to sideways movement.

Also, if you look at pictures of the actual boat from different angles it is apparent that it actually hit the channel marker on the nose of the boat and not on the side. It also appears that the boat was making a right turn and the angle of the boat was tilted right. There is no doubt that the boat actually hit the channel marker and cuased the damage in the picture. There is no disputing this even by the police/patrol. The question was how fast the boat was going to cause that damage. It was claimed that the boat was going 25 mph and the Mythbusters just magically said it must have been going faster than that because they didn't get the same damage in the experiment that in no way recreated the conditions of the original accident.

I believe 25 mph would have been close to accurate if you throw a couple of big block Chevys in the boat, set it at 25 mph and hit the channel marker head on while in a slight turn. Anything faster than that and I would expect more than a broken arm and a couple of other miner injuries by the people who were in the boat.

I just did a little google searching and it appears I am not alone in thinking this was bogus:
http://community.discovery.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/ 9401967776/m/7701992688 [discovery.com]

Original images:
http://www.cockpitgps.com/bgpsnavweb/basicGPSnavig ation_files/image008.jpg [cockpitgps.com]
http://www.apg.army.mil/sibo/fountain.htm [army.mil]

Extremely poor episode in my opinion.

(I'm the cowtard stanwoman)

A tailor! A tailor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848777)

My kingdom for a set of coat tails!

Poor statisticians. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848805)

My favourite example of the bogus statistics on Mythbusters was the buttered toast drop experiment. They dropped 10 slices of toast testing the 'dropper' and 7 of them landed 'T' side up (slice was unbuttered 'neutral' slice with a T in texta written on it). Their comment on this result of 7 out of 10? "It's not random enough" In order for it to be truly random for them, it had to be 5 out of 10.

this episode was 2 years ago (1)

brunascle (994197) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848813)

you spent way too much time on this. move on, man.

Mmmm... (1)

TheSpatulaOfLove (966301) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848879)

So long as Kari keeps yawning, I'll believe whatever the bald guys say...


*swoon*

You FAIL 1t (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848913)

in 7he 5un. In the every day...Like

Mythbusters = Myth (1)

uberushaximus (1025976) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848915)

That reminds me of the time my dad split an arrow, around the time the mythbusters aired saying that it was impossible.

NICE JOB GUYS >:(

Re:Mythbusters = Myth (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849139)

That reminds me of the time my dad split an arrow, around the time the mythbusters aired saying that it was impossible.
Got a picture? Was your dad using manufactured arrows, or did he make them himself?

The "myth" was that it was simply a matter of skill -- it's not. It's a combination of having enough skill to hit your own shot, and the luck of having an arrow whose grain allows for a down-the-line split.

Don't believe me? Get an axe and a bunch of old arrows, and try and split them down the middle with a single cut.

Re:Mythbusters = Myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18849235)

It was a stupid debunking because in the segment they had actual split arrows from an archery club, some of them going all the way down the shaft. So, even in the face of having evidence right in front of them, they still said it was a myth simply because they couldn't replicate the event.

Re:Mythbusters = Myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18849341)

Did he split it from nock to tip? Their conclusion was that a complete split of a standard wooden arrow from nock to tip was so unlikely as to be impossible due to the wobbling flight of the splitter. Incomplete splits are entirely possible and aren't terribly uncommon.

Wish I Was That Smart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18848919)

Too bad the average viewer doesn't understand what the hell he is talking about.

What a Fookin nerd.

it's already been done (2, Funny)

acvh (120205) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848967)

Dr. Seuss has already proved the contagion of yawns.

Not the greatest research (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 7 years ago | (#18848981)

The Myth Busters is, of course, fun. It is fun to see things blow up. It is fun to watch two pseudo-nerds fight.

Here's the thing, not everything they do is crap, sometimes they get it more or less right, or at least right enough that one should pause. Most of they time they do a pretty mediocre job at it.

Don't confuse science with entertainment. It seems that the myth busters work from a layman's perspective and as such, fancy methodologies would confuse the audience.

Yawning *is* contagious (3, Interesting)

tfoss (203340) | more than 7 years ago | (#18849201)

At least, it can be. A quick search at Pubmed [nih.gov] brings up eight [sciencedirect.com] studies [sciencedirect.com] that examine the phenomenon of 'contagious yawning,' including in macaques [royalsoc.ac.uk] and chimps. [nih.gov] So even if the mythbusters experimental setup was pretty crappy, and their sample was too small to have enough power to find an effect, at least their conclusion agreed with the literature.

-Ted
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