This says it all, really


From PhD Comics.

It’s just like a game of telephone! While it doesn’t exactly fit, this cartoon reminded me of the hubub over the announcement that will CHANGE EVERYTHING that is going to be made this morning.


  1. #1 Sigmund
    May 19, 2009

    Which journal accepted that P value?
    p=0.56 ?

  2. #2 Tony P
    May 19, 2009

    Now take that little game of telephone and extend it back say, a bit less than a couple thousand years and tell me the Bible we have today isn’t severely distorted.

  3. #3 Andy
    May 19, 2009

    At risk of sounding like “that guy” (you know, the one who gripes in the middle of the Star Trek movie about how it’s not physically possible for the ship to have done a particular maneuver), I think it’s actually a “rho” value, which is an accepted symbol for the correlation coefficient.

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    May 19, 2009

    Yeah, it’s a ρ value (a Pearson coefficient) indicating a moderate but potentially interesting positive correlation between A and B.

  5. #5 Drew
    May 19, 2009

    Not looking forward to having to explain, yet again, what a crap term “missing link” is, and how the most important fossil is “all of them, and how they all relate to each other” not any one find.

  6. #6 cm
    May 19, 2009

    And anyway the cartoon doesn’t say anything about the result being published in a peer-reviewed journal, just that there is a result. Even more apt!

  7. #7 Lilian Nattel
    May 19, 2009

    Great cartoon. Can’t you imagine the Dr. Seuss book explaining it?

  8. #8 Mary
    May 19, 2009

    Ok, that is a keeper. Thanks for that :)

  9. #9 alex
    May 20, 2009

    guys it is called a p-value, nothing to do with correlation. it isn’t meant to be a rho, or a Pearson coefficient. It simply gives you the probability between two values is due to chance, so in this case the correlation is 56% likely to be due to chance.

    i’m quite amazed no one here has a background involving reading scientific papers (or biology ones at least, they come up everywhere for us)

  10. #10 David Canzi
    May 20, 2009

    guys it is called a p-value, nothing to do with correlation. it isn’t meant to be a rho, or a Pearson coefficient.

    I checked it with a screen magnifier. I also went to PhD Comics for an image closer to the original and enlarged it in Firefox. It looks like a rho, not a p.

    Oh, noes! Could it be… might I have… too much time on my hands? Say it ain’t so.

  11. #11 David Canzi
    May 20, 2009

    I went back to PhD Comics, found the lower case ‘p’ in the word ‘picked’, magnified it and examined it carefully. I can now state authoritatively that I have too much time on my hands.

  12. #12 Julia
    May 20, 2009

    alex, that is totally a rho; you don’t even need to use David’s superior powers of investigation to notice that the letter is in a different font from the rest of the text (a serif p would not have a rounded top).
    not to mention, it’s inane to imagine that a) the readers of this blog would not already know what a freaking p-value is or that b) the writer of PhD Comics would make such a stupid mistake.
    /spleen vent

  13. #13 someguy
    May 21, 2009

    Sure it looks like a rho, so obvious it’s been photoshopped.

  14. #14 Richard
    May 22, 2009

    Alex, I am sad at the state of statistics education that you have had to think that’s a p-value.

    The Greek character rho represents the population value of a Pearson’s correlation coefficient (r). Usually you don’t claim to have determined rho unless you did something to summarize across studies (like meta-analysis) where you have done some sort of correction for range restriction and/or attenuation of the predictor and/or criterion.

    Also, @Sigmund, the lack of publication of non-statistically-significant results is one of the most problematic aspects of academic publishing today. Just because you didn’t find a relationship or difference doesn’t mean that your study is bad. It might just mean that there really isn’t a difference (or at the least, there is only a very small one).

  15. #15 Richard
    May 22, 2009

    ALSO, your definition of p-value is just wrong. Even the Wikipedia page you cited gives you a different definition on the VERY FIRST LINE: “the p-value is the probability of obtaining a result at least as extreme as the one that was actually observed, assuming that the null hypothesis is true.”

    If the comic said p=.56 (which it DIDN’T, but IF IT DID), it would be translated as “if we were to assume the population correlation is zero, there is a .56 probability that we would see a correlation of the observed size or larger in any particular randomly-obtained sample from that population.” – NOT “the correlation is 56% likely to be due to chance.” That is a horrible, uninformed, uneducated, and outright misleading interpretation.


    (Sorry – I just HATE people spouting off their elementary understanding of statistics as if they know what they’re talking about, ESPECIALLY when they’re as condescending about it as alex just was.)

  16. #16 says it all?
    May 22, 2009

    The blog comments say more about inane behavior than the comic

  17. #17 loud-on-blogs
    May 22, 2009

    The blog comments really seem to add to the absurdity of the comic. I find them almost as amusing. Andy is by the way indeed, “that guy” who finds it necessary to point out the fiction in science fiction. He also is the guy who talks about farting right before he farts because he thinks that announcing it makes it all better. It doesn’t; you still stink.

  18. #18 rec
    February 7, 2010

    I think you’re all wrong and it’s actually Spearman’s rho, which is even less convincing (powerful) than the same Pearson’s r.

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