Someone sent me the following email:
I am an environmental journalist writing an Environmental Science 101 textbook and I’m currently working on the section on hypothesis testing and statistical significance. I am searching for a story to make the importance of thinking statistically come alive for the students, ideally one from the environmental sciences. I’m looking for a time when an effect seemed huge to the naked eye, but wasn’t or a time when an error made an insignificant result look significant. Or maybe a story about how the media took an insignificant relationship and blew it out of proportion. Or maybe a story, like the one you told so well recently in Slate, about how you can find “significance” if you just keep throwing enough mud at the wall.
It could be old or new, obscure or well known. The key thing, to make it work for the textbook, is that it have consequences—either implications outside of science, or high drama inside science.
I pointed the textbook writer to this example, which seemed ideal:
Although, as my correspondent pointed out to me, this example might be too complicated for students in an intro class.