Statistics and Lots of It

TNL was minding her own busy business, preparing to give an overview of statistical databases to her PhDs, when she remembered a funny story she could not resist not telling.

One day, while again minding her own business (TNL minds that quite a bit), a graduate student from faraway Europe asked for statistics. She wanted to prove that a particular drug taken by people in India for some sort of malady was also causing the death of carion-eating birds. Far-fetched? Not according to the lovely lass. With all these dead bodies left to rot out in the open, surely you can’t blame these birdies from pecking for food and unfortunately, dying from it.

But I digress… she needed lots of statistics (it was a statistical analysis module, after all).

So what are we talking here? The volume of this drug consumed by Indians over how long? Correlate this to the number of deaths caused by the known side-effects of the drug? Then, correlating the number of these deaths with the number of bodies left out in the open? Do we have number of Zoroastrian deaths and causes of deaths? Are they the only ones leaving their dead out? What about the number of deaths of them poor birdies? And how many of them died of what again?

TNL’s tenacious little colleague found this site that told of a similar story. It tells of how an anti-inflammatory drug given to cows was causing their deaths. Since the Indians did not eat beef, them poor creatures were left out to rot and who comes along but our carion-eating birds. But since these poor birdies are dying off from eating toxic cows, what does nature do with all that good food going to waste? Send in wild dogs, of course. Of course, then, you would have your rabies and all sorts of other diseases.

So, now, tell me again, what statistics do we need to correlate human deaths caused by rabies to an anti-inflammatory fed to cows?

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