I was inspired by this question on statistics jokes and wanted to start a similar thread on statistical anecdotes.

These are famous stories from the past where statistics have been used to solve some problem in an interesting way.

I like to tell my students these stories in between, as I feel that they sometime spark interest in people that are less motivated to learn about statistics.

I'll start with three of my favorites:

Poincaré and the baker

The German tank problem

The lady tasting tea

  • $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it does not fit the SE model of posting questions that ought to have objectively recognizable good answers. $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    Oct 13, 2015 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber Ok, I will take the question down. But what makes this any different from the statistics joke question? Why was that allowed in the first place? Also what would be the correct SE venue for such a question? Academia perhaps? $\endgroup$
    – Gumeo
    Oct 13, 2015 at 12:51
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I don't feel qualified to judge whether this is in the scope / norms of CV, but the question certainly sounded useful to me, e.g. for teaching stats. $\endgroup$ Oct 13, 2015 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ It's not at all different from the joke question--and that's precisely why it was closed. Please see my comment to that question at stats.stackexchange.com/questions/1337/… . I believe this kind of question is not on-topic anywhere on SE. $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    Oct 13, 2015 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ This comment by Glen_b is on the mark: "It's probably better if it stays around in any case, so that people who are inspired as you were and try do the same again will be likely to turn this one up in a search." I came across this thread because I intended to post something similar and wanted to avoid duplicating any existing threads. I would've put out a call for interesting historical anecdotes, in the same vein as the one about Wald and the bullet holes in the Allied planes. Because this was left up, I now know that it could be considered off-topic for StackExchange. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2016 at 13:39

1 Answer 1


Not sure if this is too serious, but there is the Berkeley gender bias case illustrating Simpson's paradox. A very recent nearly identical case illustrating the problem seems a PNAS study on gender bias in research funding, discussed, e.g., in this Science news article.

  • $\begingroup$ This is completely relevant! This is a very interesting example. $\endgroup$
    – Gumeo
    Oct 13, 2015 at 10:41

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