925: Cell Phones

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Cell Phones
He holds the laptop like that on purpose, to make you cringe.
Title text: He holds the laptop like that on purpose, to make you cringe.

[edit] Explanation

After hearing about the "Cell Phones Don't Cause Cancer" study, which refutes a claim made by the World Health Organization (just Google the debate, the comic doesn't focus much on it), Black Hat plots "Total Cancer Incidence" per 100,000 and "Cell Phone Users" per 100 on the same graph. The graph in frame 3 shows that the number of cell phone users rises after the number of cancer incidence, which makes Black Hat comically come to the conclusion that cancer causes cell phones.

The comic highlights a well-known fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc, often shortened to simply post hoc. The Latin translates to "after this, therefore because of this," referring to the common mistake that because two events happen in chronological order, the former event must have caused the latter event. The fallacy is often the root cause of many superstitions (e.g., a person noticing he/she wore a special bracelet before getting a good test score thinks the bracelet was the source of his/her good fortune), but it often crosses into more serious areas of thinking. In this case, the scientific research community, which often prides itself on its intellectual aptitude, is gently mocked for being nonetheless prone to such poor reasoning all too often.

The title text refers to the way Black Hat holds the laptop in panel 2, which is generally discouraged because it puts a large amount of stress on the laptop's hinge and screen.

[edit] Transcript

[Cueball holds a cellphone. Black Hat is sitting at a desk with a laptop.]
Cueball: Another huge study found no evidence that cell phones cause cancer. What was the W.H.O. thinking?
Black Hat: I think they just got it backward.
[Black Hat turns towards Cueball, holding the laptop by the upper edge of the screen.]
Cueball: Huh?
Black Hat: Well, take a look.
[There is a plot of total cancer incidence and cell phone users. Cancer rises from 1970 to 1990, then stays relatively steady. Cell phone use rises from 1980 to the present.]
Cueball: You're not... There are so many problems with that.
Black Hat: Just to be safe, until I see more data I'm going to assume cancer causes cell phones.
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Discussion

On first read I thought the joke is that the cell phone graph shape (somewhat) closely mimics the shape of the cancer graph, including the part where it begins to level off - implying that one linearly correlates with the other, with a 20 year delay (a typical time it takes for cancer to manifest, except in this case it's backwards). ultramage 14:17, 22 December 2012 (UTC)


That and the fact the graph is out by a scale factor of 1000 is always a fun way to screw over how the statistics look. 82.16.27.115 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Nah b', it's 2000. 76.67.97.246 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The real problem with the graph is that it makes it look like cancer rates have increased from near-zero levels to way higher since 1970, until you actually read the Y axis and see that it's gone from about 400 (per 100,000) to about 475. This is an increase of only 18.75%, as opposed to the visual appearance of a 300% increase. Hats off to Black Hat!! 108.28.72.186 01:18, 7 August 2013 (UTC)

I thought the laptop joke was that some people believe not to put it on your lap because it messes with your reproductive organs! ~JFreund

But you know now you are wrong, correct? 108.162.219.223 06:59, 21 January 2014 (UTC)
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