Don't turn on that fan!

I was reading an article on Fark and it referenced something called "fan death." Since I'd never heard of such a thing, I looked it up on Wiki and lo and behold, they had a nice article on it.

Apparently Fan Death is an urban legend in South Korea that says that when operated in closed rooms, electric fans cause sudden death, suffocating victims by stealing their oxygen. Freaky, huh?

The cartoon over on the left kinda illustrates this logical problem. That is, concluding that there's a causal relationship between two things just because they're often found together. In this case, dead people and electrical fans.

Actually there's a third factor present that explains both the dead people and the electrical fans: heat. When it's hot, people without A/C are more likely to die and they're also likely to be using electrical fans in an attempt to stay cooler.

According to Wiki:
The genesis of this belief in South Korea remains a mystery although there are some theories as to the origin. The most prevalent theory is that since the first reports of fan death did not occur until the 1970s, it is speculated that in order to conserve energy use by the population, the South Korean government propagated this notion in order to cut down on energy usage at a time of supply constraints.

Causality is a wily beast. It causes a lot of people logical errors. Just look at how the Republicans are trying to blame President Obama for high gas prices. The GOP obviously has a poor handle on cause and effect. Sad, huh?

Comments

Carmi Levy said…
This is why I always keep my windows open :)

Causality is a touchy thing for a journalist. It's the easiest way to get into trouble - and much easier to simply leave the connection as broad as possible. That way you don't get nailed if things turn out differently.

Besides, as a journo, it's not up to me to judge. That's what sources are for!

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