Taking A Leaf Out Of An Old Book

A Fee-Nom-in-Hum and an Expotition

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7480.1434 (Published 16 December 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1434
  1. Julie Morris, head of medical statistics (julie_m{at}fs1.with.man.ac.uk)1
  1. 1 South Manchester NHS Trust, Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester M23 9LT

    This paper by Knight1 describes a great Expotition into the 100 Aker Wood to investigate the puzzle, “Isn't it funny how emboli race to the same place?” by throwing pine cones from My Bridge into the stream and tracking them, in a Big Adventure, to see where they would end up.

    The study seems very interesting, and the results would make my friend Eeyore think, “That accounts for a Good Deal. It Explains Everything. No Wonder.” But I am not sure I understand everything the Clever Dr Knight has described. For example, when was this Expotition carried out? “On Monday, when the sun is hot” or “On Tuesday, when it hails and snows”? This matters because the stream changes with the weather.

    How many investigators came to the bridge? And how did they carry so many pine cones? Did they bring enough Provisions for such a Big Adventure? And did they sing,

    “How sweet to be a cone

    Floating in the stream

    Every little cone

    Always sings alone”?

    It isn't surprising that some cones stopped in the same place. I assume there were Big Stones and Rox, and the cones went, Bump, Bump, Bump against these or other Cunning Traps.

    As a Bear of Very Little Brain I asked my friend Owl, who always knows something about something, to calculate how likely it is that so many cones end up at the same place. He said that assuming there were only seven different places, A, B, C, D, E, F, and “other” (for the cones that were assumed to have drifted further downstream1), then the probability of getting 31 or more (out of 100) at just one place was much smaller than P < 0.0001 (assuming a binomial distribution and equal probabilities of getting to each of the seven places). I said to him, “I see, I see,” but I didn't quite understand, as long words Bother Me.

    The last point that worries me is: what happened to all those red pine cones? Did the investigators collect them all up? Or will I have to do it? I suppose I could use Christopher Robin's umbrella, and my friends Piglet and Eeyore could help. But, it reminds me of the Very Great Danger during the Terrible Flood. Anyway, perhaps the Woozle or Heffalump ate them?

    Now I am Very Tired and I think I shall Stop There and eat my Provisions.



    • With apologies to A A Milne. Extracts from Winnie the Pooh, by A A Milne, were quoted by permission of the trustees of the Pooh Properties.

    • Competing interests Anything connected to Hunny.


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