Questions for ‘What the mummy’s curse reveals about your brain’

an illustration of a mummy reaching for the viewer

Would you fear entering a mummy’s tomb? The myth of a mummy’s curse grew in part because of a coincidence. A British lord died soon after opening up a long-lost tomb. Despite the fact that there was never any scientific evidence to link his death to the mummy, the story of that curse lives on.

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To accompany feature “What the mummy’s curse reveals about your brain


Before Reading:

1.  Have you ever experienced a random coincidence? Give an example.

2.  At the time of those coincidental events, what explanation popped into your head? Did that explanation turn out to be true?

During Reading:

1.  What is “the mummy’s curse”? What clue from Egyptologist Salima Kram suggests that the mummy’s curse isn’t real?

2.  What is the null hypothesis?

3.  How did researcher Mark Nelson test the mummy’s curse with the null hypothesis? What did his data tell us?

4.  What is it about our brains that makes us want to believe in things like the mummy’s curse or a monster under the bed?

5.  What is a coincidence? What can help us tell when a connection between two events is real or imagined?

6.  What does statistical significance mean? How did David Spiegelhalter use statistics to study the likelihood of an airplane crash?

7.  What does “paranormal” mean? Does scientific evidence support paranormal events? Why might a person believe in the paranormal?

8.  What is a conjunction error? Give an example from this story.

9.  Random chance explains many coincidences. What other brain-related things might cause people to see something as a coincidence?

10.  What approach should a good scientist take when investigating a pattern of events that seem connected?

After Reading:

1.  What does it mean to be skeptical? Why is being a good skeptic helpful to a scientist?

2.  If something happens to you that seems to be a coincidence, what will you do to figure out if it’s real?