(A Steven Zaillian Film)

In 1984, residents of a neighborhood in Randolph, Massachusetts, counted 67 cancer cases in their 250 residences. This cluster of cancer cases seemed unusual, and the residents expressed concern that runoff from a nearby chemical plant was contaminating their water supply and causing cancer. The residents believed that the well water was contaminated and had caused the leukemia. They proceeded to sue two companies held responsible for the contamination.

1. Identify the lawyer (actor and who he portrays)?

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2. Briefly describe the plot of the movie.





3. How was statistics and math used in the movie?




4. Did the statistics affect results of the court case?




5. How did this case affect the lives of the main characters in “A Civil Action”?




6. Describe the results of the case?


7. What long-range effect did this case have on the US?


8. Was this a fair case? What could have been done to alter the results?



9. What environmental concerns do we face in the Norfolk area?






10. What type of statistical analysis COULD you perform for one of your concerns mentioned in #9?

In Steven Zaiilan’s Film A Civil Action, the attorney William Cheeseman (Bruce Norris) tells Al Love (James Gadolfini)

If I took a hundred pennies and threw them up in the air, about half of them would land heads, and the other half tails, right? Now if I looked around closely, I’d probably find some heads grouped together in a cluster. What does that meam? Does that mean anything?

In this assignment, we will explore these questions

Let represent the underlying rate of birth defects during the time the contaminated wells were being used, and let represent the underlying rate of birth defects during the time the contaminated wells were not being used. We want to know whether these underlying (but unknown) rates and are equal.

1. State the appropriate null and alternative hypotheses. Since we believe a priori that water pollution should increase, rather that decrease, the rate of birth defects, use a one sided alternative hypothesis.



The true values of and are unknowable. Instead, we observe a sample of births (from the population of all births that ‘could have occurred’ in Woburn during these time periods), and we observe the proportion of birth defects when the wells were or were not being used. Let represent the observed proportion of birth defects when the contaminated wells were being used, and the observed proportions of birth defects when the contaminated wells were not being used.

According to one source, there were 16 birth defects out of 414 births when the contaminated wells were being used and 3 birth defects out of 228 when the contaminated wells were not being used.




1. Calculate the values of and from these data. Also calculate ( – ), the difference between the two proportions.


1. If the null hypotheses were true, what would be the sampling distribution of the quantity ( – )? Give the name of the sampling distribution, its mean, and its SD. Show your work.




1. Calculate the P-value, if the null hypothesis were true. Show your work.




1. Based on your P-value, do you reject or fail to reject the null hypothesis? Comment in context of the problem.











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