Well, Columbus case is one hallmark how to cherry-pick your data to come to
Columbus began with the values of the best sources available: from the Arabian astronomer al-Farghani. Al-Farghani calculated very carefully that the distance of one degree latitude (north-south) equals 56 2/3 arabian miles (1972 m) which is 111.8 km; the modern value is 111.3 km. This is an error of 0.45 % !
Dilettante Columbus used the value 56 2/3, but instead using the correct Arabic mile he used the Roman one which is only 1481 m long. So you get only 3/4 of the correct distance which is 83.9 km.
Now we need to estimate the distance. 360° is the full circle, so how far away is Japan (Cipangu) from Spain away ? Contemporaries estimated it to 180° which is exactly half-way, but we have no problems with those Arabs anymore. If we use this, we get
Travel distance = 180° * 83.9 km = 15 102 km.
So even with the already flawed measuremants, we have still one big ocean between us. Even starting from the Canaries save us a marginal 10° = 839 km. Given a day's run of approximately 80 km this would have meant 178 days which is exactly half a year without provision. This would have meant certain death.
Now Toscanelli, a cartographer screwed up royally and used an outdated estimate of Marius of Tyre and estimated the east-west dimension of Spain-Chinas east coast to 230° (The correct value is 140°). And making no prisoners, he shifted Japan's east coast another 30° eastwards. So we have
260° of land and the distance shrinks to 100°.
Travel distance = 100° * 83.9 km = 8 390 km = 105 days.
This completely false value is still too big.
What now happened can only be attributed to "The wish is the father of the thought". Cipangu (Japan) must have islands which extend eastwards and naturally Cipangu is on the exact same latitude as the Canaries. And 56 miles could be shortened to 50 miles and there is very likely the island Antillia which could be considered part of Japan. And perhaps it is better that I subtract something from the value to make it look better...
In the end Columbus claimed a distance of approx. 4400 km which he very likely pul...erm...fabricated. Noone has an idea how he came to this completely deluded distance estimate. In the end he was lucky that America was in his way.