Thursday, February 21, 2013

Things to Worry About

Last week's literal bolt-from-the-blue, when an unexpected meteor exploded over the Chelyabinsk region of Siberia and caused massive damage and many injuries, has ratcheted up the level of public angst about the danger of asteroids, meteors, and other cosmic junk crashing to earth.

This is, indeed, worrisome, and a danger with which we must contend. But is it the worst thing we have to worry about?

This interesting chart, which appeared in The Economist on Valentine's Day, graphically illustrates the odds of dying in the United States from various causes. If it doesn't blow up enough to read clearly when you click on the image (and it probably won't), you can see the original here:

What lessons do we derive from this chart? Here are a few ...

1. The danger of being killed by an asteroid impact is approximately 1 in 75,000,000. Rough, but not very likely.

2. The danger of being killed by lightning is about 1 in 10,500,000. A bit riskier than asteroids, but still relatively unlikely*.

3. The risk of death from "Post Surgery Complications" is 1 in 117,500.

4. "Assault by Firearm" (includes firearms of all sorts) is ranked as 1 in 25,000.

and ...

5. The greatest risk of death in the United States comes from Heart Disease, at approximately 1 in 470.

So ...

As you read stupid Facebook posts or other items that tell you how much less likely you are to be killed by gunfire than by (insert cause here), now you have a chart to which you can refer for a reality check. Or you could just consult the bizarre TV show 1000 Ways to Die. Whatever.

Now, go out and buy that shotgun Vice President Biden says is your best bet for home defense**. And protect yourself at both ends of the threat spectrum by installing a reinforced roof on your house for asteroid protection, and eating better to take care of your heart.

Have a good day. Be careful out there ... the world is full of asteroid clowns, ha, ha.

See you back here for Cartoon Saturday.


* Oddly enough, my wife was named for a member of her mother's family who was killed when she was struck by lightning.

** For what it's worth, I agree with him. Assault rifles are cooler-looking, but nothing beats a good old 12-gauge for intimidation appeal.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

Thanks for this very level-headed discussion of different risks of mortality. It's interesting that some of the very low-risk ones get an exaggerated amount of attention. Perhaps it's their very rarity that makes them stand out. Garden variety causes of death like from heart disease, although they are the most probaqble, don't receive as much attention because each case happens to a single person rather than a large number.

A great post; thank you!

Kristen Drittsekkdatter said...

VP Joe Biden endorsed shotguns?

Thanks for this summary of possible reasons for dying. It puts things in perspective.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I know 2 people who have been struck by lightening. Wow.
1 in 10,500,000 and I know 2.
Wonder what the odds of that are?

KathyA said...

You always bring such wonderful news!

Mike said...

I wonder how thick my roof would have to be to deflect a 10,000 pound rock going 38,000 miles an hour?

Amanda said...

The one that struck me was 'walking'. It was a whole separate category....