A great quote “from”:http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/05/should_terroris.html Bruce Schneier:
bq. One of the things I routinely tell people is that if it’s in the news, don’t worry about it. By definition, ‘news’ means that it hardly ever happens. If a risk is in the news, then it’s probably not worth worrying about. When something is no longer reported — automobile deaths, domestic violence — when it’s so common that it’s not news, then you should start worrying.
This comes just after a quote from his book _Beyond Fear_ “More people are killed by pigs every year than by sharks, which shows you how good we are at evaluating risk.”
I really should try to review that. ([“via”:http://rc3.org/cgi-bin/less.pl?arg=6964])
Contrariwise, people kill more pigs than sharks, and the coefficient of vice-versarity is wildly other than proportional.
The news argument is convincing, the pig/shark one less so. For most of us, sharks _are_ more of a danger than pigs, since we don’t generally go swimming in swine-infested waters.
When it comes to fearing shark deaths, the time we worry about it most is when we are standing neck deep in the murky gray ocean. I haven’t seen too many pigs out there.
Well, I have only once been chased by angry pigs, and never — to my knowledge — by a shark. I think that what tips the balance is that — outside of Britain — pigs nowadays live most of their lives indoors, in hideous factories where strangers will seldom come upon them. The chance of meeting a homicidal shark is much lower, but more widely distributed. Even if, in fact, we are never gong to swim in waters where sharks might be found, going to Florida looks a lot more plausible than visitng the nearest pig farm.
This is one of those canards like, ‘you’re more likely to be hit by a falling meteorite than to win the lottery’. What? I hear about people winning the lottery twice a week, I’ve never heard of anyone ever killed by a meteorite. You’re more likely to get kicked to death by a donkey than to … whatever (get killed by a shark, I suppose.) Where are all these homicidal donkeys (and pigs)? There would shoot-to-kill teams patrolling the streets ready to protect us from these marauding donkeys and pigs, and while they were at it, they might as well hand out meteor protection helmets.
The people we hear about being killed by sharks are who? white, by any chance? from developed nations?
And the swinish assassins are where, exactly? and their victicms?
I suppose it all depends on how you define “people”.
While we’re on the subject of mishaps improbable… Advocates of atomic energy are always saying how it’s three billion to one against terrible accidents happening. We’ve already used up 6-billion of these improbable moments and had Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island disasters. It’s safer to apply Murphy’s Law when the possible accident involves destroying life in a whole country: If it can go wrong, it will go wrong.
The question about atomic energy isn’t whether it is risk free. It is whether the risks are lower than those associated with the alternatives. Depending on oil is not risk free. Drastically cutting energy consumption is hardly risk free either.
I suppose you’re referring to global warming as a consequence of relying on oil and similar fuels, and also that they will run out. I agree the disasters one can imagine are equal or worse, but there is a sense that we can actually deal with some of those problems, there will be ways, we are trying, we may succeed, and so on. The problem with contamination by radioactivity is it might be impossible to do anything about it. I’m not an expert, but I’m conjecturing that radioactive fallout would have a half-life of something like 30,000 years. When the whole country is seriously contaminated, what will we do?
(I hope I’m wrong.)
Here is a typically tendentious article on the subject (though he says so myself, I mean though I say so himself) by my friend Malachy Dunhill: http://willesdenherald.blogspot.com/2003/09/place-your-bets-have-you-ever-noticed.html
That “article by Malachy Dunhill”:http://www.willesdenherald.blogspot.com/2003/09/place-your-bets-have-you-ever-noticed.html
Radioactive wast may be impossible to dispose of with complete safety but there’s nothing we can do to dry out drowned countries, either.
The worst nuclear contimnation will be cause by nuclear wars, which I think get more likely in a condition of limited energy and climate change. The worst that terrorirst could do is a very pale imitaiton of what a determined government might accomplish.