The Only Things We Have to Fear are Statistics

A person’s odds of dying from an accidental opioid overdose are greater than dying in a motor vehicle crash.

Years ago, I posted a few items about what I called “fear junkies” — the apparent addiction to panic that so many people have — and that gets stoked by weather and news purveyors.

After going through a few politically-motivated panic attacks since then, I understand the fear people have. However, I’ve not given up my belief that, statistically, Americans often misdirect our fear. We obsess over things which are statically remote while growing numb to things (and certain politicians) that we should actually panic over.

For example, according to a new study by the National Safety Council’,” (via: NYTimes.com) a person’s odds of dying from an accidental opioid overdose are greater than dying in a motor vehicle crash. Here’s a quote from the study’s findings.

Fear is natural and healthy. It can help us respond to danger more quickly or avoid a dangerous situation altogether. It can also cause us to worry about the wrong things, especially when it comes to estimating our level of risk. If we overestimate our risk in one area, it can lead to anxiety and interfere with carrying out our normal daily routine. Ironically, it also leads us to underestimate real risks that can injure or kill us. It can be difficult to accurately assess the biggest risks we face. Plane crashes, being struck by lightning or being attacked by a dog are common fears, but what about falls, the danger inside of a bottle of pills, or your drive to work? Knowing the odds is the first step in beating them.

A chart (below) from the National Safety Councils website provides a listing of lifetime odds of death for selected causes. I found it fascinating, but not surprising, that many things deserving more fear are accepted as normal while things that rarely happen get most of the airtime of local news each night.

Heart disease and cancer and lower respiratory disease (all with connections to smoking) are the top causes of deaths. (Death from riding a bicycle is 1 in 1,747.)

The one thing for certain, no matter how precisely we understand the statistics of death, there is only one thing we can be 100% sure of about death: we’re all going to experience it one day…unless we travel on passenger trains.

 

Lifetime odds of death for selected causes, United States, 2017
Cause of Death Odds of Dying
Heart Disease 1 in 6
Cancer 1 in 7
Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease 1 in 27
Suicide 1 in 88
Opioid overdose 1 in 96
Motor Vehicle Crash 1 in 103
Fall 1 in 114
Gun Assault 1 in 285
Pedestrian Incident 1 in 556
Motorcyclist 1 in 858
Drowning 1 in 1,117
Fire or Smoke 1 in 1,474
Choking on Food 1 in 2,696
Bicyclist 1 in 4,047
Accidental Gun Discharge 1 in 8,527
Sunstroke 1 in 8,912
Electrocution, Radiation, Extreme Temperatures and Pressure 1 in 15,638
Sharp objects 1 in 28,000
Cataclysmic Storm 1 in 31,394
Hot surfaces and substances 1 in 46,045
Hornet, wasp and bee stings 1 in 46,562
Dog attack 1 in 115,111
Passenger on an airplane 1 in 188,364
Lightning 1 in 218,106
Railway passenger 1 in 243,765

See data details

What You Can Learn From Damn Research

Survey says: People who swear appear to be more honest than those who don’t.

I grew up in a household where profanity was rarely uttered. At least in the presence of parents. I do recall that I had my mouth washed out with soap by my kindergarten teacher. I have a feeling such corporal punishment would now be verboten, no?

Anyway, this article showed up in my newsreader this morning and the first thing that popped into my mind was my kindergarten teacher who was, other than that time at the sink, a wonderful teacher:

A study published last year with the title “Frankly, We Do Give a Damn: The Relationship Between Profanity and Honesty,” notes, “the consistent findings (of) studies suggest that the positive relation between profanity and honesty is robust, and that relationship found at the individual level indeed translates to the society level.” It’s true, some research shows that people who swear may be likely to violate other social norms, god bless ‘em, but they are also less likely to lie during police interrogations.

(via | Open Culture)

People Who Swear Are More Honest Than Those Who Don’t, Finds a New University Study

The Doodle is the Message

A Google Doodle today commemorates the 106th anniversary of the birth of Marshall McLuhan.

A few years ago, I submitted an article to an editor describing Osmo Wiio as the Marshall McLuhan of Finland.

“Our readers will have to google Marshall McLuhan and Osmo Wiio to figure out what you mean,” the editor emailed me back.

“That’s okay, I responded, Google is merely an extension of their central nervous systems,” I responded.

“?” emailed the editor.

“You know. The medium is the message,” I responded.

“The message is not a medium, it’s a large. Here it is.: You can’t reference two communications theorists in one sentence.”

Bonus: A review by the late David Carr (RIP) of a biography titled Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work.

The title of the book comes from one of the greatest movie scenes of all time (if you can use google).

 

Malcolm Gladwell Just Provided the Tipping Point to My Understanding of Country Music

Now I know the ingredients of a tear jerking country song.

I’ve lived in Nashville for almost 40 years, but I’ve learned more about country music in the past 40 minutes than I had in all those years.

The current episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History, is titled “King of Tears.” It centers on a talk Gladwell had in Nashville recently with legendary songwriter Bobby Braddock, now in his 70s. (Minor spoiler: He’s the person being referenced to in the title of the episode.

You may not know who Braddock is, but you’ll be tracking down all of the songs he wrote by the time the podcast episode ends.

While the short version of what Kings of Tears is about is this: Gladwell seeks and finds out, “What it is about some kinds of that makes us cry.”

I finally have an answer to those questions.

Just listen.

Here is a link to “King of Tears.”

(Sidenote: The Revisionist History website includes links to a couple of books Gladwell refers to in the episode and provides links to the various ways you can subscribe to future episodes.)

A Few of the Thousand New Words That Made it Into the Dictionary

Words like photo bomb have made it into the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Merriam-Webster.com has added 1,000 new words to its online dictionary.

I was familiar with the most of the tech, web culture and political ones. Completely blank on the science ones. Didn’t know that wayback machine has a meaning other than the one found at archive.org. But buried deep in the list, I knew the meaning of ginger.

Completely blank on the science ones.

Ginger, of course.

Didn’t know that “wayback machine” has a meaning other than the one found at archive.org.

But buried deep in the list, I knew the meaning of ginger (right).

Here is a sampling of the new words (links go to Merriam-Webster.com meanings).

Technology and web culture

net neutrality
abandonware
botnet
binge-watch
photobomb
ghost
NSFW
listicles
humblebrags

Sports

airball
up-fake
five-hole

Medicine

supercentenarian
EpiPen
urgent care

Science

CRISPR
phytoremediation
microbiome
Prosopagnosia

Cooking and food

arancini
EVOO
macaron
santoku
chef’s knife
artisanal (expanded entry)

Politics

SCOTUS
FLOTUS
town hall
truther

Familiar words combined that form new words

face-palm
food insecure
geek out
ride shotgun
side-eye
throw shade
train wreck
walk back (an opinion)
weak sauce

More examples of new meanings for old word combinations

Yowza!
bokeh
elderflower
fast fashion
first world problem
ginger
microaggression
mumblecore
pareidolia
ping
safe space
wayback
wayback machine
woo-woo