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Old 09-11-2011, 04:42 AM
timboy timboy is offline
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 13
Default Re: Science Saturday: Phase Changes (John Horgan & George Johnson)

Originally Posted by miceelf View Post
Well, possibly, although one can make reasonable estimations of the probabilities of a 9/11 repeat and of an act of nuclear terrorism.

How many people will die from an attack by aliens in 2012? A zombie infestation?
You absolutely *could* attempt to estimate the probability of these future events (9/11 repeat, nuclear terrorism). All I am saying is that when John Horgan cites the comparative probability of dying from terrorism vs. auto accidents and cancer, it is not based on any such attempt. What he is citing is someone's analysis of such probability where the proxy for next year's probability is an average of the actual occurrence rates over the last N years.

With regard to aliens and zombies: sure, we could try to estimate the number of deaths next year due to attacks by aliens and zombies. I think you will be beginning to understand my point if we can agree that our projections of number of deaths in 2012 due to aliens and zombies should absolutely be larger than the actual number of deaths due to aliens and zombies in 2010, even if larger by a very small amount.

Of course, the central difference between aliens/zombies and terrorists is that we have evidence that terrorists actually exist.

(By the way, if it matters (and it shouldn't) I'm here from the Left and believe that the U.S overspends on terrorism and is way too paranoid about it. I'm just trying to argue against the inane "probability" stat.)
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