Wired published a quiz regarding "fear factors" and their connection to misleading reasoning. The article claims "the gut...identifies a media-amplified image, story, or statistic as a clear and present danger. The resulting inchoate sense of foreboding causes us to grossly overestimate the danger of highly unlikely threats." Dan Gardner, author of The Science of Fear, tells us to "do the math...and turn off the television."
On these items from the Wired quiz, see how you (or your "gut") does...
A. Man-made and naturally occurring pollutants cause what persent of cancer cases?
B. Ratio of mad cow disease deaths in England to the number of BBC News stories about mad cow disease?
C. Ratio of deaths from smoking to BBC News stories about smoking deaths?
D. How many people did the early '90s Ebola virus outbreak in Virginia and the 1995 outbreak in the Congo kill, respectively?
E. An American student is 75 times more likely to be killed...
- 3 and 7,035
- 0 and 255
- 1 and 824
- 12 and 11,700
F. Chances that an asteroid 100 meters across, delivering the explosive equivalent of 3,500 Nagasaki bombs, will hit Earth in the next century?
- on campus
- off campus
G. Age at which breast cancer is most likely to strike?
- 1 in 5000
- 1 in 250
- 1 in 100
To check your "guesses," each answer is found in sequence once you first find the repeating decimal cycle for the answer to 2/3 x 671117/333333333.
Source: "Fear Factors," Wired, July 2008, p. 74