How big is your chance of dying in an ordinary day?

A Micromort can also be compared to a form of imaginary Russian roulette in which 20 coins are thrown in the air: if they all come down heads, the subject is executed.  That is about the same odds as the 1-in-a-million chance that we describe as the average everyday dose of acute fatal risk.

That is from Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter, The Norm Chronicles: Stories and Numbers About Danger, which is an interesting book about the proper framing and communication of risk.

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Amazon seem to call it "The Norm Chronicles: Stories and Numbers About Danger". Has the title been translated into American English for the US?

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I'd like to call your attention to this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micromort#Additional

In particular, the risk from eating peanut butter. Compare that to the other risks. I'd much rather have a charcoal-broiled steak and the wine than any peanut butter.

Peanut butter is an unusually risky food. It's made from the lowest grade of peanuts legally acceptable as food. Farmers whose peanuts flunk the test for aflatoxin can clean them up and submit them for regrading. The acceptable level of aflatoxins in peanuts in the U.S. is four times higher than the level in the EU, thanks to the peanut lobby. I wouldn't touch peanut butter.

LOL, that's an extremely miniscule chance of death. So eating 3 cups of peanut butter is about as dangerous as living 2 days in New York City (just due to air pollution), eh? I think I'll take my chances.

Eating a serving of peanut butter is about as dangerous as riding in a canoe for 9 seconds. Scary!

Also, it is doubtful that the research shows any risk at all for normal levels of PB consumption.

There's also a risk that depends on whether you carry the allele for the Thomsen-Friedenreich antigen. In this study, 10 of 36 subjects did carry the allele, which results in rapid cell proliferation in the rectal mucosa when they eat peanuts. This is believed to be a risk factor for colorectal cancer.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9428217

The color photomicrographs published in the paper are quite disturbing. This is what got me to quit eating peanuts altogether, rather than just cutting back to clean, mold-free, in-shell peanuts. Only moldy peanuts have aflatoxin, but all peanuts have the peanut lectin. In the absence of knowledge of my Thomsen-Friedenreich antigen status, I'm not eating any peanuts.

But peanut butter is America's great gift to world cuisine.

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Photographs of rectums cause me to lose my appetite for everything, not just peanut butter. But that's just me.

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They're not photographs of rectums. They are biopsy samples stained to show the proliferating cells. And proliferate they do -- very scary if you eat peanuts.

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"But peanut butter is America’s great gift to world cuisine."

Your best contribution is the Indian curry.

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Everyone knows peanut butter is the weapon of choice for international assassins.

I now understand why many pest companies use peanut butter to kill roaches.

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The Wikipedia article, with an omission fatal to its accuracy, leaves out the number of people who die from a broken heart after tragedy or death assaults someone they love

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Going skydiving once is as hazardous as living in NYC for 14 days: 7 micromorts for either.

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"...the 1-in-a-million chance that we describe as the average everyday dose of acute fatal risk"

I don't get this. If you live to 80 and have an equal chance of death on any given day then that is a 1-in-thirty thousand risk. It is true that the risk of death is not evenly spread-out over your life span but it is never even close to one in a million. Unless you count the chances of death in any given hour, then it might approach one in a million very early in a life that ends up being unusually long. If you make it to 100, then you have about a one in a million chance of death in any given minute after that.

From wiki:

A micromort is a unit of risk measuring a one-in-a-million probability of death (from micro- and mortality). Micromorts can be used to measure riskiness of various day-to-day activities. A microprobability is a one-in-a million chance of some event; thus a micromort is the microprobability of death. The micromort concept was introduced by Ronald A. Howard who pioneered the modern practice of decision analysis.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micromort

So all the micromorts you encounter add up to your actual chance of dying.

Which is 1.

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What kind of odds would you give me on Tyler not dying tomorrow? That is to say, how much money would I (or, say a life insurance company) have to offer to pay if Tyler dies, in order for you to pay me $100 if Tyler doesn't die? Do you currently own a life insurance policy on yourself? Have you looked into it?

Tyler,

I would stay in tomorrow, and don't open the door to strangers. Or eat peanut butter.

And avoid restaurants serving hot women. Oh wait, that's for another reason. Never mind.

I prefer my women cold.

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Tyler Cowen was born in 1962, so he's 51 year's old. The RP-2000 Combined Mortality Table projected to 2013 with Scale AA gives a 0.1908% chance of death at age 51 (across the entire year), so 1 in 200,000 is a vaguely reasonable guesstimate.

To Alex G.: How many coins all landing heads is that?

~18

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Somebody owes me $100

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I would take it that "average everyday dose of acute fatal risk" [emphasis mine] means a non-natural cause. The wiki article, for example, estimates this by noting that in the UK approximately 50 people, in a population of 60 million, die each day from non-natural causes, giving a roughly 1-in-a-million odds of such a fate on any given day.

Okay, this explanation makes a lot of sense. The thing is though, why such emphasis on non-natural causes? If they give you a one-in-a-million chance of death, then 29 times out of 30 you will die of something "natural". Even here, the question of what is natural comes into play. They talk about illness from smoking or eating foods that contain trace toxins but these things lead to diseases which could be considered "natural" causes of death.

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The good news is that we all get to hit a long shot at some point in our lives.

+1 micromort

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I'm more interested in the risk of becoming paralyzed unexpectedly, followed by years of involuntary disability.

I would pay for a "sudden death" function in case of severe disability.

I'm your huckleberry.

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Mental Floss posted a video last month about micromorts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLmBJ4_5eG4

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