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View Diary: Odds of Dying by Terrorist Attack: 20,000,000 to 1 (246 comments)

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  •  Eh hem! Dubious stats at best (2+ / 0-)
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    Dr Swig Mcjigger, merrywidow

    By way of another example.  Nobody dies from meteor impacts in a typical year.  In fact nobody dies from meteor impacts in a typical decade, or even a typical century.  But the earth suffers a catastrophic meteor impact every 500 million years or so.  When the risk of annihilation of the entire human species in considered, the odds of dying from a meteor impact become comparable to the odds to dying from a lightening strike.  I.e. not high, but certainly well above zero.

    Similarly, looking at the average annual terrorism deaths does not fully appreciate the problem.  Like with meteors, there is a low, but appreciable risk of a catastrophic terrorist attack.  While you could only estimate such a risk by making up numbers, it does make the overall risk from terrorism not as negligible as the annual death toll would suggest.  And unlike with meteors, we can take actions to lower the risk of a catastrophic terrorist attack.

    Reasonable precautions are therefore prudent. I.e. solid police work, security in public transit, controls on nuclear material, etc.  I don't think the diarist meant to deny this, but numerical distortions always rub me the wrong way.

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