img.latex_eq { padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; }

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Safety and Shallow Water

The other day I was having a polite, yet throughly innocuous conversation with an acquaintance of mine concerning phobias. This person admitted several paralyzing fears to me, and not wanting them to feel self-conscious, I mentioned my "apprehension" of deep water. Now strictly speaking, it is far from a phobia. I have been in boats on the open sea several times and did much splashing and swimming. I simply push thoughts of my total and utter vulnerability to denizens of the deep to the back of my mind. Upon hearing this, my acquaintance sought to reassure me by stating that I shouldn't worry because most shark attacks happen within a few feet of shore.

I will pause momentarily for you to digest the implied stupidity.

Of course most attacks occur within a few feet of shore; that's where all the people are! It's not as though some meandering bull shark in search of a meal will stop pursuing you as soon as you get fifty feet out. Sharks eat wherever they are when the happen to be hungry. This misunderstanding of statistics falls into a larger category of math confusion which includes the "facts" that most drownings occur in shallow water and most car accidents happen less than a mile from home. These relative danger doesn't change, just the amount of time you put yourself at risk. If this weren't the case, you could drastically cut down on your chance of auto collision by moving to a new house, yours being so horribly disaster prone and all.

Needless to say, I doubt my associate has a career waiting as an actuary. Equally obvious is the fact that I am going to try much harder to avoid stupid conversations.

No comments: