How-To Scientifically Predict Your Death: Micromort
14 Mar, 2012 - 07:36pm
Ever heard of a micromort? To put it simply, a micromort is a “unit” in measuring the risk of one’s chance of dying. So when you hear people say that the chance of dying from some sort of activity is “one in a million”, they’re speaking in micromort terms.
The whole concept of a “micromort” was introduced in Stanford University by Professor Ron Howard in 1968. While it isn’t so much a practice, per se, it is frequently used to talk about level of risk and potential trade-offs.
Those who are practicing micromorts (if we can call them that) like to measure what sort of risks they face in their day to day activities and then relate that to their chance of death. Some activities are more risky than others, and may raise your “microprobability” of death.
So how can you calculate when you will supposedly die? The easiest way to do this is to look at the number of people dying each day in your country, and then dividing that by the total population. Exclude all natural deaths. You’ll then get the figure for the number of people who die each day from non-natural causes.
Other factors are also said to increase your death risk by one micromort. There are some expected ones increase death risks, like smoking, consuming too much alcohol, spending over an hour in a coal mine or on the boundary of a nuclear power plant. But there are some unexpected ones too, such as:
- Living 2 months in Denver: cause of increased death risk – cancer from cosmic radiation
- Eating 40 tablespoons of peanut butter: cause of increased death risk – liver cancer from Aflatoxin
- Eating 1000 bananas: cause of increased death risk – cancer from radioactive 1 kBED of Potassium-40
- Traveling 6 minutes by canoe: cause of increased death risk – accident
- Traveling 17 miles b walking: cause of increased death risk – accident
- Flying 6000 miles/9656km by jet: cause of increased death risk: cancer from cosmic radiation
There are some activities that will even take more micromorts off of your life. Hang gliding will deplete you of 8 micromorts per trip, and sky diving in the United States will steal away 17.5 micromorts per jump!
Depending on your lifestyle, your age, gender, and illnesses, you may or may not have a higher risk of dying than your counterpart. For example, someone who is overweight and who regularly goes hang gliding at midnight after a six pack of beer has a significantly higher risk of death than a vegan yoga instructor who lives an hour outside of any major metropolitan area. That much is easy to figure out. But do we need micromorts to tell us this? Not really. Common sense can tell us that much. But by the same token, who’s to say that the super healthy vegan yoga instructor won’t be randomly hit by a car tomorrow while the drunken hang glider continues to take midnight flights?
I guess what we’re trying to say is, take what you want from micromorts. It can both be a real eye opener about how unhealthy your lifestyle is and encourage you to change it, or it can be something to roll your eyes at and carry on with your life. What we do all know is that we won’t be here forever (well, probably won’t be, anyway) so we should all try to live as happily and healthily as possible.