Things You Can Die From

I stumbled on a fabulous site,, containing scads of fascinating articles on science issues in language non-specialists can follow. This one is about the odds of dying from one particular thing or another.

It’s a little hard to conceptualize. When we’re born, it’s as if each of us spins a giant wheel of fortune that keeps spinning and spinning until we die. If your odds from dying of heart disease are 1 in 5, then a fifth of the wheel is one big block labeled “Heart Disease.”

Each person’s wheel is a little different from the national averages shown in the article. An airline flight crew member would have a larger slice devoted to “Airline Disaster” than a person who never flies, and a nuclear plant worker would have a larger segment devoted to “Cancer.” A few slices, such as “Catastrophic Collision Between the Earth and Another Astral Body” take up only a tiny portion of the wheel, but if one person lands on it, almost everyone else will too. The wedges on our personal wheels are not static, but fluctuate as our risk factors change due to health and circumstances of life.

When you wake up each day, be grateful that your wheel is still spinning. And do what you can to enlarge the section labeled “Just Got Really, Really Old and Faded Gracefully Away.”

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