Truth or Scare?

Panicology: Two Statisticians Explain What’s Worth Worrying About (and What’s Not) in the 21st Century.

Do you scare easily? Do you spend time worrying about bird flu, a tree branch falling on your head, civilization-destroying asteroids, or any of a zillion other things that might injure or kill you? Thanks to British statisticians Simon Briscoe and Hugh Aldersey-Williams you needn’t worry your pretty little self no more, for they can tell you what you should—and shouldn’t—be fretting about.

“Panicology” is a whirlwind tour of the most commonly-reported threats to human safety, covering everything from family life and health, to violent crime and terrorism, to natural disasters and modern science. After reviewing the evidence regarding each individual scare, the authors score threats “using a points system to show how vividly each threat is portrayed in the media, how real the threat is, and how much we as individuals can do about it.” In addition, the authors provide a “skeptics toolkit,” designed to make it easier for readers to separate fact from fear in the future.

As one might expect, not every threat in “Panicology” is inconsequential; there are a handful of issues that we should legitimately be worried about. But we won’t trouble you with those. If you must know what you should be really afraid of, remain calm and proceed in an orderly fashion to the nearest bookstore, where staff will assist you.