At least the Reaper can count…

Written by Grant Mills on . Posted in Nature, Religion, Science

Following up on a curiosity regarding the use of bananas as a unit of radiation – Banana Equivalent Dose (check it out) – led me on to an even more intriguing little tidbit that at first horrified me, then bewildered me and finally left me with a resigned appreciation for insurance brokers’ ability to seep all colour out of our existence.

Meet the Micromort.

As the Francophiles among you will have guessed, this to do with death – mort.  Sadly it has nothing to do with the French’s more alluring little death – la petite mort – though I am sure that it has been quantified along the way.

A micromort is a unit of risk that equates to a one-in-a-million probability of you dying. And it seems that if you have a life insurance policy then someone out there has slapped a micromort value on your head.

Micromorts can be used for a whole range of fun things –

Like quantifying the value that humans put on their chance of dying! If someone approached you with a tablet and told you that it caused death in every millionth person that took it, how much cold, hard cash would it take for you to take it? $5? $50?

Sounds a bit crass when it’s a person peddling pills but this is essentially how risk assessment interprets your every action – with an attached probability that you’ll get splatted, squished, severed, maimed or liquefied.

We don’t think about this every time we get in the car to go to the shops…but someone does.

Or how about quantifying your average chance of dying each day?

Currently the average life expectancy is 81.5 years in Australia. So that means you’ll have one death for 29,747 days lived (81.5 x 365). Divide one million by 29,747 to get the number of micromorts per day, that is to say your chances in a million of becoming a corpse before sundown.

For those of you without a calculator, that’s 33.6 micromorts per day – 1.4 per hour. And that is just the national baseline average, taking into account all those young, careful, healthy people. For everything you do your micromorts will change.

And sadly unless your idea of fun is wearing a helmet to the shops or laying down quietly in a dark room then all those fun things in life are only going to increase your micromort tally…Nervous about leaving your house yet?

Thanks to djEye

If you have ever held insurance people in low regard – imagined rows upon rows of them living like caged chickens, each pecking away at a calculator, computing their ability to make money out of your imminent death – then this is not going to dispel the stereotype.

Someone has had the job of calculating the actions that actually equate to a single micromort. Things such as:

–          If you’ve drunk 0.5 litres of wine today, add one micromort

–          Lived in New York or Boston for 2 days, congratulations have a micromort token

–          One micromort for dying of cancer because of cosmic radiation due to living in Denver for 2 months

–          No one suspected it was the chloroform in the water in Miami (one more for drinking Miami water for a month)

–          Travelled 6 minutes by canoe? Then advance to death, do not pass Go, do not expect to outlive your goldfish.

–          Here is a telling one though. One-in-a-million chance of dying of radiation if you live for 150 years within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant.

–          And how about a neat little throw-back to the start – One micromort, due to radiation, if you eat 1000 bananas.

–          Wikipedia reports that hang-gliding entails 8 micromorts per trip, scuba diving is 5 while a parachute jump in the US is worth 17. Do them all in one day and collect the set.

Thought your life was dictated by fate?

It seems that it’s not the Devil that has your number, it’s your insurance guy.

Can you be a bit more specific on the ‘maybe’?

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