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

Overview


Are you afraid you might succumb to bird flu? Worried that a life of poverty awaits you in old age? Concerned that you might not be having as much sex as the French? Anxious that our planet is under threat from climate change or a collision with an asteroid? If any, or all, of these things worry you, you're not alone. Anxiety is a part of modern life. But why? We're living longer, safer, and healthier lives than at any time in human history. So what is there to worry about?

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

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Overview


Are you afraid you might succumb to bird flu? Worried that a life of poverty awaits you in old age? Concerned that you might not be having as much sex as the French? Anxious that our planet is under threat from climate change or a collision with an asteroid? If any, or all, of these things worry you, you're not alone. Anxiety is a part of modern life. But why? We're living longer, safer, and healthier lives than at any time in human history. So what is there to worry about?

In this witty and revealing book, Simon Briscoe and Hugh Aldersey-Williams strip away the hysteria that surrounds over forty of today's most common scare stories, from overpopulation and murder rates to fish shortages and obesity levels, and show the extraordinary extent to which statistics are manipulated or misrepresented by vested interests and the media, eager to exploit our fears. And most importantly they offer a toolkit for skepticism—ways of helping readers sort out what really is worth panicking about from the stuff that really isn't.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Briscoe, the statistics editor at The Financial Times, and science writer Aldersey-Williams (The Most Beautiful Molecule) join forces for a wide-ranging appeal to "worry less" in about public health, social policy, terrorists, declining resources and other sources of media-generated hysteria (except for earthquakes and cars, which we could stand to worry about more). While these British reporters turn up a few surprises (some demographers now worrying about "negative momentum," when "a shrinking population goes into an every-steeper spiral of decline") and some cheeky bits (the Continent prefers the bidet while Anglo Saxons don't, "the French buy less soap"), many of their themes are well-worn: the "obesity plague," flu scares, environmentalism gone awry, and health scares implicating power lines, cellular phones and genetically engineered foods. Despite some familiarity, Briscoe and Aldersey-Williams demystify a huge list of tricky subject matter with precision and humor.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781602396449
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/1/2009
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 706,218
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Hugh Aldersey-Williams studied natural sciences at St. John’s College, Cambridge. He is a writer and curator and is the author of numerous books on architecture, design, and science. He lives in Norfolk, England.

Simon Briscoe holds a degree is social sciences and has worked in the civil service, investment banking, and has been the statistics editor at The Financial Times in the UK since 1999. He lives in London.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction I

1 Sex, Marriage, and Children

The Birth Dearth 11

Family Breakdown 19

The Marriage Squeeze 27

Something for the Weekend? 32

2 Health

The Fat Thing 40

Currying Flavor 47

A Dead Duck 53

It's Amazing What They Can Do 62

Completing the Course 67

Sudden Death 74

3 Passing the Time

Art Is Dangerous 81

Cheers! 87

The Death of Cinema 93

4 Social Policy

Golden Oldies' Time Bomb 98

Credit Crunch 104

The Housing Bubble 109

Immigrant Invasion 114

Losing Control of Your Vehicle 121

Death by Phone 127

5 The Workplace

No Work or Low Pay 132

Underpaid Women 137

It's All Too Much 143

Games of Chance 148

6 Law and Order

Terror Alert 155

Bang Bang 162

Crime and Punishment 167

7 The Natural World

Looking Up 171

The Short, Hot Summer of 2006 178

Becoming Unsettled 184

Pigs Might Swim 192

Go with the Flow 199

Chilling News 205

8 Our Declining Resources

Wild Talk 210

The God Delusion 218

Not a Word 225

9 Modern Science

Frankenstein Foods 231

Little Wonder 239

Exposed 244

10 They're Coming to Get You

Expecting Visitors 252

That's When It Hits You 259

A Skeptic's Toolkit 267

Notes 271

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