2142: Dangerous Fields
Title text: Eventually, every epidemiologist becomes another statistic, a dedication to record-keeping which their colleagues sincerely appreciate.
This is a graph of fields of study, ordered by how likely one is to die because of something that that field studies, with mathematics being the least dangerous and gerontology being the most. Gerontology, the scientific study of old age, is shown as much more dangerous than the other fields, so it is far on the right side of the graph. The joke is in the distinction between the danger of studying the thing, and the overall death rate from the thing. Studying aging doesn't put you at much more risk of aging than the general population. However, studying volcanoes is likely to put you in dangerous environments.
- Mathematics is such a pure non-physical field that the probability of it being the direct cause of death is extremely low. The study of it might cause death through workplace disputes or absent-mindedly wandering in front of traffic while pondering (as in 356: Nerd Sniping). Famously (though likely apocryphally) Hippasus was thrown overboard a ship by Pythagoras for demonstrating irrational numbers. Archimedes was killed for not following an invading soldier's command because he was wrapped up in his own thoughts trying to solve a geometry problem.
- Astronomy, the study of stars and space. Astronomy is slightly more dangerous than mathematics, though, since it studies physical objects instead of abstract concepts. In addition to meteor or asteroid impacts, astronomical phenomena that might cause death include solar flares, nearby supernovae, distant magnetar quakes, a solar nova (the likelihood of which will increase over the next billion-odd years), perturbations in earth's orbit, increased or decreased solar radiation, and alien invasion. Given that the density of magnetars and potentially hostile alien civilizations in the stellar neighborhood is completely unknown, and not all past mass extinctions are explained, this one might be misplaced a bit. Although these are all rare events, just one could kill all living and potential future astronomers. That non-astronomers would also be affected seems poor consolation. While astronomers do not study aliens, as such—that would be exobiology—some have sought evidence of alien activity.
- Economics is the study of markets. Markets can kill you by depriving you of goods and services you need to survive. Goods can become unavailable (e.g., cartels, embargos) or unaffordable (through job loss, inflation), in depressions or recessions. The study of such markets usually does not involve great risk, unless the markets are illegal (e.g., illicit drug markets), the economy being studied has put people under great stress, or one's findings are really unpopular.
- Law in this context refers to the rules people have to follow in society, and given the nature of laws (civil and criminal), the odds that your death is related to law is usually low. Possible causes of death more-or-less directly related would include prosecution for a capital crime, persecution under legal authority (such as being killed by an officer of the law), attack by a guard, or for lack of medical treatment, while incarcerated, or death by exposure after expulsion from one's repossessed or otherwise legally confiscated home. However, when large groups of people are dispossessed, or have the protection of law removed, casualties can be quite high. For instance, the Partition of India in 1947 resulted in 200,000 to 2 million deaths. The laws of the Great Leap Forward contributed to the starvation of tens of millions of Chinese, disproportionally many of them lawyers and law professors. Perhaps most ironically, a lawyer who committed a capital crime in a country that practices capital punishment (such as the United States, China, or Iran), and was executed for it would be directly killed by the thing they study. In 2000, approximately 300,000 died from war and collective violence.
- Criminology is very similar to law, but is the study of crime, meaning it's more dangerous than just "law." Criminologists may be directly involved with criminals in the course of their studies, increasing their exposure to potentially life-threatening behavior. There were 520,000 deaths from violence (excluding war, suicide, and accidental or incidental deaths resulting from criminal activity) in 2000.
- Meteorology is the study of weather. Encountering powerful weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, floods, and thunderstorms brings the distinct possibility of injury and death. Curiosity to see a storm in person, or (if working for television news) exposing yourself to the weather event in order to file a report, may expose you to lightning, wind-blown projectiles, cold, water, etc., any of which can negatively affect your survival. Less dramatic weather also kills — hot weather can lead to heatstroke and dehydration. Adverse weather events kill about 100,000 to 200,000 annually.
- Chemistry is the study of chemicals and reactions of those chemicals. Since, under terrestrial conditions, everything is made up of chemicals (and chemists often use especially reactive or dangerous chemicals), the likelihood of a chemist's death being caused by chemistry (e.g., explosions, poisoning, chemical burns, suffocation) is not insignificant. Unintentional poisoning is identified as the cause of death for about 200,000 people a year, chemical assisted suicide kills over 300,000 yearly. Many other causes of death, such as snakebite (100,000), drug and alcohol disorders, some respiratory disorders, and cancers are more or less directly caused by chemicals.
- Marine biology is the study of ocean life. Many marine creatures are venomous, many are very large. Death could result from storms, boat accidents, drowning, diving accidents, exposure to pathogenic bacteria, toxins (such as those produced by cone snails, and "red tide" dinoflagellates), allergies to shellfish, or water pollution, in addition to such perhaps more obvious (but overwhelmingly rarer) risks as shark attacks. About 360,000 people die of drowning annually. Unprovoked shark attacks kill an average of 6 people annually.
- Volcanology involves the study of volcanoes, lava, and magma, with obvious risks to the scientists studying them in the field. Volcanoes have killed an estimated average of 500 people per year; most deaths result from remote effects, such as tsunamis and climate disruption. At least 67 scientists have been killed in volcanic eruptions, as of 2017.
- Gerontology involves the study of aging, and of growing old in general. As (to general knowledge) everyone has to this point been observed to age and eventually die, those who study gerontology are not immune to dying of old age even if they evade all the other possible causes of death — thus making it the most likely among all shown fields. A gerontologist still can die from something else first, but without the inherent risk factors of other professions such as active volcanoes or underwater diving, they're more likely to survive to retirement and thus meet their death of old age.
The title text is about Epidemiology, the study of health and disease conditions in populations. In the event of an epidemic, there is a strong chance that epidemiologists in the search for the cause, transmission, and treatment will be exposed and become victims of the disease in their own right. However, the title text refers more broadly to the role of epidemiology in maintaining detailed statistical records of diseases and other causes of death, such that eventually any epidemiologist (whatever the cause of death) will become one of their own statistics.
- [A line chart is shown going from left to right with two arrows on either side. On the line are ten dots spread out unevenly from close to each end. The first four dots are clustered together on the left side. Then follows 5 more dots unevenly spaced, all to the left of center. On the far right of the line, near the end, there is one dot. Beneath each dot, there goes a line down to a label written beneath each line. Above the chart, there is a big title and below that is an explanation. Below that again, there is a small arrow pointing to the right with a label above it.]
- Probability that you'll be killed by the thing you study
- By field
- [Arrow pointing right, labeled:]
- More likely
- [Labels for the ten dots from left to right:]
- Mathematics (0 pixels from first field, 0.00% of overall range of fields)
- Astronomy (9px, 1.35%)
- Economics (16px, 2.40%)
- Law (22px, 3.30%)
- Criminology (77px, 11.56%)
- Meteorology (96px, 14.41%)
- Chemistry (156px, 23.42%)
- Marine Biology (166px, 24.92%)
- Volcanology (206px, 30.93%)
- Gerontology (666px, 100.00%)
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