2142: Dangerous Fields
Title text: Eventually, every epidemiologist becomes another statistic, a dedication to record-keeping which their colleagues sincerely appreciate.
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This is a chart of "fields of study by danger", with mathematics being the least dangerous and gerontology being the most. Gerontology is shown as multiple times more dangerous than the other fields, so it is far on the right side of the graph. Generally speaking, the "study of ageing" does not seem likely to kill you, but approaching it philosophically, ageing is a cause of death.
- Mathematics is such a pure non-physical field that the probability of it being the direct cause of death is extremely low, barring workplace disputes or absent-mindedly wandering in front of traffic while pondering (as in xkcd 356: Nerd Sniping).
- Astronomy mostly deals with extremely far-away things, so assuming there isn't a meteor impact, astronomy is probably not going to kill you. 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 nearby supernovas, distant magnetar quakes, a solar flare or solar nova (the likelihood of which will increase over the next billion-odd years), perturbations in earth's orbit, increased or decreased solar radiation, alien invasion, etc. Given that the density of magnetars and potentially hostile alien civilizations in the potentially lethal radius is (like the radius itself) completely unknown, and not all past mass extinctions are explained, this one might be misplaced a bit. The lethal stroke may be unlikely, in absolute terms, but most cut quite a broad swath.
- Economics is the study of markets, which through recessions and scarcity can kill you in any way that capitalism or other economic systems can affect the availability of goods and services you need to survive.
- 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 low. Possible causes of death more-or-less directly related to the study of law would include attacks by someone you are prosecuting or defending, prosecution for a capital crime, persecution under legal authority (such as being shot or strangled by an officer of the law), attack by a guard or fellow prisoner, or for lack of medical treatment, while incarcerated, or death by exposure after expulsion from one's repossessed or otherwise legally confiscated home. Perhaps most ironically, a lawyer who committed a capital crime, lives in a country where capital punishment is not yet abolished (such as the United States, China or Iran), and was executed for it would be directly killed by the thing s/he studies.
- 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.
- Meteorology is the study of weather, and encountering powerful weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and thunderstorms brings 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, etc. any of which can negatively affect your survival.
- Chemistry is the study of chemicals and reactions of those chemicals. Since everything in existence 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.
- Marine Biology is the study of marine life. Many marine creatures are venomous, many are very large, many are very hungry. Death could result from exposure to pathogenic bacteria, toxins (such as those produced by cone snails, and "red tide" dinoflagellates), allergies to shellfish, drowning (e.g. in strong ocean currents), scuba accidents, or water pollution, in addition to such perhaps more obvious (but overwhelmingly rarer) risks as shark attacks.
- Volcanology involves the study of volcanoes, lava, and magma, with obvious risks to the scientists studying them in the field. At least 67 scientists have been killed in volcanic eruptions, as of 2017 ("Volcanologists lose their lives in pursuit of knowledge").
- Gerontology involves the study of aging, and of growing old in general. As everyone ages and eventually dies, those who study gerontology are not immune to dying in 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 causation, 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 his/her 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 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:]
- Marine Biology
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