Crunching the Numbers on Mortality
View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.
One of the key traits that make human beings unique on planet Earth is that we’re aware of our own mortality.
Scientific advances have given us insight into which behaviors may prolong life, and which activities carry the greatest risk of death. Naturally, there have been some unique attempts to create a unified structure around risk and benefit, and to quantify every aspect of the human lifespan.
As today’s graphic from TitleMax demonstrates, even when we’re thinking about death, the human desire to codify the world around us is alive and well.
Certain events – such as a parachute failing to open or being hit by a meteor – have an easily quantifiable effect on life, but how do we measure the riskiness of day-to-day habits and situations? This is where a unique unit of measurement, micromorts, comes into play.
This concept, invented by renowned decision analyst Ronald A. Howard, helps compare any number of potentially lethal risks. One micromort equals a one in a million chance of sudden death. Here’s the riskiness of various activities measured in micromorts:
|Ascending Mount Everest||37,932|
|Getting out of bed (Age 90)||463|
|Being born (first day of life)||430|
|Riding a motorcycle||10|
|Running a marathon||7|
|Travelling 6,000 miles by train||1|
|Travelling 230 miles by car||1|
The average person, by the time they reach adulthood, will live approximately one million half-hours. Those 30 minute units are known as microlives.
The microlife concept was invented by professor David Spiegelhalter as a way to measure the consequences of various behaviors. For example, 20 minutes of physical activity earns us two microlives, while watching TV for two hours subtracts one microlife.
This measurement extends beyond nutrition and eating habits. Simply living in a modern era earns us an additional 15 microlives per day compared to those who lived a century earlier.
Casting the die on how we’ll die
How will the estimated 353,000 humans that will be born today eventually meet their end? This was the thought experiment conducted by Reddit user, Presneeze.
While our focus is often drawn to people who meet their end in spectacular and tragic ways, the vast majority of humanity will succumb to conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
Geography can play a big role in shifting these odds:
- In the United States, which is grappling with an opioid addiction crisis, there is a 1-in-96 chance of dying from a drug overdose.
- Diarrheal diseases may not be on the radar of most people living in first world countries, but in developing regions, they remain a leading cause of preventable death – particularly for children.
- In Russia, the odds are 1-in-4 that a man will not live beyond 55 years. The main culprit? Vodka.
On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.
The Most Popular Wikipedia Pages, 2007-2019
Millions flock to Wikipedia every day to satisfy their curiosity on every imaginable topic. What have been the most popular Wikipedia pages over time?
The Most Popular Wikipedia Pages, From 2007-2019
Where do you go to satisfy your curiosity about the world? Chances are, most people would turn to Google, where the first search result for virtually any topic is likely to be Wikipedia.
Wikipedia often acts as a quick-and-dirty first source of information—and today’s intriguing animation from Data Geek shows what people are reading about the most. The video highlights more than a decade of the most popular pages on Wikipedia, sorted by total monthly views.
Which topics of interest race to the top?
Note to readers: Page view statistics are only for the English version of Wikipedia, which has nearly 6 million total articles to date.
A One-Stop Shop of Information
Since its 2001 inception, Wikipedia has thrived as an open collaboration project, catapulting it into the ranks of the world’s top websites today. Over the years, the upper limit of views for the most popular pages has dramatically increased.
In 2008, the most popular Wikipedia page belonged to Barack Obama, during his U.S. Presidential campaign, garnering about 3 million views per month. By 2019, the page for the United States took its place at the top, this time soaring to nearly 200 million monthly views.
The 12 most popular Wikipedia pages fluctuate in category, with some expected winners. Throughout the years, World War II shows up consistently in the rankings, likely propelled by research for school assignments.
The U.S. is another undisputed, most-viewed page for nine years in a row (2011-2019). Following the November 2016 U.S. election, pageviews for Donald Trump also leapt into the top three.
Here’s how the most popular pages shake out over a decade:
|Rank||Jan 2008||Jan 2012||Jan 2016||Jan 2019|
|#2||U.S.||Lady Gaga||Barack Obama||Donald Trump|
|#3||Harry Potter||The Beatles||India||Barack Obama|
|#4||World War II||Barack Obama||Lady Gaga||India|
|#5||Kim Kardashian||Michael Jackson||Michael Jackson||World War II|
|#6||Britney Spears||India||World War II||Michael Jackson|
|#7||Miley Cyrus||Eminem||Game of Thrones||UK|
|#9||Lil Wayne||Lil Wayne||UK||Eminem|
|#10||India||World War II||The Beatles||Game of Thrones|
|#11||Will Smith||Glee (TV)||Justin Bieber||Elizabeth II|
|#12||UK||Justin Bieber||Adolf Hitler||Adolf Hitler|
Musicians also regularly top the charts, thanks to their illustrious careers and the public’s curiosity about their private lives. Michael Jackson holds a record for longest best-selling artist, but also for one of the most viewed Wikipedia pages, especially after his death in mid-2009.
A Crowdsourced Snapshot of the World
These popular Wikipedia pages provide an interesting angle on current events of the time, although it should be taken with a grain of salt.
For example, the 2008 financial crisis is arguably one of the biggest events of this decade—yet it doesn’t make an appearance in these most viewed pages. One possible reason is that more reputable sources of information exist about the event, as it was widely covered in the media.
Nevertheless, Wikipedia’s mission is to freely share knowledge, relying on over 250,000 monthly volunteers to keep its information accessible by anyone.
Breaking Down Barriers
Boasting over 50 million articles, it’s not hard to see why Wikipedia has reigned supreme as a crowdsourced catalog of information. However, a lesser known fact is that just one man is responsible for a significant chunk of the website’s English-language articles.
In 2017, Steven Pruitt was named one of Time Magazine’s “most influential people on the Internet” for making over 3 million edits and authoring 35,000 original pages on Wikipedia—all for free.
Pruitt is even helping to solve Wikipedia’s gender bias, and has expanded the share of biographical articles about women from 15% to 17.6% in a few short years.
I’m very conscious of what it can mean to make knowledge free, to make information free.
Visualizing the Speed of Light (Fast, but Slow)
In our every day lives, light is instantaneous – but in the context of our solar system and beyond, light is surprisingly slow.
Visualizing the Speed of Light
With the flip of a switch, your room can be instantenously flooded with brightness.
In fact, there is no noticeable lag effect at all.
That’s because emitted photons travel at 186,000 miles (300,000 km) per second, meaning it takes only 1/500,000th of a second for light to reach even the furthest part of an ordinary room. And, if it could go through the wall, it would orbit the entire planet 7.5 times in just one second.
Light Speed is Fast…
In our every day experiences, we never see light as having to “take time” to do anything. It’s inconceivably fast, brightening up everything in its path in an instant — and with a few odd caveats, scientists believe light speed to be the fastest-known achievable pace in the universe.
But what if we get out of our bubble, and look at light from outside the confines of life on Earth?
Today’s animation, which comes from planetary scientist Dr. James O’Donoghue, helps visualize the speed of light in a broader context. It helps remind us of the mechanics of this incredible phenomenon, while also highlighting the vast distances between celestial bodies — even in our small and insignificant corner of the solar system.
Light Speed is Slow…
Once a photon is sent into the vast abyss, suddenly the fastest possible speed seems somewhat pedestrian.
- Moon: It takes about 1.255 seconds for light to get from Earth to the moon.
- Mars: Mars is about 150x further than the moon — about 40 million miles (54.6 million km) in the closest approach — so it takes 3 minutes to get there from Earth.
- Sun: The sun is 93 million miles (150 million km) away, meaning it takes 8 minutes to see its light.
Let that sink in for a moment: the sun could explode right now, and we wouldn’t even know about it for eight long minutes.
Going Further, Taking Longer
If it takes light a few minutes to get to the closest planets, how long does it take for light to travel further away from Earth?
- Jupiter: The largest planet is 629 million km away when it’s closest, taking light about 35 minutes.
- Saturn: The ringed planet is about as twice as far as Jupiter, taking light 71 minutes.
- Pluto: It takes about 5.5 hours for light to go from Earth to the dwarf planet.
- Alpha Centauri: The nearest star system is 4.3 light years away, or 25 trillion miles (40 trillion km).
- Visible stars: The average distance to the 300 brightest stars in the sky is about 347 light years.
If you really want to get the feeling of how “slow” light really is, watch the below video and journey from the sun to Jupiter. It’s done in real-time, so it takes about 43 minutes:
So while light obviously travels at a ludicrous speed, it really depends on your vantage point.
On Earth, light is instantaneous – but anywhere else in the universe, it’s pretty inadequate for getting anywhere far (especially in contrast to the average human lifespan).
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