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Crunching the Numbers on Mortality

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data mortality death infographic

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.

Mortality Units

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:

ActivityMicromorts
Ascending Mount Everest37,932
Getting out of bed (Age 90)463
Being born (first day of life)430
Giving birth170
Playing Football20
Riding a motorcycle10
Running a marathon7
Rock climbing3
Travelling 6,000 miles by train1
Travelling 230 miles by car1

Life Units

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.

causes of death

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.

–Chuck Palahniuk

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Misc

Visualizing the Origin of Elements

You’re likely familiar with the periodic table, but do you know the origin of elements? This graphic shows where our solar system’s elements come from.

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origin of elements

Visualizing the Origin of Elements

Most of us are familiar with the periodic table of elements from high school chemistry. We learned about atoms, and how elements combine to form chemical compounds. But perhaps a lesser-known aspect is where these elements actually come from.

Today’s periodic table showing the origin of elements comes to us from Reddit user u/only_home, inspired by an earlier version created by astronomer Jennifer Johnson. It should be noted that elements with multiple sources are shaded proportionally to reflect the amount of said element produced from each source.

Let’s dive into the eight origin stories in more detail.

The Big Bang
The universe began as a hot, dense region of radiant energy about 14 billion years ago. It cooled and expanded immediately after formation, creating the lightest and most plentiful elements: hydrogen and helium. This process also created trace amounts of lithium.

Low Mass Stars

Low Mass Star
At the beginning of their lives, all stars create energy by fusing hydrogen atoms to form helium. Once the hydrogen is depleted, stars fuse helium into carbon and expand to become red giants.

From this point on, the journey of a low and a high mass star differs. Low mass stars reach a temperature of roughly one million kelvin and continue to heat up. Outer layers of helium and hydrogen expand around the carbon core until they can no longer be contained by gravity. These gas layers, known as a planetary nebula, are ejected into space. It is thought that a low mass star’s death creates many heavy elements such as lead.

Exploding White Dwarfs
In the wake of this planetary nebula expulsion, a carbon core known as a “white dwarf” remains with a temperature of about 100,000 kelvin. In many cases, a white dwarf will simply fade away.

Sometimes, however, white dwarfs gain enough mass from a nearby companion star to become unstable and explode in a Type 1a supernova. This explosion likely creates heavier elements such as iron, nickel, and manganese.

Exploding Massive Stars

High Mass Star
Massive stars evolve faster and generate much more heat. In addition to forming carbon, they also create layers of oxygen, nitrogen, and iron. When the core contains only iron, which is stable and compact, fusion ceases and gravitational collapse occurs. The star reaches a temperature of over several billion kelvin—resulting in a supernova explosion. Astronomers speculate that a variety of elements, including arsenic and rubidium, are formed during such explosions.

Exploding Neutron Stars
When a supernova occurs, the star’s core collapses, crushing protons and neutrons together into neutrons. If the mass of a collapsing star is low enough—about four to eight times that of the sun—a neutron star is formed. In 2017, it was discovered that when these dense neutron stars collide, they create heavier elements such as gold and platinum.

Cosmic Ray Spallation
The shockwaves from supernova explosions send cosmic rays, or high energy atoms/subatomic particles, flying through space. When these cosmic rays hit another atom at nearly the speed of light, they break apart and form a new element. The elements of lithium, beryllium, and boron are products of this process.

Nuclear Decay
Supernova explosions also create very heavy elements with unstable nuclei. Over time, these nuclei eject a neutron or proton, or a neutron decays into a proton and electron. This process is known as radioactive decay and often creates lighter, more stable elements such as radium and francium.

Not Naturally Occurring
There are currently 26 elements on the periodic table that are not naturally occurring; instead, these are all created synthetically in a laboratory using nuclear reactors and particle accelerators. For example, plutonium can be created when fast-moving neutrons collide with a common uranium isotope in a nuclear reactor.

Discoveries Yet to be Made

There is still some uncertainty as to where elements with a middle-range atomic number—neither heavy nor light—come from. As scientific breakthroughs emerge, we will continue to learn more about the elements that make up the mass of our solar system.

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Culture

Visualizing the Daily Routines of Famous Creative People

The eclectic daily routines that inspired the world’s most famous creative people to produce their best and most original work.

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Visualizing the Daily Routines of Famous Creative People

Creative people have a reputation for circumventing convention.

After all, if creatives always did things the same way as everyone else, how could they ever produce anything original and truly unique?

While it’s not always easy to do things differently, the most famous creative people throughout history have almost always followed their own paths. The end result, thankfully for us, is a wealth of original art that has served to inspire generation upon generation.

Time Well Spent

Today’s chart comes to us from Podio and it breaks down the daily routines of famous creative people, such as Pablo Picasso, Mozart, Maya Angelou, or Benjamin Franklin.

We highly recommend the interactive version which allows you to highlight segments of the chart to see more specific details on the routines of each creative person.

It’s also worth noting that the routines listed don’t necessarily represent the exact everyday activities for the listed creatives – instead, they are representations of what’s been recorded in diaries, journals, letters, or other literature by these greats themselves.

Finally, most of the data comes from the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey.

Unconventional Habits of Creative Geniuses

Here are some of the creatives that had some of the most unusual and eccentric routines:

Ludwig van Beethoven
The famous German composer and pianist was a coffee addict, and would count exactly 60 beans for each cup of joe he consumed.

Franz Kafka
The novelist would have strong bouts of insomnia and often hallucinated. This condition shaped his creative process, and he stated in his journal that he only knew the type of writing in which “fear [kept him] from sleeping”.

Honoré de Balzac
The French novelist and playwright “[went] to bed at six or seven in the evening, like the chickens” and started working just after midnight. When he worked, he wore “Moroccan slippers” and a “notorious white monkish robe with a belt of Venetian gold”. In his defense, with this type of routine, he was able to write 85 novels in 20 years.

W.H. Auden
The English-American poet took Benzedrine – an amphetamine – every morning for 20 years as a systematic part of his routine and creative process. He balanced its use with the barbiturate Seconal, for when he wanted to sleep. He called amphetamines a “labor-saving device” that gave direct energy to his work.

Victor Hugo
The French poet, novelist, and dramatist, best known for penning Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, had very busy and eclectic days.

His breakfast would include coffee and two raw eggs, and after working for a few hours in the morning, he would take an ice bath on the roof. In the afternoon, he would try to fit in a quick visit with his barber, a date with his mistress, and also some strenuous exercise. In the evening, he would write some more, and then play cards and go out with friends.

The Reputation Lives On

Rightfully or wrongfully deserved, the reputation of creative geniuses for doing things differently is something that will likely continue to live on – and the rest of the world will likely pass judgement so long as they continue to receive the fruits of their labors.

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