Fermi in the Morning

I was lying in bed this morning, outlining a blog post, where I could use words like ‘hyperbolic discounting’, ‘tail risk’, etc. I wanted to illustrate by saying that at any given second a person dies somewhere. But is it really true? I had no idea. In fact, I had no basis whatsoever for thinking that, except that it sounded dramatic.

So, here I was, too lazy to get up and grab my tablet (should just leave the darn thing at the bedside.) But apparently not too lazy to do a simple Fermi calculation. Amazing dude, he was. So I guessed and rounded, and came up with an important number: about 30 people per second exist, so no more than 30 deaths per second.

It was really early. But from this “important” ppl/sec metric, and whatever ballpark US fatalities stats I could remember, I figured that one death per second is quite possible in the US. Probably more if you take the whole world. Now that I think of it, I probably could come up with a relative quality of life multiplier, but too late! I’ve already looked the stats on the Internets:

According to CIA World FactBook, in the world 1.8 deaths every second. In US, according to US Census, 1 death every 13 seconds, amounts to (hate to divide by 13, used a calculator) 0.08 deaths per second.

So I wasn’t too far off, overall. 1 dps is definitely not an exaggeration. Fermi rules! The world, not so much.

P.S. I was totally wrong about my US stats ballparks. They talk so much about traffic fatalities, I was off by an order of magnitude.

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