Whitewater Rafting is very safe, CNN!


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I’ve been looking into missing people, danger, and death for the Danger Database project and noted this CNN headline that screams “Whitewater Deaths surge in US”, noting that recently about 50 people per year die on whitewater trips.

Until I got to the last paragraph they almost had me buying into the idea that rafting is really dangerous. I take my kids rafting and certainly realize there is risk, but I’ve been assuming it’s well worth the educational and recreations value of a raft trip down the Rogue River or other great whitewater rivers here in Oregon or other place. I started to wonder but luckily I read this : “Ten million Americans take whitewater trips each summer”.

OK, let’s do the math: 50 people out of 10,000,000 die while rafting. Assuming you take an “average” rafting trip your chances of death are 50/10,000,000 or 1/200,000. Looking at it in the common death statistic parlance this is .5 deaths per 100,000 people which is a very reasonable degree of risk I think, though I need to bone up on my death stats for other activities. Hmmm – 1987 skydiving killed 1 for every 75,000 jumps and it looks like Hang Gliding is the most dangerous activity but I need to find better stats. Lightning appears to average 90 deaths per year, handily beating out rafting in terms of simple numbers.

Of course your chances are actually much lower than 1/200,000 if you avoid rafting while drunk and taking unneccessary risks, which I understand contribute to a lot of the accidents in rafting and many other human pursuits as well.

Hmm – based on some stats I dug up it looks like an hour of rafting is about 3x more dangerous than an hour of driving (ie based on my wild and quick calculations you are 3x more likely to die rafting for an hour than driving for an hour).   Still, it would appear to be a fairly/very safe activity.   See comments below for details

… and speaking of Travel, how about Time Tourism?


Thanks to Glenn (hey dude, where’s your blog to link to!?)  who just pointed me to this fascinating claim by UCONN professor Ronald Mallet suggesting that we’ll probably be traveling in time this century, and that time travel will be verified on the subatomic level within a few years using this clever experiment:

To determine if time loops exist, Mallett is designing a desktop-sized device that will test his time-warping theory. By arranging mirrors, Mallett can make a circulating light beam which should warp surrounding space.

Because some subatomic particles have extremely short lifetimes, Mallett hopes that he will observe these particles to exist for a longer time than expected when placed in the vicinity of the circulating light beam.

A longer lifetime means that the particles must have flowed through a time loop into the future.

…  Mallett – an advocate of the Parallel Universes theory – assures us that time machines will not present any danger.

“The Grandfather Paradox [where you go back in time and kill your grandfather] is not an issue,” said Mallett. “In a sense, time travel means that you’re traveling both in time and into other universes. If you go back into the past, you’ll go into another universe. As soon as you arrive at the past, you’re making a choice and there’ll be a split. Our universe will not be affected by what you do in your visit to the past.”

The parallel universe stuff is not all that fanciful either, rather it’s consistent with the new but increasingly mainstream thinking in physics called “M Theory” that supports the *possibility* of parallel universes that would be essentially invisible to earch other except perhaps by the influences of gravity.

Yes, it sounds like science fiction but it’s not fiction at all, just speculative rather than hard science.   At least for now.