Get cancer or get blown up. The odds are the same.

Chance of Dying From Airport Backscatter Radiation About the Same as Chance of Getting Killed by Terrorists
[Via Daring Fireball]


Peter Rez, a physics professor at Arizona State University in Tempe, did his own calculations and found the exposure to be about one-fiftieth to one-hundredth the amount of a standard chest X-ray. He calculated the risk of getting cancer from a single scan at about 1 in 30 million, “which puts it somewhat less than being killed by being struck by lightning in any one year,” he told me.

While the risk of getting a fatal cancer from the screening is minuscule, it’s about equal to the probability that an airplane will get blown up by a terrorist, he added. “So my view is there is not a case to be made for deploying them to prevent such a low probability event.”

(Via Randal Schwartz.)


There is no benefit to the individual in this case. In fact, they are probably orders of magnitude more likely to die driving to the airport.

But these numbers are really interesting. About 2 million people fly a day in the US. So, by a rough rule of thumb from my statistic days, this would mean that there would be a greater than 95% chance that at least once malignancy would be caused by these machines every 45 days or about 8 a year.

But we don’t see 8 people a year die from terrorist attacks on planes in the US, do we? seems like the current efforts have been quite successful.

We have had zero people killed in the US on planes in the last year due to terrorists.Thus if the machines had been around a year ago, they would have caused 8 cancers but would really not have done any good at all.

So I would say these numbers indicate that not only is there no benefit to the individual but there is also no benefit to society. These machines could cause 8 cancers a year but have not demonstrated any ability to stop terrorist bombings.

I don’t think I will fly for a while.