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Nasa satellite due to crash to Earth tomorrow – 2 million may die!

September 22, 2011

Well, that’s one interpretation of the statistical odds in this BBC article.

“The US space agency (Nasa) says that its out-of-control UARS climate satellite is expected to crash to Earth sometime on Friday evening (GMT). Nasa says that debris could fall across an area 400-500km (250-310 miles) long. Given that some 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, a splash-down for the debris seems most likely. But there remains a real possibility that some debris could fall on land.

UARS could land anywhere between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south of the equator – most of the populated world.

The 1 in 3,200 risk to public safety is higher than the 1 in 10,000 limit that Nasa aims for.”

Given that being hit by a very high speed chunk of metal could be fatal and given that about 6 billion people live in the area quoted above (correct me if I’m way out there),  I make that about 2 million people who could die tomorrow.


Edit: 2 days later.

Phew! We all survived.

NASA (or was it the BBC?) finally made it clear the 1 in 3,200 chance of being hit didn’t apply to any individual like you or me; it referred to anyone at all being hit.

We knew that all along, didn’t we? But twisting it made the story more interesting.

Seriously though, media reporting of statistics needs to be  carefully worded.

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