Episode 116: Risk

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn, Laura, Gem, and Lauren talk about how bad we are at assessing risk. Also on this episode: Do we get more risk averse as we get older? Is margarine going to kill you, or will a hippopotamus get you first? Will the world end not with a bang but a Boolean?

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Note: Music featured in this episode include samples from “Death from the Skies” by George Hrab (featuring Phil Plait), “Paranoid Android” by Radiohead, and “Binnorie” by Mediæval Bæbes.

Links: Relative risk (Wikipedia) | Spreading disease or spreading deliciousness: the butter vs. margarine debate rages on (dietitian at home) | Global catastrophic risk (Wikipedia) | Death from the Skies! (Wikipedia) | Holocene extinction (Wikipedia) | Existential risk from artificial general intelligence (Wikipedia) | AI Risk Analysts are the Biggest Risk (Singularity Weblog) | There is a blind spot in AI research (Nature News) | Program good ethics into artificial intelligence (Nature News & Comment ) | TRC #429.5: Programming Ethics Into AI (The Reality Check) | Potential Risks from Advanced Artificial Intelligence: The Philanthropic Opportunity (Open Philanthropy Project ) | If Aliens Exist, They May Come to Get Us, Stephen Hawking Says (Space.com) | Risk Preferences and Aging: The “Certainty Effect” in Older Adults’ Decision Making (Journal of Psychology and Aging) | Differences in risk aversion between young and older adults (NAN) | Differences in Risk Aversion between Young and Older Adults (Neuroscience and Neuroeconomics) | Aging and loss decision making: increased risk aversion and decreased use of maximizing information, with correlated rationality and value maximization | It is surprisingly rare for an alligator to kill a person (BBC Earth) | Chart: The animals that are most likely to kill you this summer (The Washington Post) | The Odds of Dying | 25 shocking things more likely to kill you than a shark (WNYY) | Choking Prevention and Rescue Tips | 10 Things More Likely to Kill You than Islamic Terror | List of selfie-related injuries and deaths (Wikipedia) | Animal bites (WHO)

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Episode 58: Ghosts and Apparitions, Part 2

Episode 58: Ghosts and Apparitions, Part 2

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem Newman talks about the evidence (or lack thereof) for ghosts with Greg Christensen, Ian Leung, and Mark Forkheim. Also on this episode, Gem chats with Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Warning: In the first few minutes of the podcast, Greg asks Gem to give a primer on Bayes’ Theorem and conditional probability (and why this is at all relevant to ghosts). It involves a little bit of math, so brace yourself.

Links: Solstice Party (22 June 2013) | Drinking Skeptically (11 June 2013) | Bayes’ Theorem | Sleep Paralysis | Apophenia | Pareidolia | Friendly Atheist | Steinbach Pastor Voices Opposition to Bill 18 | I Sold My Soul on eBay | The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide

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Bayes’ Theorem
P(A|B) = P(B|A) • P(A) / P(B)

The probability that it is raining, given the fact that it is cloudy:
P(Raining|Cloudy) = P(Cloudy|Raining) • P(Raining) / P(Cloudy)

The probability that ghosts exist, given the fact that you heard a weird noise:
P(Ghosts|Noise) = P(Noise|Ghosts) • P(Ghosts) / P(Noise)

In this instance, P(Noise|Ghosts) is the probability that you’d hear a weird noise, assuming ghosts exist, P(Ghosts) is the prior probability that ghosts exist, and P(Noise) is the probability that you’ll hear weird noises (generally speaking).

The example numbers plugged in during the podcast:
P(Ghosts|Noise) = 0.95 • 0.05 / 0.60 = 0.08

So in this case, hearing a strange noise might increase your belief in ghosts from 5% to 8%; definitely not a smoking gun.