Chances of me getting hit by satellite debris are 1 in 3200? Ummm… wrong

September 23, 2011 3pm in News Stories | Comments (1)

I haven’t been updating my blog for a while, but I came across this story in the NZ Herald and had to vent my frustration.

This quote in particular annoys me:

Experts say there is a one-in-3200 risk of the six-ton space junk hitting someone – considerably greater than the chances of winning Lotto, at just one in 3.8 million.

Now… that is a totally inaccurate and misleading comparison. The 1-in-3200 chance refers to the chance of *anyone in the world* getting hit by debris. The 1-in-3,800,000 chance of winning lotto refers to the chance of *one person in particular* winning Lotto. The chance of *anyone in the world* winning Lotto (which would be a fair comparison) is actually extremely high!

To put it a different way, to calculate the chances of *me personally* getting hit by debris, I have to multiply 3200 by the population of the world, which was about six billion last time I checked, so the chances of me personally getting hit by debris is 1-in-19,200,000,000,000. The chances of me personally winning Lotto is, as the article stated, 1-in-3,800,000. Therefore I am much more likely to win Lotto than to get hit by space debris.

But as they say, never let the truth get in the way of a good story, right NZ Herald journalists?

Here’s another quote from that article:

…though given more than three-quarters of the earth is covered in water, NASA is expecting a splash-down, rather than a smack-down.

Wow, so it took a NASA scientist to work out that because more than 75% of the earth is water, it’s more likely to land in water than land? AMAZING! Well done, NASA!

Seriously, who writes this stuff?

One Response to “Chances of me getting hit by satellite debris are 1 in 3200? Ummm… wrong”

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

  1. Comment by Katrina — September 23, 2011 9pm  

    Richard and I had a similarly ragey discussion on this very topic a few days ago.

Leave a Reply