]]]]]]]]]]]]      INTERVIEW WITH A RISK EXPERT      [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[
                  Interview with a Risk Expert          (8/17/1989)

                   by Daniel E. Koshland, Jr.
                       [Editor of Science]

        [Editorial, Science 244 (30 June 1989), p. 1529]

              [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   SCIENCE. Dr. Noitall, you are  the ultimate world authority on
all types  of risk,  a revered  figure who  has just  appeared in
national television.
   NOITALL. A vast understatement of my true value.
   SCIENCE. You must  have a large laboratory  to uncover so many
facts not available to the regulatory agencies.
   NOITALL. Facts are no longer created in laboratories, they are
created  by the  media.  Any  pronouncement  of mine  repeated in
three periodicals, four newspapers,  or one television program is
considered a fact.   My appearance on three  talk shows is enough
to qualify me as an expert.  It  is no longer necessary to have a
laboratory in my profession.
   SCIENCE. Could you give examples of how to avoid risk?
   NOITALL. Stay out of the home.   More than 3 million people in
the United States were injured in  1987 in home accidents; 90% of
all automobile  accidents occur within  10 miles of  home.  It is
imperative that you stay away from home.
   SCIENCE. But I've heard that many accidents occur on highways.
   NOITALL. That  is true.   There is  one fatality  for every 10
minutes of driving on the highways  in the United States.  I have
developed a rigorous formula that  shows that the more time spent
on the highway, the greater the chance of an accident. Therefore,
I recommend driving  80 miles per  hour as a  way of reducing the
time  spent  on highways  and  thus  reducing your  chance  of an
   SCIENCE.  If  one  stays  away  from  home,  is  there  not an
increased chance of infectious diseases?
   NOITALL. One has to give  up sexual intercourse entirely.  The
danger of disease from that source  is far greater even than from
eating an apple, and it should be avoided at all costs.
   SCIENCE. Are there other dangers about which the Environmental
Protection Agency has failed to advise us?
   NOITALL. Breathing.  All  breathing generates oxygen radicals,
which  are  the main  sources  of  mutations in  DNA,  leading to
cancer, birth  defects, and  very peculiarly  shaped molecules in
the urine.  Breathing has been observed 3 minutes before death in
100% of all fatalities.  We urge everyone to stop breathing until
the proper research as  been carried out.  The  EPA has been told
about this  relation and  has failed to  act on  it, a scandalous
display of irresponsibility.
   SCIENCE. What about hazards from crime?
   NOITALL. A third of all  homicides are committed on intimates,
about a third  on acquaintances, and about  a third on strangers.
Hence, it  is imperative  to avoid  intimates, acquaintances, and
strangers in order to reduce your risk of homicide significantly.
   SCIENCE. Can one ever completely eliminate a given risk?
   NOITALL. One can  reduce risk to  essentially zero by adopting
what I  call ``the  riskier alternative  strategy.'' For example,
one  could take  up  hang gliding,  as  it has  been conclusively
demonstrated  that fewer  hang gliders  die of  passive cigarette
smoke than those who never  participate in the sport.  People who
bicycle without  a helmet need  not worry about  a little nuclear
reactor nearby.  People who have a cocktail before dinner or wine
with a meal need never  worry about a little trichloroethylene in
their  drinking  water.   By  the  proper  choice  of alternative
strategies, it is possible to reduce one's chance of dying of any
particular disorder to  any desired level.   It has relieved many
people of risk anxiety syndrome.
   SCIENCE. This seems  so sensible, I  am surprised people don't
follow your advice.
   NOITALL.  Most ignoramuses  are in  fact following  my formula
without knowing it.  Millions of people commute 20 miles to work,
take  airplanes, and  choose hopelessly  short-lived grandparents
and still  worry about  clean drinking  water.  These  people are
secret admirers of peptic ulcers.
   SCIENCE.  We  can't thank  you  enough  for the  time  you are
spending with us, but I have  one last question.  Do you practice
what you preach?
   NOITALL. Sadly, the  answer is no.  My  family on the parental
side has  a hereditary  weakness whose  clinical manifestation is
the ``eat, drink, and be merry''  psychosis.  As a result, all my
ancestors on  that side of  the family have  died prematurely, in
their early nineties.   I doubt whether I  will escape the family

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