Friday, May 02, 2014

The Danger of Parachutes

I have found a dissertation online which uses a neat form of logic that can prove that parachutes are dangerous, and that we should stop using them when jumping out of airplanes. I only get out of airplanes if they are on the ground and stationary, or if the pilot gets out, whichever comes first but

This dude starts by admitting that if you are riding a bicycle and are in an accident a helmet will probably save your life, but he then proceeds to dive into misstatements of fact and tortured illogic to prove that wearing a helmet while bicycling is not only unnecessary but is actually contraindicated. He is an even bigger idiot than Paul Krugman, which is a considerable feat.

First he has a colorful pie chart which shows that 53% of head injuries in San Diego in 1978 occurred in cars, not on bicycles. Wait a minute, 1978? That’s 36 years ago! How seriously am I going to regard an argument that uses 36-year-old data?

Anyway, the guy says that since so many more head injuries occur in cars than on bicycles, we should be requiring people to wear helmets while driving cars, not while riding bicycles. I think he’s missing a basic point here, which is where the parachutes come in. You’re not going to believe that I researched parachute usage in San Diego, and you’ll be right, I made all this shit up and I’m still closer to reality than the idiot with his bicycle helmet arguments.

One person left an airplane while it was in flight not wearing a parachute in 1978 and the experience, not surprisingly, killed him. On the other hand, 126,543 people departed from flying airplanes while wearing parachutes and no fewer than nine of them died. Now go back to Howie’s pie chart and note that nine people died while wearing parachutes while only one person died while not wearing a parachute, and it becomes obvious that airplane jumpers should not be wearing parachutes.

That’s what Howie is saying with his silly ass 36-year-old chart; nine times as many head injuries occurred in cars as on bicycles, so people in cars should wear helmets and people on bicycles should not. I’m saying that nine times as many airplane jumpers died with parachutes as died without them, so jumpers should stop wearing parachutes. Both statements are equally stupid and illogical.

What percentage of non-parachute users died? 100% What percentage of parachute users died? .007% Put another way, if you jump without a chute you will certainly die; if you jump with a chute you have only one chance in 14,000 of dying.

The question Howie doesn’t ask is how many people took car trips in San Diego in 1978, and how many took bicycle trips? I don’t know the answer to that and I wasn’t here that year, but I will bet you my next Social Security check that at least one million more car trips were taken than bicycle trips and that the rate of head injury in cars was a very small fraction of the rate of head injuries on bicycles. Put another way, your chances of getting a head injury are vastly greater while riding a bicycle than they are while riding in a car, which is why we require bicyclists to wear helmets.

He later asserts that car drivers “passed an average of 3 1/3 inches closer when the bicycle rider was helmeted than when he was not.” He says that the closeness of the pass increases “the chance of being clipped by a vehicle.” He does not assert that any vehicle clipping actually occurred, or that bicycle riders fell off of their bicycles, or fainted in terror, so it is unclear what role those 3-1/2 inches played in the study he is citing, or why they justified not wearing helmets.

He than tells us that, “There's some evidence that having an enlarged piece of plastic and foam on your head increases the probability of hitting an object that you'd be able to avoid in the first place.” He doesn’t tell us what that evidence is, of course, probably because it is about as reliable as my evidence about parachute jumpers.

Then he tries the statistical game of showing no reduction in injuries, citing one study that "found an increase in head injuries between 2004 and 2010 despite an increase in helmet use,” He fails to mention that the number of snowboarders increased by 500% in that six year period, so it’s likely that while the number of injuries increased, the rate of injuries decreased.

He finished with a couple of flourishes like, “The ultimate way to make cycling safe is to promote a culture of cycling, not bike helmet use,” and that rather than helmets we should assure that “cyclists learn how to assert their road rights while also safely interacting with traffic.” Which sounds noble, except that these things are not mutually exclusive. Wearing helmets does not prevent, or even interfere with the goal of promoting “a culture of cycling” or teaching people how to cycle safely.

This nitwit doesn’t want to wear a helmet, and is engaging is extreme nonsensical self justification to comfort himself. The danger is that kids may read this garbage and be sold by it.

1 comment:

bruce said...

I think this guy has a existing brain injury called stupidity. Unfortunately, it is not caused by non-helmet use, so wearing a helmet or not wouldn't make a difference for him. His best bet is wear the hemet backwards to muffle his words, Then they would be as unintelligible as they are illogical.

Post a Comment