The Norm Chronicles: Stories and Numbers About Danger and Death Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Is it safer to fly or take the train? How dangerous is skydiving? And is eating that extra sausage going to kill you? We've all heard the statistics for risky activities, but what do they mean in the real world? In The Norm Chronicles, journalist Michael Blastland and risk expert David Spiegelhalter explore these questions through the stories of average Norm and an ingenious measurement called the MicroMorta - a one-in-a-million chance of dying. They reveal why general anesthesia is as dangerous as a parachute jump, giving birth in the US is nearly twice as risky as in the UK, and that the radiation from eating a banana shaves three seconds off your life. An entertaining guide to the statistics of personal risk, The Norm Chronicles will enlighten anyone who has ever worried about the dangers we encounter in our daily lives.
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|Listening Length||10 hours and 57 minutes|
|Author||Michael Blastland, David Spiegelhalter|
|Narrator||Angelo Di Loreto|
|Audible.ca Release Date||March 10 2015|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #158,001 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#41 in Safety & Emergency Preparedness
#189 in Mathematics (Audible Books & Originals)
#308 in Statistics
Top reviews from Canada
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Thankfully, the authors go beyond bombardment with tables and charts. They convey quantities in charming measurements: acute risks in MicroMorts (a one-in-a-million chance of death) and more chronic risks in MicroLives, (one-millionth of a typical life span, or about 30 minutes of existence). These common units allow for easy comparison and make sense of the fact that undergoing general anesthesia (a risk of 5 MicroMorts) equates to 1,200 miles of driving in the U.S. Smoking a pack a day eats up 10 MicroLives daily, 10 times as much as a couple of hours watching TV.
By virtue, "The Norm Chronicles" makes heavy use of numbers but the authors remain appropriately aware of the danger in carelessly slinging statistics. They assert that our minds don't think of dangers as numbers but rather as stories. Thus, the book cleverly alternates segments of statistical explanation with tales of three characters: risk-averse Prudence, daredevil Kelvin and the protagonist of the book, Norm, who embodies the median of every statistical category.
Readers follow Norm, Kelvin and Pru as they encounter life's various risks. Through their stories, we learn fascinating facts: ecstasy (the drug) carries a roughly equal risk to equasy (the practice of horse riding). The number of MicroMorts we incur when driving a car tops the charts whereas the chance of dying on a plane is next to nil. So why do we sweat and stress on takeoff while mindlessly pulling out of our garages? One could certainly interpret a prosecutorial tone in these statistics but, more productively, readers can learn to buttress their judgment here while remembering that numbers can never replace judgment entirely.
Although many numbers are quoted in this book – including some on probability - no actual math is presented regarding how they were derived. The reason for this is that in most cases, the numbers were quoted from tabulations, e.g., number of people of a certain age group killed due to some activity in a certain country in a certain time period. Much space is devoted towards psychology, perception, mind games, etc., pertaining to various risks. Number comparisons are consistently made between the United Kingdom and the USA.
I found this book to contain a lot of information. I did have a bit of trouble following some of the fictional sections at the beginning of the chapters, i.e., several terms and phrases used were much more British than North American thus requiring me to re-read several paragraphs (while scratching my head). Otherwise, the prose is clear, friendly, lively and engaging.
This book can be enjoyed by any interested reader in search of risk-related data. However, I believe that psychology enthusiasts may wind up enjoying it the most.
Top reviews from other countries
The authors try to embody certain bundles of attitude by creating a few representative "risk personalities" to span from the ultra prudent, through the Norm, hence the book's title, and onto the happy go lucky stance. And the authors have done an excellent job in dredging through news reports of actual incidents to illustrate the points they are explaining.
While this approach has drawbacks. I sometimes found the introductory part of a new section confusing. It is worthwhile overall because it unsettles the over-scientific amongst us, i.e. ME!, and points to important considerations that public health authorities ought to take into account when explaining their work to the general public. So, it is an important read in times of a pandemic.
Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter delineate many comparisons of hazards that put life and risk profiles into realistic terms. Winning the jackpot on the national lottery is 14 million to one. The odds are similar from dying minutes after buying the ticket. This no way denigrates the lifestyle improvements that can be made that are known and evidence based. It is a lesson of how percentages, statistics and scares can be manipulated without analysing the real figures. In the end, 'you pays yer money and takes yer chance'. Entertainingly written and full of factual and humorous notations, it is somehow comforting to know what the 'true' odds are. The authors extend their findings across many fields. Recommended and thoroughly enjoyable. It may sound daunting but is surprisingly an easy read thanks to the publishing team. (Kindle not paperback presentation).
My perception is that many people overestimate the risks of many things and underestimate the risks of things which they regard as safe. Health screening is a typical example of the latter and there are some interesting charts and diagrams in this book which appear to show that health screening may expose you to greater risks than not being screened.
If you want to know whether there is a risk of being hit by an asteroid, having something, or someone fall on you out of an aeroplane, dying in a plane crash, receiving a fatal dose of radiation, being killed or injured in a road accident, developing cancer or being adversely affected by the mobile phone mast at the end of the road then this is the book for you. But you might end up surprised and disturbed by many of the figures.
The book shows how human beings can incorrectly assess risk because of the fear factor. We find it difficult to separate our emotions from the real facts and figures. Headline news of four stabbings in a small area on the same day provoke alarm and fear and the perception that violent crime is increasing when in fact it is falling and the four cases are a statistical anomaly.
The book is written in an amusing and light hearted way but it does have a serious message to convey - that we need to look at the real figures behind the headline scare stories before we pack our bags and move into a nuclear bunker. The book has notes on each chapter and an index.
Spiegelgalter and Blastland expose many fallacies, particularly in the field of the medicine where the statistical evidence for statins and the many tabloid health stories are called into suspect. Indeed I was rather amazed that a CT scan was the equivalent of being 2.5km from the centre of a atomic bomb. Furthermore the delusional dangers of flying are compared with the statistical evidence of cycling down to the local shops or riding on your motorbike.
This book has a host of information and references that is sure to stir your interest in the subject and indeed will make you question the facts and figures thrown at in headlines days in and day out. Its also nice to read a book written by someone from the UK where many of the stats and subject matter are more relevant to UK readers. Great book.