Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Avuncular advice to the young student

Thanks again to TCM at livescience.com for informing us that there is no danger from sharks.

"There are millions of people in the water at any given moment of the day," said John McEachran of Texas A&M University. "When you consider all of the people in the water at the same time, the number of shark attacks is very, very remote."

It is at times such as these that I begin to regret my lack of enthusiasm during science lessons. I do not understand how a number can be remote. I am sure that Mrs Dean covered it during 2nd form Biology, along with the study of fungi and whatever, but it is not a concept that I can readily grasp. Although I suspect that I would have to travel some distance to reach 743 or 15189. Who knows? Alternatively, TCM at livescience may have misquoted Mr McEachran, and he actually said that “the chance of a shark attack is very, very remote.”

Although I would still query his lack of precision. What is the measure of remoteness, and how remote does something have to be in order to be classified as very, very remote?

"Shark attacks are like airplane crashes," said McEachran.

Yes, indeed.

Even peanuts, McEachran says, are a greater threat to humans than sharks.

Pause for man eating peanut joke.

"If you use some good common sense in the water, you should be fine," said McEachran. "To put your mind at ease, go to a beach that has lifeguards. They should be looking for possible sharks."

What is a ‘possible’ shark?

After all this nonsense, I was wondering who this McEachran chap is. I found that he is not the assistant under janitor, as I suspected, but actually a professor of wildlife and fishery sciences. I searched for him and found entries in google for him banging on about the same topic last year. This time he said “the number of shark attacks is very rare.” A rare number now.

I have no evidence, but suspect that the prof said all this from his desk, not waist deep in the Gulf of Mexico with a paper cut on his leg.

My advice to young people thinking about a career in science is very simple. Forget it. It is much safer to swim in shark infested waters, taunting sharks with witty slogans about them being thick, than it is to believe in the prognostications and lamentations of TCM. Forget your Faradays and Darwins, and embrace Jane Austen. She may have been an uptight bitch who only wrote trite advice about social matters, but she did not, unless it is in the pages of ‘Northanger Abbey’ that I skimmed, ever advise anyone that sharks were safe.


Mark Gamon said...

What's funny about a man eating a peanut?

broomhilda said...

Just how was this man eating the peanut?