Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

June 15, 2013

What are the odds of this happening to you?

I recently purchased an intriguing book with the title of “What Are the Odds?” by Tim Glynne-Johns.

The table of contents include: Life & Death, Sport, Money, Achievement, Crime, Health, and History. The ISBN is 13: 978-0-7858-2803-7. To narrow my review, I’ll consider dangers that confront us.

The odds against being struck by lightning in a lifetime are 1 in 3500. In the U.S. an average of 50 people are killed by lightning strikes each year. Worldwide, about 1200 each year are lightning fatalities, with Mexico at No. 1, claiming an average of 223 deaths per year.

The United States has an average of 1200 tornadoes a year, most frequently in Oklahoma and Kansas during the month of May. Most countries don’t have the conditions to spawn tornadoes. Windstorms are now the biggest natural threat worldwide with 2.45 deaths per million people.

The National Safety Council reports the odds of causes of U.S. deaths: Heart Disease 1/5, Road accident 1/100, Suicide 1/121, Shooting 1/325, Drowning 1/9,000, Plane Crash 1/20,000, Flood 1/30,000 and Earthquake 1/132,000.

Worldwide, the most dangerous animal is the mosquito, responsible for several million deaths per year by spreading malaria and dengue fever.

Your odds of being diagnosed with a new case of cancer this year are 1 in 500. In the developed world (industrialized with mechanized farming), your chances of surviving 10 years after the diagnosis is about 45 per cent, 52 per cent for women versus 39 percent for men.

Your chance of having a heart attack in the U.S. each year are 1 in 226. The risk of having heart disease rises with age from 1 in 14 for both sexes (ages 40 to 59), to 1 in 4 for males (60-79) and 1 in 6 for females (60-79).

The risk of stroke increases with age from 1 in 100 (males 40-59), 1 in 37 (females 40-59) and 1 in 13 for both males and females (ages 60-79).

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: This evening, the moon appears half full (like a tilted D) in the southwestern sky. Tonight and the following few nights are great times to see the lunar craters and mountain ranges near the left edge of the moon (where the sun is rising).

On June 19, the brilliant planet Venus and Mercury are closest low in the 9:20 p.m. western dusk.

June 21 is the first day of summer, the time when the sun’s direct rays reach farthest North.

The sun’s track across the sky peaks at 73 degrees in the south with the sun rising farthest to the north of east and setting farthest to the north of west.

Those in this area that have flat eastern and western horizons will experience about 15 hours of sunlight, the maximum for the year. Those who live in valleys may have a few hours less of sunlight.

  The Cumberland Astronomy Club will meet June 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the LaVale Public Library. The library is just off the National Road (Route 40), about a mile to the east of the Maryland State Police barrack in LaVale. All interested sky gazers are welcome to attend.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

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Bob Doyle - Astronomy
  • It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore

    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

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    May 25, 2014

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    May 18, 2014

  • Here are numbers that apply in our lives

    One of the best exercises is walking. Cardiologists suggest that each of us walk 10,000 steps per day. Assume each step is 0.5 meters or 19.7 inches. Then 10,000 steps would cover 5,000 meters or 3.11 miles. But studies find that the average American (from age 4 and up) takes only 2,000 steps/day or 1 kilometer.

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