Poor Seattle – Tonight the Mariners’ World Series hopes were dashed by the Yankees. It wouldn’t hurt so bad if they had put up more of a fight. Now we focus on the next big east-west contest: this Friday at 2PM PST, Rumsfeld will announce whether it is Boeing or Lockheed-Martin who gets to build the new ultra-cool JSF fighter jet for the American and British military. The odds right now are on Lockheed, because the USAF apparently isn’t too keen on taking risks with a new company (Boeing) and a fairly revolutionary design. And I think that the USAF will be buying more than anyone else. Both companies met all of the design goals, which include ability to fly supersonic, hover, vertically land, short take-off, and cost less than $30 million. The Lockheed model is more like an F-16, and the Boeing reminds me of the Marine Corps Harrier jump jet. I found some cool video footage of both the Lockheed and the Boeing contestants. I’m crossing my fingers for Boeing; that is one cool plane!
I have heard lots of stupid news related to the two anthrax deaths today. One of the public officials claimed that they had been right to delay testing, claiming that it was a natural escalation process to find skin anthrax, then pulmonary anthrax, and then decide that there might be a problem. The reporting seems intent on perpetuating this idea that the pulmonary anthrax infections came after the skin anthrax. This is stupid. These people have probably been infected for the last 30 days. The thing about pulmonary anthrax is that the victim is infected for a really long time, and it is only when the person is about to die that the symptoms become apparent. And it usually takes at least 24 hours to die, so the authorities must have had a pretty good idea about this yesterday. In any case, the incidence of skin anthrax should have immediately caused health officials’ little light-bulbs to blink on with “Hmm, some people got skin anthrax; that means it is possible that people could also have pulmonary anthrax right now, and we had better check for it now, while we have a slight chance of saving them!” And if two of these guys are dead of pulmonary anthrax, that means that there are quite possibly a number of other infected people from that location who have been incubating the stuff in their lungs for the past 30 days and could drop at any moment. Call me cynical, but some of these officials sound like they are desperately in CYA mode right now.
Another stupid statement I heard was something along the lines of “There are still only a few deaths due to Anthrax, so people are far more likely to get struck by lightning than die of Anthrax.” This is dishonest. In fact, the statistical chance of dying by Anthrax after Sept. 11 has become vastly greater than are the chances of dying by lightning. Of course, there are many other factors that influence the odds of getting nailed by Anthrax or lightning, but since most commentators seem to use historical data to justify their head-in-the-sand approach, let’s look at historical data: The National Severe Storms Laboratory keep statistics on fatalities due to storms. It turns out that death by lightning is not too common, and is especially rare in the areas that have so far been affected by Anthrax. The only way to make a case that Anthrax is less likely than lightning death is to extend the sample period to include a large slice of time when terrorists were not releasing Anthrax in the United States. And extending the sample period like this is really dishonest. People are more likely to die of bubonic plague than by a drunk driver, so long as I extend my sampling period back before automobiles were invented. People should go ahead and use electrical devices in the bathtub, because historical data shows it is more likely you will get crucified by the Romans than electrocuted in your bathtub.