All posts tagged: The Man

Numberscruncher: Poland, Plane Crashes, and Risk

Over the weekend, the president of Poland died in a plane crash that also killed many of the top officials of the Polish government, in a tragedy seemingly borrowed from Irving Wallace’s 1964 novel The Man. Wallace’s book was a best-seller at the time; a freak accident at a World War II memorial event gives a black senator the American presidency. If I recall correctly, Douglass Dilman did a fine job as president and was never asked to produce an imaginary “long-form” birth certificate. As strange as the Polish plane crash was, an accident that wipes out a layer of executive power had been imagined before. Plane crashes that kill high-ranking government officials have happened, too, such as the one that killed Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in Croatia in 1996. That’s why these events are risky, not uncertain. Mathematically, there is a difference between risk and uncertainty, and it matters. Risk is an adverse event that you can quantify. One out of every two million people will die in a plane crash every year, or …