Some say smoking a pipe increases the perception of one's IQ by thirty points. My cousin Brian, pictured above with my favorite Auntie Addie, didn't need the help. Brian, who should have been named Brain was, at one time, the youngest actuarial statistician in Canada. I love this photo of aunt and nephew together in the setting so typical of the fifties, with the TV in a "blonde" cabinet; the flash bulbs in their packages and that lamp! Just to my aunt's right was a stand ashtray made of chrome with an airplane on the top. Remember those?
I found this photo on ebay. This is an electric version and the windows of the plane light up. There's even a pipe resting in the actual ash tray part. Looks like these beauties sell for around $600.00
My cousin, the actuary, went on to work for various insurance companies predicting risk. Actuaries (for those who don't know) are the guys and gals at companies like Lloyds of London who determine that it would be a decent business proposition to insure Keith Richard's middle finger for 1.5 million dollars, or Betty Grable's legs for a million bucks! I wonder if Brian ever calculated the increased risk of dying for pipe smokers. Googling this subject, I found that risk is expressed in all kinds of spurious ways depending on the purpose for calculating the risk. Here's one I particularly liked:
Estimated loss of life expectancy* in days due to :
pipe smoking - 220 days; alcohol - 130 days; or my favorite - being murdered - 90 days. Note to self: avoid being murdered or forget about that three month stay in London on the bucket list.
If you like statistics and want to have fun with data, check out the website Spurious Correlations. My friend Nancy Javier sent me this link where you can find fascinating and useful bits of information like the fact that the divorce rate in Maine correlates (.99%) with the per capita consumption of margarine. Watch the short video at the bottom of the site where Tyler Vigen, the creator, makes his point about how to use and interpret data.
Brain Brian would have loved this site and because he was a smart guy, the chances are pretty good that he'd throw caution to the wind, set his pipe aside in the ashtray and check out the rest of the stories on Sepia Saturday.
*Risk Communication, Risk Statistics, and Risk Comparisons: A Manual for Plant Managers by Vincent T. Covello,Peter M. Sandman, and Paul Slovic Washington, DC: Chemical Manufacturers Association, 1988 Appendix B - Risk Comparison Tables and Figures.