School kid smarter than NASA

by David Davison   •  
Apparently a 15 year old whizzkid from Germany has corrected NASA scientists on the probability of an asteroid called Apophis hitting earth. While NASA estimated a 1 in 45,000 chance, Nico Marquardt suggested 1 in 45, which NASA ultimately concluded to be right.They both however agreed that if it did hit it would create a ball of iron and iridium 320 metres wide and weighing 200 billion tonnes, which would crash in to the Atlantic Ocean, creating a huge tsunami destroying coastlines and inland areas and creating a thick cloud of dust that would darken skies indefinitely. So what does this tell us about mortality assumptions?

  1. They don’t really deal well with what Donald Rumsfeld would describe as ‘unknown unknowns.’
  2. They don’t even deal particularly well with known unknowns.
  3. Even complex and sophisticated estimates are pretty certain to be wrong
  4. You’d probably get a more accurate answer by asking a 15 year old school kid rather than an expert!!


Further reading

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by Brendan McLean   •  

Government spending in response to Covid-19

by James Sweetnam   •  

Adding value for the PPF

by Julie-Anne Jones   •  

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