Why don’t people get it? Seven ways that communicating risk can fail

Many public conversations we have about science-related issues involve communicating risks: describing them, comparing them and trying to inspire action to avoid or mitigate them. Just think about the ongoing stream of news and commentary on health, alternative energy, food security and climate change. Good risk communication points out where we are doing hazardous things. It helps us better navigate crises. It also allows us to pre-empt and avoid danger and destruction. 

How sharp was the decline in live births in Central and Eastern Europe after the collapse of communist regimes?

December 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). This cataclysmic event demolished the planned economy and totalitarian state regimes and led to independence for its member states. Other communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) outside the USSR followed similar paths.

Ask a statistician: A variation of the birthday problem

Alec Campbell of Bellevue College writes: I’ve read about the birthday problem, and how you only need 23 randomly chosen people for there to be a 50% chance that two people share a birthday. But how many people would you need for there to be a 50% chance that every possible birthday is represented by at least one person?

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HMS Terror wreck found – but what happened to her doomed crew? Here's the science

HMS Terror. Engraving by George Back. via Wikimedia Commons
It remains one of history’s best-known naval tragedies – and mysteries. The loss of all 129 men of the 1845 Royal Navy expedition led by Captain Sir John Franklin to navigate a north-west passage through the Arctic remains an enigma. The only informative document to be recovered from the expedition was a single page that reported initial good progress through 1845 to 1847, but then the desertion of the ships in 1848 by which point nine officers – including Sir John Franklin – and 15 other ranks were reported to have died.