Big Think Contributor, "Risk, Reason & Reality"
I'm an Instructor at Harvard, a consultant in risk perception and risk communication, author of How Risky Is it, Really? Why Our Fears Don't Always Match the Facts, and principal co-author of RISK, A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You. I run a program called Improving Media Coverage of Risk. I was the Director of Risk Communication at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, part of the Harvard School of Public Health, for 4 years, prior to which I was a TV reporter, specializing in environmental issues, for a local station in Boston for 22 years.
DID YOU WATCH! Did your heart pound, your palms get sweaty, your muscles tense! Did you join the millions around the world gripped by fear and tension as Felix Baumgartner […]
A new study regarding a high-profile risk…mercury…has two important findings; there may be an association between in-utero mercury exposure and ADHD as kids grow up, but the children of […]
John Silber just passed away. He accomplished many things…made Boston University into an internationally recognized academic institution, served as Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education…but he also taught an […]
“When I was young and bold and strong, O, right was right and wrong was wrong! My plume on high, my flag unfurled, I rode away to right the world. […]
It is frightening to observe how persistently people reject evidence that presents some truth inconvenient to their deeper beliefs and self identities; excessive fear of vaccines, or fluoride, or nuclear […]
A huge research project about DNA (ENCODE) has provoked more scientific controversy over just what proportion of that huge molecule plays an active role in making us us. When […]
There is much being written about the lies Paul Ryan told in his speech at the Republican Convention. I know, “lies” is a pretty strong word. But a ‘fabrication’, ‘taking […]
As we mourn the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, let’s not forget what took us there in the first place. No, it […]
The United States has already suffered the worst outbreak of West Nile virus ever, with more than 1,100 people ill and 41 dead. And more illness and death are yet […]
This blog writes about how we perceive risk, and how those perceptions often don’t match the facts. We’re more afraid of some things than we need to be, and less […]
Want to live a longer healthier life? Chill out. And stop lying. For the same reason. Stress is really REALLY bad for your health. Chronic stress is bad […]
Fracking is yet another example of the subjective, instinctive, affective way human cognition deals with risks.
Derecho Alert!!!!!! AAAIIIGGGHHH!!!! Grab the kids! Run for the basement, quick! As this is being written a line of severe thunderstorms is sweeping across sections of the Northeast […]
It’s a Mean Mean Mean Mean World. Just ask the people in Aurora, Colorado. Or the people in Colombine, Colorado. Or the people of Port Arthur, Australia, where a […]
The FDA has banned bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles in sippy cups. The FDA has not banned BPA for use in food containers. Huh? What […]
Human behavior is controlled by a lot of neural wiring and chemistry, and an incredible range of cognitive shortcuts and instincts, over which we have practically no conscious control. A […]
Fireworks are really cool to watch, but to me, the best part is watching them with thousands of other people who have all come together with the same purpose…to […]
That we are not instinctively built that way must be recognized if we’re going to get beyond the risks of not being built that way.
There’s wicked, like the Wicked Witch. Wicked, as in evil. There’s wicked, like “It’s WICKED hot!” Wicked, urban slang for ‘very’. And then there are Wicked Problems; […]
Egypt has a civilian president. For most of us….so what. These are distant events, physically and emotionally, without much meaning and certainly with little personal relevance for […]
In the 50 years since Silent Spring was published, the environmental movement it helped create has accomplished a great deal. It may be less popular to suggest, but it […]
I remember going to bed one night when I was 11, seriously afraid I would not be alive in the morning. It was October, 1962, and the frightening cold […]
I got a call from a friend last year. He had prostate cancer and wanted some help thinking through what to do. He had gone to his doctors for the […]
In response to a lot of feedback on yesterday’s post, the loudest and nastiest of which came from people who deny climate change, I have revised the essay to […]
Strange name for a movement, isn’t it; “The Right to Die”? Isn’t that like asking the government for “The Right to Live” or “The Right to Eat” […]
Tribalism is pervasive, and it controls a lot of our behavior, readily overriding reason.
This is just stunning. In fact, it’s hard to believe it’s true. But the Heartland Institute, a fiercely conservative and libertarian think tank that champions denial of climate change, […]
They are looking for Etan Patz again. He was 6 years old when he went missing in New York City in 1979, a disappearance that, along with those of […]
My father, a journalist, died a few days ago. He taught me that journalism is not just a job but a calling, a high form of public service. I […]
California’s initiative process can be both a wonderfully democratic and perilously dumb way to make law. On no issue could that be more true than the proposed initiative to […]