Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fun With Statistics

And when I say "fun", I kind of mean "mind-numbing horror".
While the numbers aren't well-published, over 100,000 people go missing annually in the US. This number does not reflect abductions by family members, victims of natural disasters, or any case where people have a pretty good idea where the missing person might have gone. This number is people who just vanish.
Further, it does not include people who, for whatever reason, aren't on "the grid". Homeless people and illegal immigrants are rarely reported missing, though empirical evidence would suggest a higher likelihood of just such a disappearance among these populations.
It is possible that some of these missing people just made a break for it, started over, severed ties, but there is no way anywhere near 100,000 could make that happen.
Please feel free to check these numbers on the FBI website. I'm not posting a link to a government website. That gets a person on a special list, probably.
Anyway, we can extrapolate from the over 100,000 "just missing" cases annually that an additional 50% go unreported from communities which historically don't report these things. Wait. That's too high. Let's go with 20%. I personally think it could equal the number of reported cases, but lacking evidence we will use a safe and reasonable number.
If we agree that 120,000 people can just freaking vanish in 2009 in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, I think it is frightening enough.
This breaks down to .04% of the total US population, just gone, every year.
Statistically, 32 people from my graduating class in high school have just disappeared.
Most of these cases get little publicity for a couple of reasons. The first is that it is common enough to not really be news-worthy. The second is that as the majority of these people are never found it makes us feel less safe, unsettled.
In more remote areas, the number of people who vanish is even more terrifying. Millions of people vanish in Africa annually. Some are the victims of war. Some will turn up again years later in refugee camps. But there are a lot of people vanishing in more peaceful areas of the continent as well.
While the numbers are harder to dig up, and even harder to verify, there are a lot of people doing population studies in Africa right now. How sustainable are the resources available for the surviving population? How much sprawling wilderness should be converted to farmland?
And these studies aren't limited to the human population, either.
In the Serengeti National Park, poaching is still an issue impacting animal survival, as is the availability of drinkable water and foraging area.
Unchanged, as near as we can tell, for millions of years is the rate of loss to large predators. Annually, and concentrating on adult herd animals, .05% of the population is lost to predation.
The rate is close enough to our own .04% loss to beg the question, could something unknown be culling the human herd?
Is it possible human predators are making this large an impact on our own population and leaving no forensic evidence of violence?
I don't personally believe people are smart enough as predators to pull off that particular trick.
All this is just numbers and extrapolation and fantasy, sure. But reality meets a dark place among these statistics.
I think I'm calling off my research project now.

No comments: