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Disaster Probability


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

This is a student project to train people to worry more efficiently, about things that are actually likely to happen. It may relax people’s fears.

People tend to concern themselves disproportionately with various types of disaster. They worry too much about new types of disaster such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and mad cow disease and underestimate the oldies like drunk driving and nuclear war.

In the simplest form, the user enters his age, sex, weight, height, region and any other pertinent details. The program then tells him his likelihood of dying by various catastrophes in the next year, sorted in order.

In a more elaborate form, there is a roulette wheel the user repeatedly spins that simulates the probabilities. In a more elaborate form, you could request the odds over the next N years.

You want to consider such things as nuclear war, terrorist attacks, deaths by various diseases, being struck by lightning, being killed by gunshot wounds, being killed in combat, having a large tree land on you, receiving an anthrax letter, being electrocuted, diabetic coma, heart attack, lung cancer, AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome),… all the things people worry about and also all the things that actually kill people.

Most of the work of this project is digging up the statistics to calculate the probabilities.

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