My posts about the potential health hazards of popcorn and the exorbitant markup movie theaters apply to the treat got me thinking about other human endeavors where people overpay grossly for something that puts their lives at risk.
Three came immediately to mind:
1. Deep sea diving in shark infested waters
2. Traveling aboard the Soyuz spacecraft as a private citizen
3. Purchasing cigarettes from a vending machine
Let’s analyze all four on the price-risk continuum and select the winner.
First, a private seat on a spacecraft puts the others to shame when it comes to cost, with deep sea diving second, and a medium popcorn and pack of cigarettes battling it out for third and fourth. No one is likely to spend anything close to the reported $20 million Dennis Tito and other astronaut wannabes are shelling out, even if we add up decades worth of popcorn or cigarettes.
But what about the risk? When it comes to popcorn and smoking, many people get started and can’t stop. I certainly feel addicted to popcorn every time I walk into a theater lobby. I may abstain, but it’s a triumph of willpower. Still, you have to eat a lot of popcorn or smoke a lot of cigarettes to do damage (I think). But while their effects are deleterious, the end result remains uncertain. After years of abusing large buttery tubs of goodness you may suddenly drop dead from a heart attack. Of course, genes and other habits (food/lifestyle) impact your fate. Likewise, decades spent sucking that nicotine laced smoke into your lungs could result in sudden coughing spams accompanied by bloody spittle (sorry for the visual) and a painful slide to meet your maker. But tracing the risk of death to a single cause is tricky.
By contrast, deep sea diving and space travel seem less likely to kill or maim, unless you’re stupid enough to be in shark infested waters without a metal cage, or forget to strap in for the G-force ride. Of course, once you’ve bled out from shark bites or been blown to smithereens during reentry, there are no second acts, no angioplasty or chemo to give you a fighting chance. Deep sea diving and space travel do, however, sound a heck of a lot more thrilling than puffing on a cancer stick or sitting in a darkened room with greasy fingers (even if the film is good). So chalk one up for thrill-seeking adrenaline-hyped danger junkies.
Of course you can travel to space vicariously at the movies without worrying about heat panels and landing gear. But space ships have technology and monitors, so if you pay $20 million they may let you sneak a DVD aboard and watch a film in the capsule during orbit while the other guys are checking out telemetry.
Also, Virgin Galactic is bringing space tourism to the masses. The wealthy masses, at least. $200,000 a pop for those who can’t manage $20 million.
I wonder if they serve popcorn on the flight.
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