Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Chain of Chance - Introduction

In the book "The Chain of Chance", by Stanislaw Lem, a detective is investigating a series of mysterious deaths occuring to foreign businessmen at a seaside spa. If you'd like to read the book, then don't read this article, as they share many of the same themes.

Consider a magic trick - a performer is in a fairly large theater, it holds 2000 people. He asks them all to take out a coin and flip it. He then asks all the people for who the coin comes up heads to flip it again. This repeats, and more and more people are eliminated. Eventually after ten tosses, only one person remains - the magician calls this person to the stage, the winner.

Now consider this from the point of view of the person who "wins". They flip the coin, it comes up heads - they flip it again and again, it keeps coming up heads! Something must be going on? From their perspective, the continual heads is very surprising.

But it had to happen to someone.

Consider now, that 5% of the US population have some form of Eczema. That's about 15 million people (out of a total US population of 300 million)

Consider furthur, that 2.2 million Americans have Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, that's about 0.73% of the population.

Now, assuming an even spread, then of our 15 million people who have eczema, then 0.73% of them will have both eczema and OCD. That's 110,000 people.

The numbers get larger if we consider the number of americans who have a Major Depressive Disorder. That's 9.5% of our 15 million, or 1,425,000 people who have Eczema and a Major depressive disorder.

So out of those, who also has Fibromyalgia? Well, the prevelence of Fibromyalgia is 1.36%, so out of the people who have a major depressive disorder, and Eczema, then 19,380 also have Fibromyalgia.

So that means nearly 20,000 people will have the combined symptoms of:
- Eczema
- A Major Depressive Disorder
- Fibromyalgia.

That means they will have
- Intense itching
- Rash
- Lesions
- Major Depression
- Abnormally irritable mood
- Fatigue
- Brain fog
- And several other symptoms.

Some of these 20,000 people meet one-another and compare symptoms. They find they have the same symptoms. They figure they have the same disease. They call it Barstow Syndrome after the town it was first discovered in. They form a support group, they start a web site, more people find out about it, everyone thinks it's a real disease. They start to speculate as to the cause of the disease.

But there is no Barstow Syndrome - they are simply the 20,000 people who were unlucky enough to get combined Eczema, Major depression and Fibromialgia all at the same time. From their point of view this is very unlikely. But right now, 20,000 people HAVE all three problems. It's just simple statistics. It's unfortunate for them, but it's nothing special.

The Barstow Syndrome Research Institute dislikes this analysis. How likely is it, they ask, that all these people, thousands and thousands, all have the exact same symptoms? Well, as we just saw, it's not only likely, it's inevitable. Like the guy who tosses heads ten times in a row - it just had to happen to someone. It HAD to happen to 20,000 people.

5 Comments:

At 4:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'I wish to note the "Barstow Syndrome" wherein the audience acts like they're at a football game and talks and walks around.'
from:
http://www.desertdispatch.com/2001-2003/104999311787042.html

 
At 7:57 AM, Blogger Margellons said...

Maybe that's a symptom? Barstow is close to Edwards AFB after all. Some kind of group hallucination?

 
At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You left one common thing out. We all have these colored fibers that only are visible by a 100X (Radio Shack has a beeper looking microscope) microscope and non-healing skin lesions filled with these microscopic fibers. These fibers are the link that links us all. Do some more research.

 
At 8:48 AM, Blogger Margellons said...

I know, I was describing a hypothetical syndrome.

I suppose I should cross-section it with the percentage of people who would find fibers everywhere they looked if they examined their skin with a 100x Radio Shack microscope. Out of the sampling I've done, I find myself in that group (see other posts here), so I suspect it's a large group.

 
At 4:10 PM, Blogger Smileykins said...

Since morgie believers deny so vehemently that obsessive/compulsive delusions are to blame, I wonder why they seemingly haven't yet done any important research looking into the possibilty of the microscope manufacturing industry (if anybody), conspired to release sumfin of an infectious nature, to increase their sales?

 

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