Give me Sharks or Give me Cigarettes

by Stephanie Chasteen on June 13, 2008

I just had to repost from the Deep Sea News blog, which points out an alarming 300% increase in the number of shark attacks in the last year in a particular town in Mexico:

Aren’t statistics wonderful things? That’s why when you read something in the medical news about “50% fewer heart attacks” or some such due to XYZ drug, your first question should be “but what was the number to begin with”?

In this case, a 300% increase means 3 attacks instead of one. That’s hardly a statistically robust difference. But the local papers surmised that Sharks are hunting humans. Blogger CR McLain writes in Deep Sea News:

Thankfully the Mexican Navy has been called on to track down and kill these death wielding beasts.

PLEASE PEOPLE! Although tragic, three attacks and two deaths is not extraordinary that searching for pattern or cause is necessary. You don’t see people freaking out about pigeon related deaths. An increase of one to three is hardly a pattern. In four tosses of a penny this morning I just got 1 head and 3 tails…it happens. The fact that the media is in a frenzy combined with Mexico actually spending money on searching for causes and using sophisticated Naval ships to exterminate the sharks is nothing short of absurd. Let’s get a bit of perspective…

Americans killed by guns in the U.S. each year: 30,000

Americans killed by tobacco in the U.S. each year: 418,000

Americans killed after being struck by police Tasers in 2004: 40

U.S. murder rate: 5.9 per 100,000

U.S. traffic fatalities each year: 39,000

People injured/killed by lightning each year in the U.S.: Struck: 700, Killed: 70

Deaths from obesity per year in the USA: 112,000

I will take a shark any day over a Twinkie, lighting strike, the flu, a tsunami, Taser, cigarette, hand gun, war, or a car any day.


Dave June 13, 2008 at 10:34 pm

That might be the most offensive quote I’ve ever read in my entire life. Who doesn’t love a Twinkie???

sciencegeekgirl June 13, 2008 at 10:43 pm

After reading How Twinkies Work (from How Stuff Works —, I’m one person not too keen on eating chemical cake. What’s interesting is how almost every ingredient in “real” cake is replaced with a chemical that plays the same role, but allows the cake to stay fresh longer. It only has but one preservative — it doesn’t need any more because almost nothing in it can spoil. (However, deep fry it and I’m *totally* there.)

From How Stuff Works:
“Monoglycerides and diglycerides, which replace eggs in the Twinkie recipe, are chemicals that act as emulsifiers. They stabilize the cake batter, enhance flavor and extend shelf life [source: Ettlinger]. A very small amount of egg is used to leaven the cake. Polysorbate 60 serves a similar function to the glycerides, keeping the cream filling creamy without the use of real fat. Hydrogenated shortening replaces butter, giving the cake some of its texture and flavor and prolonging shelf life.

twinkie molds
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Trays of Twinkie molds at the Interstate Baking facility in Schiller Park, Ill.

Taste tests by flavor experts have revealed that artificial butter flavoring is used in the cake and artificial vanilla flavoring goes into the cream filling [source: Ettlinger]. Both flavorings are chemicals derived from petroleum.

Despite the Twinkie’s reputation, only one ingredient is an actual preservative: sorbic acid. Other ingredients have preservative functions, but sorbic acid has one primary purpose — it stops the formation of mold [source: Ettlinger].

Finally, cellulose gum replaces fat in the filling. This ingredient can absorb 15 to 20 times its own weight in water. It keeps the filling smooth and creamy”

mika August 11, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Please check out the excellent documentary Sharkwater. It will change your mind (as it did mine) about buying another shark-related item. Please spread the word about the slaughter of sharks and the danger sharkmeat poses to children and pregnant women (as it is extremely high in mercury). Even if you don’t care about the animal, you owe it to yourself and future generations to protect the sharks. When they get wiped out (and they are being killed at a dangerously high rate), our oxygen supply (and obviously, health) will be messed up, as well. There are plenty of other things for us to eat without threatening our environment and future.

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