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Half the people that ever lived died of mosquitos? Shut up!

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noel
752202.  Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:09 pm Reply with quote

First of all how does anyone know how many people have ever lived? We don't know how long ago we became people - if you mean Homo Sapiens that is - they talk about a hundred thousand years or so, but they don't don't really know, not with enough fineness to be able to start counting us, and how would they do that? And then, how on earth do you reach the conclusion that half of this hazily guessed at number died due to mosquitos in one way or another? I'm sure lots have, I wouldn't want to downplay their effect on mankind, but what I just heard Stephen Fry say on the episode about Humans was, I put it to you, unsubstantiated and unsubstantiatable guff!

 
Rubinsky
752205.  Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:21 pm Reply with quote

The fact that you were not given a Tolstoy-worthy lengthy explanation how they came to their general conclusion, does not per definition mean it is 'unsubstantiated and unsubstantiatable guff'

Moreover, the exact moment we became we -as in: Homo Sapiens- matters little. At the time, populations were much smaller and those amounts are therefore negligible compared to the total bulk of, say, 90 billion people who have ever lived.

I do not know how they got to their estimate of roughly 50%. Perhaps they might even give you a little explanation - if you ask nicely.

 
Moosh
752206.  Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:24 pm Reply with quote

In Series 1 Episode 9 this was given as: (link)
Quote:
Stephen
What is the most dangerous animal in the history of the world?

[...]

Stephen
No. If I tell you this animal was responsible for the deaths of probably half the human beings who've ever lived.

Alan
Mosquito.

Jo
Goldfish.

Stephen
So close. Alan was, in fact, right; it is the mosquito. Erm, half the human beings who've ever lived are reckoned to have been killed by the mosquito.

Alan
3,000 people die of malaria every day.

Stephen
That's 45 billion human beings in our history. But, then, it depends what you mean by people, how far you go back in our . . . in our evolutionary history.


And that figure of 45 billion people is repeated in the Book of General Ignorance, with the added information that:
Quote:
Mosquitoes carry more than a hundred potentially fatal diseases including malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, encephalitis, filariasis and elephantisasis. Even today, they kill one person every twelve seconds.


So, two things to substantiate, one that "half the humans who have ever lived" can be convincingly put at 45 billion, and two that they died as a result of getting some disease after being bitten by a mosquito.

Anyone got any ideas?

 
Untutored Eye
752209.  Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:33 pm Reply with quote

Moosh wrote:
In Series 1 Episode 9 this was given as: So, two things to substantiate, one that "half the humans who have ever lived" can be convincingly put at 45 billion, and two that they died as a result of getting some disease after being bitten by a mosquito.

Anyone got any ideas?


A sealed fighting pit containg a human, a mosquito, a hippopotamus, and a duck.

Let's settle this for once and all.

 
Rubinsky
752215.  Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:47 pm Reply with quote

If you get a way for people to vote on it, then you've got a new hit tv-series there.

For what it is worth, everything I could find about this subject on the internet referred back to the General Ignorance-book.

 
noel
752220.  Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:58 pm Reply with quote

Yes, you're right. I should ask nicely. I'm sorry about my little outburst earlier, it's just that, well, you know, QI prides itself on being so proper and erudite and what have you, and then they go and say something so sixth-form and did-you-know.

 
eggshaped
752242.  Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:49 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
For what it is worth, everything I could find about this subject on the internet referred back to the General Ignorance-book.


Here are some places on the first page of my google search that have quoted the fact and do not cite our book:

The Times
Nature
Wellcome Institute
Oregon Health & Science University
National Geographic

I don't have our source to hand, but you can see from the above that it is a fact that is fairly well attested. Maybe it's not true but I haven't found a debunking, and the OP falls short IMHO.

Irrespective of when you start to count "humans," the Malaria parasite has been around for well before homo sapiens, and even primates existed.

 
Jenny
752255.  Fri Oct 15, 2010 7:20 pm Reply with quote

Untutored Eye wrote:
Moosh wrote:
In Series 1 Episode 9 this was given as: So, two things to substantiate, one that "half the humans who have ever lived" can be convincingly put at 45 billion, and two that they died as a result of getting some disease after being bitten by a mosquito.

Anyone got any ideas?


A sealed fighting pit containg a human, a mosquito, a hippopotamus, and a duck.

Let's settle this for once and all.


I think we might have to put these creatures in the pit in proportion to their numbers on the planet. So, for one hippopotamus, assuming that animal to be the smallest in population, how many ducks, how many humans and how many mosquitoes? Off you go and do the maths...

 
Untutored Eye
752304.  Sat Oct 16, 2010 4:09 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:

I think we might have to put these creatures in the pit in proportion to their numbers on the planet. So, for one hippopotamus, assuming that animal to be the smallest in population, how many ducks, how many humans and how many mosquitoes? Off you go and do the maths...


Great. My first day at school and I have homework. You would be a hoot around the Colosseum.

Off to ponder the Diptera population...1...2...3...4...wait, thats a duck...um, this could take a while.

 
ali
752652.  Sun Oct 17, 2010 9:28 am Reply with quote

eggshaped wrote:
Quote:
For what it is worth, everything I could find about this subject on the internet referred back to the General Ignorance-book.


Here are some places on the first page of my google search that have quoted the fact and do not cite our book:

The Times
Nature
Wellcome Institute
Oregon Health & Science University
National Geographic

I don't have our source to hand, but you can see from the above that it is a fact that is fairly well attested. Maybe it's not true but I haven't found a debunking, and the OP falls short IMHO.

Irrespective of when you start to count "humans," the Malaria parasite has been around for well before homo sapiens, and even primates existed.


Where the quote is attributed at all, it is (as in the Times article above) attributed to the science writer, Natalie Angier. The quote appears in her article Parasites Take The Biological Spotlight, which appeared in the New York Times of July 17 1990, where she attributes it to one Dr. Dickson D. Despommier.

Quote:
''Parasites have had a tremendous impact on human evolution, which we're only now beginning to appreciate,'' said Dr. Dickson D. Despommier, a professor of public health and microbiology at Columbia University. ''About half of all people who have ever lived on earth have died from malaria or malaria-related problems, and malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite. That's an astonishing notion. The early American colony of Jamestown had to be re-established three times because of malaria.''
(appears on page 3 of the NYT article linked above).

 
Norman Castle
753789.  Thu Oct 21, 2010 6:38 pm Reply with quote

Not very many people have ever died from mosquitoes.

It's usually the Malaria parasites that kill them.

 
RLDavies
753917.  Fri Oct 22, 2010 6:32 am Reply with quote

That's what I've always argued. Mosquitoes don't kill anybody. They only serve as the vectors for the real deadly organisms.

 
CB27
753937.  Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:33 am Reply with quote

Mosquitos don't kill people, guns do :)

 
PDR
753941.  Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:42 am Reply with quote

Guns don't kill people - it's americans who kill people.

PDR

 
gruff5
753968.  Fri Oct 22, 2010 8:45 am Reply with quote

I used to assume that "God" created mosquitoes for a reason - that they had an impt place in the ecology. But latest thinking by the biologists suggests that they don't play any impt role in the ecosystem that wouldn't be taken up by small flies etc

So, "God" was just having a bad day then...

 

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