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Science Spotlight: Maybe If They Named The Lady Hurricanes 'Lorena'

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Researchers at the University of Illinois released a study thatsuggests that people are just plain sexist when it comes to hurricanes:


Hurricanes with feminine names may kill three times as many victims because people do not perceive them as being as threatening as storms named after men, scientists said Monday [...]

"A hurricane with a relatively masculine name is estimated to cause 15.15 deaths, whereas a hurricane with a relatively feminine name is estimated to cause 41.84 deaths," said the study.

"In other words, our model suggests that changing a severe hurricane's name from Charley to Eloise could nearly triple its death toll."

Isn't science neat? Maybe?

We have to admit that we are a teensy bit skeptical about the study's methodology, since it involves "data on fatalities from every hurricane that made landfall in the United States from 1950-2012." To avoid skewing the data, the researchers left out two storms with the highest death tolls, Katrina (2005) and Audrey (1957). What makes us wonder about the validity of the analysis is that until the mid-1970s, hurricanes had only female names, so instead of the alternating male-female name order that would give some randomness to data after that, both the weakest and strongest storms for twenty-odd years would have female names, which strikes us as a problem, maybe?

Still, the researchers did some other work that suggests maybe gender assumptions do play a role in how people perceive the force of a storm:

Researchers also found that when they asked people to imagine being in the path of a hurricane named Alexandra, Christina or Victoria, they rated it as less risky and intense than imagined storms named Alexander, Christopher or Victor.

"This is a tremendously important finding," said Hazel Rose Markus, a professor in behavioral sciences at Stanford University, who was not involved in the study.

"Proof positive that our culturally grounded associations steer our steps."

So, yeah, that seems more persuasive, maybe? Yr Dok Zoom, being a damned humanities major, is not the most statistically-minded person, but it feels like there's still some research design stuff that needs work in this thing. Please, go to the comments (which Wonkette does not allow) and let us know why we're full of hot air or in over our head.

Also, too, we expect Phyllis Schlafly to call for hurricanes with feminine names to remain in the Virgin Islands.

[AFP/RawStory]

Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter. He'd feel more comfortable with this if it were coming from Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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