Security and the statistics of rare events

My latest Guardian column just went live, on the security risks of the failure to grasp the statistics of rare events:

This is the same calculus that allows the fear of terrorism to take away our liberty: the statistically super-rare terrorist attacks present, on average, a much lower risk to our health, safety and person than, say, depriving us of our liquid medications, or of requiring us to leave our bags unlocked in flight so that sticky-fingered handlers can make off with our laptops and financial data and valuables.

The everyday threat of having our goods stolen, our ability to travel and earn our livings curtailed, and our personal information harvested by every junior terrorist fighter who wants to see your ID before letting you do anything is overshadowed by the one-in-a-billion confluence of someone with terrorist goals, the means to accomplish them, and the intelligence to bring them off (hint: you can't really blow up an airplane with hair-gel and iPods).