In her wonderful book It's Easier Than You Think, Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein calls herself a "recovering worrier." She admits to being one of those people who is continually making up stories about what might happen, but she tries not to believe them. We can identify with that.

We suspect that the worry machine is chugging along in other people's lives as well. Every day the media blasts us with new stories about dangerous diseases, wild or dangerous animals on the loose, or the release of a toxin in the atmosphere. Lise A. Johnson, a neural engineer, science educator, and science writer, and Eric H. Chudler, a neuroscienntist and executive director of the Center for Neurotechnology in Seattle, have put together a helpful science-based resource for those of us who are especially peevish or anxious about dangers lurking in our world.

In seven sections — food, medicine, environment, chemicals, animals, travel and miscellaneous — and for each topic they have assigned a worry index with components of preventability, likelihood, and consequence. They also give concrete advice on how to avoid trouble.

We assume it's because they are scientists that the authors don't minimize threats or put on a happy face and tell us that we have nothing to worry about. We do; there are just degrees. For example, we should be worried about mosquitoes. On Preventability (score 53/100), they write: "Insecticides and insect repellents can reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses, but mosquito management has proved to be difficult in many parts of the world." On Likelihood (82): "The high incident of mosquito-borne disease is a global health threat." On Consequence (88), "A mosquito bite may cause minor, local skin irritation, or it can transmit life-threatening disease."