Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Trump At Yesterday's Press Briefing

If you didn't see yesterday's White House briefing on the coronavirus -- I didn't until this morning -- the first 10-15 minutes are worth a look. It was like there was a completely different president. Trump looked stunned, like he'd seen a ghost. Grim, no swagger, no arrogance, presidential. In a way I almost felt sorry for him.

After Trump, Dr. Blix shows the projections that must have hit Trump hard.

PS: With the recent changes to Blogger, now videos look stupid too.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Seismic Noise Reduction from Lockdown

From a Nature article "Coronavirus lockdowns have changed the way Earth moves," here's an example from Belgium:

US Deaths Consistently Lagging Cases by About Two Weeks

So here are US cases and US deaths on a logarithmic scale:

The lines are quite parallel -- here's by how much: the number of days total deaths are behind total cases (to the nearest day):

It's been at 15-16 days now for two weeks. I'm beginning to understand how the US might see 100,000 to 200,000 deaths. And quickly -- perhaps over the next two to three weeks.

Monday, March 30, 2020

US Daily Changes Compared to Italy

I took out two data points that had obvious problems -- for example, the WHO data for Italy on 3/15 show only 90 new cases, when the day before there were 2,500 new cases and the day after 6,200.

Blogger has a new interface (for authors), but still publishes fuzzy images. I'm sorry.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Portland Health Provider Secures PPE

My sister is an in-home visiting physical therapist for Providence Health & Services in Portland (Oregon). Here is what Providence has done in the face of a shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Their efforts have been very successful, and, I think, deserve to be highlighted.

Amy Compton-Phillips, M.D. and Jeff Kaas Interview from PSJH Digital on Vimeo.

Trend Plots

Here's a very interesting and thoughtful presentation on the various trend plots of Covid-19 by country. Short answer: do log-log plots to distinguish differences. Long answer: I wish he'd talk slower.

Thanks to Layzej.

25 Minutes Until Dinner Time

Daily Deaths Peaking?

Update: These data may not be accurate. In particular, the last data point for each country is from WHO's spreadsheets, for March 27th. But March 27th isn't over yet.... Also, of course there was recently a day in the US without any deaths (the gap in the blue line; see below).

Also, WaPo says Italy "reported 919 coronavirus deaths in one day." Maybe that's today (3/27), or maybe it's yesterday (3/26). But WHO reports 685 deaths for Italy yesterday, and 660 today. They're using the John Hopkins database. I'm confused about which dataset is best.

Hmm, here are the daily increases in deaths for both Italy and the US. Both appear to be peaking.... I can accept that for Italy, but am very surprised the US shows the same trend:

PS: The gap in the US line is because WHO data showed no additional death that day, and for some mysterious reason Bill Gates' Excel won't take the logarithm of zero.

Bill Gates Is Not Encouraging

Here's Bill Gates on CNN telling us that we're screwed -- I can't believe the US can meet the Wuhan-like restrictions he says are necessary until perhaps the end of May.

I realize he's not an epidemiologist or even a scientist, but he's smart enough to be one and surely has a lot of experience in this kind of thinking due to his Foundation.
Random question: would it have been better to tax Gates heavily throughout his career, a la what Bernie Sanders advocates, or let him earn (but tax as he was) so he could do good things with his money, like establish the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that's vaccinating the developing world?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The US Is Having A Disastrous Day

Holy shit. When today ends, the US is looking at at least 27,800 additional cases (50% increase) and at least 396 additional deaths (+49%).

(Comparing WHO daily data, ending with 3/25, with the latest data.)

And yet I don't imagine there's a single thing Trump could do -- or would care to do -- to address this.

PS: Don't even try to fucking compare this to climate change. Now isn't the time.

How Does This End?

I've cut back on blogging, because, well, I got a little burned out looking at the numbers, but more so because I became distressed thinking about the future.

Italy, where the number of new cases per day seems to have peaked, says its lockdown will stop "well before" the end of July, though it might be piecemeal. The US just passed Italy in number of cases (but not per capita), though perhaps the New York City region has.

Yet Italy is no longer resuscitating people older than 60. (Snopes: "mixture")

This feels now like this situation is moving beyond mere numbers. Numbers are fun, until they aren't. The US has remained 15 days or so behind Italy for at least two weeks. There's no reason to expect that the next two weeks will go differently. NYC hospitals are already on the brink of being overwhelmed, and will certainly be so soon.

Overwhelmed hospitals is not something I've ever thought about, let alone thought would ever occur in the US. Could ever occur.

And yet I still don't know anyone who actually has Covid-19, let alone suffered from it, let alone died from it. It's still only prevalent at around 1 in 1000. But what I read scares me, which makes for a strange reaction to something that so far, to me, has only been abstract. I work at home and am disconnected from the work-a-day lifestyle. I haven't felt a visceral impact from this disease. I buy groceries as normal. Yet something is different.

I don't know exactly what that is. It's like waiting for the the other shoe to drop, but I have yet to see the first shoe drop. It's up there somewhere over my shoulder. Having to call for an ambulance at 11 pm because I can't breathe no longer seems difficult to imagine. Improbable -- I guess -- but imaginable.

So I've cut back on downloading the latest statistics, and cutback on reading news articles. They no longer say anything I can't imagine.

Please keep commenting as much as you wish, even though I can't always keep up. But I know you each well enough now that it's reassuring in its way. Just now it seems bigger than numbers, bigger than science, bigger than the news.

The other problem is I can't see how this ends. Yesterday my sister texted me and said, "I hate Trump more than ever," and I certainly feel the same. Yet I can't see self-isolating happening much past Easter, if even that long. Not in Italy, but even worse in America, where too many people think they have a right to do anything they want regardless of the consequences. But what else can work? Nothing I have read about. There's no vaccine, no special behavior, no epidemiological secrets. So what's supposed to happen? The US economy won't remain closed until July or whatever the necessary date is. So the only thing that can happen is, as far as I can see, the virus will surge, as will the deaths. Deaths of a million or two, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

US Still 15 Days Behind Italy

The US case number is still 15 day behind Italy.

15 days ago, the US was...15 days behind Italy.

Why the Low US Death Rate?

Is the US Covid-19 (relatively low) death rate just because we're further back in the infection timeline?

Monday, March 23, 2020

Trump Murders Someone

One death, one critical. One murder by Trump.

The weapon: stupidity. 

"Man dies after self-medicating with chloroquine," Axios 3/23/20

This Makes Me Laugh

Who Has Exponential Growth

The NY Times says the best way to look for changes in the trend is via a log plot. OK, here were some case rates as of yesterday:

A straight line here means exponential growth (unless the line is flat, in which case the number of cases is a constant, viz no growth).

So Italy is experiencing something a bit less than exponential growth, and the US something a bit more. 

Don't forget, the problem with charts like this one is that it's easy to forget that exponential growth is bad enough. Slight reductions in it aren't much to be assuaged by, unless you are looking deep for a reason to hope.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Bill Gates Nailed It

Perhaps you've seen this, but if not it's worth watching. In 2015 Bill Gates got this exactly right. And he's no expert -- he got it from listening to experts who were saying it. Yet the United States, the richest country in history, has been caught largely unprepared for this virus. Despite intelligence reports, Trump selfishly downplayed the danger for weeks. He has already killed Americans and his inaction will see the death of many more. His rank stupidity -- there's no other honest word for it -- is killing people. It seems almost impossible now to overestimate the impact. This is how scary it's become: in Italy, doctors are no longer using respirators on people over 60. I think this is the most shocking thing I've heard yet.

And this, from less than two weeks ago, is very informative:

US: That "Hitch" is Gone

Yesterday's "hitch" in new cases doesn't pay out. 

as the US creeps still closer to Italy's path:

New cases in one day:

Italy    6,419  (14%)
US    6,982  (35%)
Canada    239  (22%)
China    45

US cases per capita are 9.2% of Italy's; a week ago we were at 2.2%.

But US cases per capita are now 2.1 times the same number for the rest of the world:

Finally, I should mention how I calculate my numbers. Instead of using WHO's data, which are given day-by-day for a full day, I use the current data that appears on Worldometer, owned by the software company Dadax. Since I don't look at the data every time the same day (but usually do so between 5-7 am, depending on when my cats want breakfast), I normalize the numbers to 24 hours. So if X new cases appeared in 25.5 hours, the number I report is (X/25.5)*24.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

This Is How Scary Italy's Situation Is

Italy reported 973 deaths yesterday. That's over 50% of their natural death rate.

Italy's population is about 60.5 M, and their "natural" death rate in 2019 was 10.566 per thousand people (1.0566%). That works out to 1,750 deaths per day. 973 deaths is 56% of that.

Italy's current Covid-19 death rate is 2.5 1.8 times Italy's average death rate in World War 2.

Italy saw 457,000 deaths in WW2 (military and civilian), with a population of 44 million. They fought for 3.25 years, from June 1940 to Sept 1943. That works out to an average death rate of 141,000 deaths per year, or 385 deaths per day, or 0.32% per year.

Forget About That Hitch?

The numbers today aren't good. Since 6 am PT this morning, the US has already seen an increase of 6,120 cases -- which will be the largest daily increase so far.

There's still 13 hours to go, but of course there isn't the same reported new case rate overnight. From 6 pm yesterday to 6 am today (PT), about 280 cases were reported. The same number tonight would make a total increase of 32% in one day.

40 deaths so far today, which is about average.

It's strange that that seems an improvement over a 40-50% increase.

You probably saw that Italy reported 793 deaths in one day. Here are some death rates as of yesterday. Click to enlarge.

New US Cases Not On the Exponential Curve Today

There is a slight hitch in new US coronavirus cases today. Hopefully that's the start of something:

The US now has more cases per capita than China has/had:
Italy  777 cases per million
US    60
China    58
Canada    29
But the US is still 15 days behind Italy, same as yesterday.

Friday, March 20, 2020

US: New Cases Up 50 Per Cent in One Day

I woke up a little snotty and sniffly this morning. I'm hoping it's just allergies, as spring is springing here fast.

Tomorrow the US will pass China in cases per capita.

Canada's number of cases are up 20%. Italy up 15%. (Both absolute numbers, not per capita.) Canada's per capita cases are only 53% of the US's.

Two-thirds of worldwide cases are now outside China.

Italy's death rate has reached 8.3% of confirmed cases. Worldwide this number is now 4.0%. US is less than half that, but elsewhere it started out relatively low, too, and then increased as people were sick long enough to die. I suspect the large initial increase in the US was because the disease happened early in that nursing home in Washington state, which was just bad luck. But it'd be nice if the US death rate stays at its relatively low level.

The US edges closer to Italy:

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Are We Screwed No Matter What?

The chart below is from a WaPo article, from that UK report that came out last weekend. You can see why it scared Trump into action and why all the sudden calls for social distancing. But the US is still in big trouble -- hospitals are going to be overwhelmed.

If I'm understanding this correctly, even with all the precautions the US is now taking, we're looking at needing 100 "acute care beds" per 100,000 people at a peak around October 1st. That's 330,000 needed acute care beds, all at once. But there are only about 100,000 ICU beds in the United States:

There's also less than 100,000 ventilators, with an uneven distribution around the country.

So there will be one established ICU bed for every 3.3 people who need one. That's if we keep social distancing going until a vaccine is available. Through the summer.

Yet I haven't heard or read about Trump saying anything about the great shortage of beds we're going to have. Maybe I missed it, or maybe they're all too focused, at least for now, on the economy.

This conclusion is hardly unique. But it hits home to me much more when I do the calculation for myself.

US Cases Per Capita Now on Par With World's

But deaths are still significantly lower:

US new daily cases close to 3,000 -- about 45% in one day:

Canada's new cases up 'only' 22% yesterday; Italy 13%.

I should mention that my graphs show the data of when I recorded the data, not the actual date the new cases and deaths occurred. (WHO has those.) So my graphs are labeled about a day ahead. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Stunning Numbers

I checked worldometer at 2:40 pm PT, and there were 8,442 cases.

I checked again at 5:40 pm PT, and there were 9,269 cases.

The time interval of exactly 3 hours (1/8th day) was a coincidence. The daily increase rate for this interval is 111% per day.

But the afternoons are an active time for reporting, and it falls off considerably overnight. So likely tomorrow the daily rate will be far below this. But it's looking to be about 40% again in a day.

Just a hair under 3,000 cases since 7 pm PT last night.

35 new deaths already since 6 am PT. Tomorrow will see the largest daily increase yet.

On the Button

A week ago (3/11) I estimated that the total number of coronavirus cases in the US would be about 8,000 in a week.

I just looked and the number is 8,019.
In the stage we're in, many countries had ~33% daily rise in virus cases. That would put the number of US cases a week from now at about 8,000, and 340,000 by the end of the month.
340 K now seems hard to believe. But back then, according to the FT chart, only Japan and South Korea has succeeded in flattening the curve. Since then, Italy has somewhat. Here are Italy's daily increase in the number of cases for the past 7 days:
Much lower than the 33% value the FT chart noted.

Now that the US is instituting some real measures, the 340 K number, which came from assuming a 33%/day growth rate, looks unlikely. (But we're growing at 30-40%/day at the moment.) At least for the end of March.  

CNBC: The Dow is now negative under Trump's presidency


The Dow is now negative under Trump's presidency
The Dow's drop pushed the index below the level where it closed the day before Trump took office in as part of a historic sell-off.

Read in CNBC:

Grim Graphs

In Covid-19 cases per capita, the US is quickly catching up to the rest of the world:

New US cases almost doubled from the day before:

And we ticked a little closer to Italy:

Canadian deaths doubled overnight, to eight. Number of cases jumped about 36% in one day; 38% in the US; 13% in Italy (but 345 new deaths there).

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Some of Today's Covid-19 Graphs

If you're a songwriter you can probably get away with rhyming "covid" with "morbid."

Here's a comparison of US cases of Covid-19 per capita compared to Italy's. There's still an order-and-a-half of magnitude between them, so I've divided Italy's by (an arbitrary) 35 to get them on the same graph:

Here is a graph showing how many days ago US cases today matched Italy's then. Again, per capita:

The number of days keeps increasing, so perhaps we're not on Italy's path after all. 

By the way, China had only one new case in the last day.

In the US, the number of cases is still increasing exponentially (essentially):

So far the death rate in the US is about half that of the rest of the world, but the numbers here are relatively small:

Maybe on definition of exponential growth are numbers where when you look at them you say, wow, that can't possibly continue, only to say the same thing again the next day -- wow, now that can't possibly continue! And so on.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Post-virus Economic News from China

Some devastating economic data from China. You might have to click the image to see the entire bottom graph on Twitter. Via Twitter via Slate.

78 m

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Covid-19: Comparing US and Italy Per Capita

This comparison is better, I think -- US cases per million population compared to Italy's cases per million 16 days earlier (the closest match I could find). The numbers are low so not on a firm trend perhaps, but I'll follow it and see how it goes. Given Italy's more elderly population, perhaps we shouldn't expect a good match separated only by time.

Empty Shelves

Covid-19: USA compared to Italy

I'm not convinced the US will take the path of  Italy; on the other hand, so far it's closely tracking Italy's numbers of 12 days ago:

12 days ago Italy had 35 deaths in total (cumulative). Yesterday's WHO number for the US is 41.

By the way, WHO has daily Covid-19 data on cases and deaths for all countries here in spreadsheet form.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Not How Not to Obsess About The Situation

I feel like this situation is developing into the days immediately after 9/11. where it's difficult to look away and not obsess about what's happening. That said:

The US can expect 70-150 M cases of coronavirus, according to a briefing of Congress by the attending physician of the U.S. Congress & Supreme Court.

As of this morning, Canadian cases per capita is 76% of the US's. Best wishes to Mr. Trudeau.

NBC news correspondent: "The president fired his top pandemics adviser in 2018 and eliminated the global health unit in the National  Security Council."

NBC News: "Trump cuts to national security staff may hurt coronavirus response, former officials say; 'For the first time since 9/11, you don't have someone directly reporting to the president responsible [for threats like] pandemics,' an ex-official said."

A nasty one-timer: The NHL suspended its season just at the time of year when things are heating up. The Stanley Cup playoffs (the best tournament in sports, because every round is best of seven) are scheduled to begin April 8th. It's hard to see this crisis on the downturn by then.

So what's Trump doing now? Blaming others, of course. The Fed, the CDC and (of course) Obama. I'd call him an incompetent moron (which -- and I just looked this up -- comes from Greek mōron, neuter of mōros ‘foolish’), but it won't help and it doesn't make me feel any better.

Reuters - "The White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified, an unusual step that has restricted information and hampered the U.S. government’s response to the contagion, according to four Trump administration officials."

Trump's error-filled speech to the nation Wednesday night was partly ad-libbed. Of course, that was part of the problem.

Near-exponential growth in the US caseload:

...but it's not so clear regarding deaths:

Some death rates. Perhaps not enough in the US to give a meaningful statistic:

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Wilshire 5000 Under Trump

The Wilshire 5000 is a broad measure of the net worth of the entire US stock market -- it's numerical value is the market's value in billions of dollars:

It's now down $9.7 trillion from its maximum.

Here's its record under recent presidential administrations:

Clearly in the last 27 years the market has done far better under Democratic presidents than under Republican presidents. It's not even close.

(Before this latest market crisis the W5000 was up about the same under Trump 1 as it was under Obama 2 (in its average percent increase per year (last column)).) 

Rep. Katie Porter Deserves a Medal

Watch her push and push and push the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, until he finally agrees to offer free coronavirus testing for every American who needs it. This is a thing of beauty. 

GISTEMP: Second-warmest February

The surge continues. From NASA GISS:

Globe Feb 2020: +1.26°C relative to 1951-1980, +1.54°C relative to 1880-1909.
northern hemisphere: +1.72°C relative to 1951-1980.
land-only: +1.63°C relative to 1951-1980.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

How the Virus Progresses, by Country

Here's a chart from Twitter about the virus's progression, originally from the Financial Times:

In the stage we're in, many countries had ~33% daily rise in virus cases. That would put the number of US cases a week from now at about 8,000, and 340,000 by the end of the month.

I wish I could believe that won't happen.

One of the reasons Trump won't meet with the House to talk about the virus -- he's afraid of Nancy Pelosi. I kid you not.

Politico: "Trump is concerned that declaring an emergency would hamper his narrative that the coronavirus is similar to the seasonal flu."


How is banning travel from Europe going to help? The disease is already here in amble numbers.... And was here before Trump banned travel from China. (First US case was reported on January 20th. The travel ban began on January 31st, when there were 6 reported cases in the US, and who know how many unreported cases. By January 20th there were already 326 cases in China.) And why ban travel from Europe now, but not the UK? This new ban smells like a political show staged for Trump's nationalistic followers.

Here's a good fact check on the travel bans.

Trump is having insurers waive co-pays for medical care (just testing?) related to the virus. He said nothing about the uninsured, who are thankfully covered by TrumpCare.

Right now 117 cases in Canada, with one death.

This is a very bad time to have a ignorant, scared headcase as a leader.

Expert Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm

Here's a very intelligent interview of an expert epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, on, of all places, The Joe Rogan Experience. (In truth what's intelligent isn't the interview per se, but what the interviewee says.) Even watching the first 15 minutes is informative. Short version: this virus is in the initial stages and will be here for months.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Now 1,000 Covid-19 Cases in US

The NYT just reported there are 1,000 virus cases in the US. Thirty-one deaths.

A week ago there were 105. A week before that, 53.

It's increasing so fast it's difficult to imagine (as Ned shows). I also thought we wouldn't get to 1,000 until around Friday.

The Swiss government has said they will only test people with strong symptoms. They're giving up on containment.

I just read somewhere that the governor of Washington state is banning gatherings of more than 250 people.

It seems unlikely the US can enact containment levels on the scale and order of China in Wuhan province. (Or South Korea, which seems to now have a case load that's leveling off.) Or even Italy. Now is the time for Trump to make some very serious decisions about immediate actions here to see some containment. It's impossible for me to believe he's up to that task. In fact, he may be the worst person to be in charge right now.

In fact, not one of his tweets in the last five hours is about the virus.

In fact, this is the kind of twaddle we get from him:

Sunday, March 08, 2020

"His ignorant narcissism poses a risk to the country"

Jennifer Rubin is a conservative opinion writer for the Washington Post, in the ancient sense of a conservative of five years ago. She sized up Trump and Trumpism early on and has been writing some of the sharpest, most trenchant criticism of him, in my opinion. This is from her today, which I think captures Trump's surreal response to the epidemic quite well:
...Trump is mentally unfit to hold office — any office, but especially the presidency.

Trump’s statements about the coronavirus, filled with self-congratulations, inanities, falsehoods and non sequiturs, remind us that he is unable to cope with reality; his sole aim is to elevate himself (although his antics make him look ridiculous). He wants a cruise ship to stay offshore so the number of reported cases in the United States will remain artificially low? That’s just nuts, and worse, it is dangerous.

Trump seems to believe that he “knows more about” everything (energy, medicine, diplomacy, nuclear weapons, intelligence, law enforcement, trade, etc.) than anyone, and yet his gaping ignorance and refusal to learn the basic facts imperil the country and the economy.

Trump thinks North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un loves him, so Trump gives up leverage that might force North Korea to denuclearize. Trump trusts the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the U.S. intelligence community’s, so Trump refuses to secure America’s elections and tries to extort Ukraine, a U.S. ally. Trump is obsessed with Barack Obama, so he tries to wreck whatever bears his predecessor’s name or is associated with Obama’s legacy, despite his own failure to devise a better alternative (e.g., the Iran deal, Obamacare).

It is not simply that Trump is an ignorant narcissist; rather, the concern is that his ignorant narcissism poses a risk to the country — one that brings us to the brink of war with Iran, emboldens Russia and leaves the United States vulnerable to a pandemic, which in turn may bring on a recession....

Friday, March 06, 2020

A Little Ice News

NOAA says the continental US had its 6th warmest winter (DJF) on record for the continental US, while Alaska had the coldest February and winter in 21 years. February was 30th warmest. The Alaskan cold is definitely impacting Arctic sea ice extent,, but on the other hand it's very warm in Scandinavia and Siberia. It's not clear yet if Arctic SIE has peaked for the season, but when it does it will be no lower than 11th lowest out of 42 years.
Antarctic sea ice extent has passed its annual minimum, which this year ranked at 17th lowest. (Recent annual ranks have been 2017: lowest, 2018: 2nd lowest, 2019: 7th lowest.) Here's the record:

I'm not going to put a trend line through that because it's not obvious what it would be. (Linear doesn't seem appropriate.)

Thursday, March 05, 2020


When I checked on US virus cases this morning at 6:04 am PT there were 159. Now at 3:13 pm there are 221. That's easily the largest jump in a day.

Reading this New York Times article on the virus outbreak at the nursing center in Kirkland, Washington, it sure seems that a lot of people have symptoms but never get tested, both people in the center and people who've visited. Even people with what sounds like significant symptoms. Surely there are many more cases than have been counted (as many officials have been saying).

UAH's temperature anomaly for the lower troposphere for February was again high at +0.76 C, second only to Feb 2016's +0.86 C.

The American Physical Society’s March Meeting in Denver was cancelled because of the coronavirus, just a day before it was to begin. "At least 500 participants were scheduled to arrive from countries that are now a 'hotspot for contagion.'" Thousands of scientists and students -- about 11,000 -- are out the money they spent on flights and hotel rooms -- some were already there in Denver. That had to be a tough call to make. Instead, some will have a virtual March meeting.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Virus Making Progress Into the US Interior

Here's the current map of Covid-19 cases in the US. You can compare to my earlier post and see the virus making its way towards the interior of the US:

Two days ago:


Sunday, March 01, 2020

Coming In From the Edges

It's interesting to see the virus come into the country via its borders first. That's what you would expect, I guess, and entry via major airline hubs like LA, Chicago and New York. The little bugger is predictable in many respects, and yet it seems there's little we can do to stop it. I guess that's a big part of why it's scary.


Friday, February 28, 2020

Here It Comes....

Coronavirus Live Updates: New Unexplained Cases Reported in Oregon and California

All politics aside, this is really a terrible time to have a President who can't cope with stress and who everyone knows is an habitual liar.... Trump's Twitter feed reflects his utter inability to deal with any of this..... I am starting to find this a bit scary.... and not because I'm sniffling and sneezing since yesterday (just a little cold, I'm sure).

PS: This must be a very interesting time to be an epidemiologist.

Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson died today, related to a fall he took on Tuesday.

It's sad how a fall so quickly leads to death in the elderly. I've seen this happen before -- it really comes out of the blue.

Ironically (in the Alanis Morissette sense), I just emailed Dyson about a month ago with a question for something I'm working on, and he gave me a nice reply, and then another after I followed up on that one.

I think by far his greatest work was showing that the different mathematical formulations of QED (quantum electrodynamics) of Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga were all equivalent. Dyson was in his 20s then (26 in 1949) when he did this, which is extremely impressive. His paper is a real tour de force. From what I remember reading about this, he did this after daily summer classes at a course in Michigan, to where Feynman drove him, in a road trip that almost seems like something out of Hunter Thompson. Dyson would go back to his upstairs dorm room each day to continue working on the QED problem. I learned about this as an undergraduate and still have a very romantic image of this in my mind, of Dyson hunched under the eaves up there, hot and sweaty, dealing with the difficult levels of perturbation theory for each formulation of QED. But this is just my image, the image you create when you read a book, without ever seeing the movie. It surely didn't happen exactly like that, but I cherish my images of it nonetheless.

Plus I remember reading about him, earlier I guess, working as a mathematician for the British war effort, figuring how the right size of hole for pilots and gunners to jump through after their planes had been shot up. From what I remember the hole was too small in the beginning, which cost lives, but making it too big cost lives too, from flak going upward. All while he was a very young man, being forged by the world war all around him.

Interestingly, his NY Times obituary says his famous idea of a Dyson sphere actually came from a science fiction writer.

When I was in graduate school and needed to take a few months off for back surgery, my advisor sent me off with a copy of Dyson's book Disturbing the Universe.

I realize I'm focusing on how Dyson affected me, even though I never met him or had any real interaction. I think people try to find a way to connect to a major event if they can, whatever it is. In my case it certainly wasn't much, but it was this.

We here know Dyson for his skepticism of manmade climate change. I was surprised to read how staunchly he put forth his position in this GWPF document. Sadly, to me it reads like the thoughts of a very old scientist who could only think that CO2 is good for plants! without thinking deeper, while complaining about the young guns had dared to come to a different conclusion than he did. Of course, Dyson himself was once a young gun, and we know that it's the young guns who are right -- they always are -- and it's kind of sad that Dyson didn't have enough wisdom to understand that.

As they say science advances one funeral at a time, and that seems especially true here. Not that Dyson was ever a significant player in climate science. I remember him saying this a decade ago:
 “[m]y objections to the global warming propaganda are not so much over the technical facts, about which I do not know much, but it’s rather against the way those people behave and the kind of intolerance to criticism that a lot of them have.”

- Freeman Dyson, Yale Environment 360, June 4, 2009
I think this pretty much says it all.

Friday Sundries

US stock markets were down $4.0 trillion this week (-11.6%), going by the Wilshire 5000, whose number is approximately equal to the worth of US markets in billions of dollars.

Wow: Bushfires burned a fifth of Australia's forest. []

A "truckload" of plastic enters the ocean every minute.

National Review is whining about Michael Mann again. Just a thought, but maybe their know-nothing writer shouldn't have libeled him in the first place.

The West Coast is turning blue. Onward to Ecotopia.

In the Florida Keys: In a presentation shown to Monroe County Commissioners last week, the Army Corps of Engineers outlined a $3 billion strategy to protect the Keys. The only new construction measure considered is adding additional rocks on either side of U.S. in six key spots. The rest of the plan is a combination of elevating homes, businesses and essential buildings and "retreat" in the form of government-funded buyouts.

A key question, of course, is how long will this solution last for, since sea level is only going to keep rising, faster and faster. I understand why those living in the Florida Keys (or anywhere) don't want to give up their homes, but they need to know (and probably do, in the back of their minds) that it's inevitable. I think it's pretty clear that the US government, viz. taxpayers, will eventually buy out the value of their homes -- which will likely become uninsurable first. After they lose insurance they'll be forced to take what the government is offering, which I don't think will set them back any.

Did you know -- Martin Luther King Jr's mother was also assassinated?

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Coronavirus Outside China

It's increasing exponentially. That's assuming the case count in China is accurate, which is perhaps doubtful either because of their regime's secrecy or because cases get difficult to count when the numbers explode.

Johns Hopkins University

World Health Organization

Your Coronavirus Czar

And this isn't (by far) the worst of it.