I’m not a physicist, nor do I play one on TV. And I did not sleep at Holiday Inn last night. But my kids took way more physics than needed for either of their degrees, and despite being 3 years apart in schooling took those classes together in college.
(Which was great. They can’t stand for one to outdo the other so not only were they top of the class, but had improbably great grades. Because younger one might otherwise slacken but not when there was a chance of older one doing better. And older one, who always tried for perfect invented plus que perfect for the occasion. Had I known it, I’d have fought the state of CO to advance younger three years starting in elementary (he could take it) and they’d have been LEGENDARY.)
Since they were both living at home to save money, this meant that I was often standing in the kitchen
minding my own business cooking, and they’d be telling what they thought were hilarious jokes, or trying to figure out that day’s problem and turning it into a joke.
Which is why I learned that there are physics assumptions that only work for ideal objects. Or, as my kids put it (and perhaps it’s a joke from a show? I can be daft) “Imagine a spherical cow, of uniform density in friction-less vacuum.”
This came to mind about a week ago as I was stomping around the house saying that anyone who relied on computer models for anything should be shot. My husband was duly alarmed, because as he pointed out, he has designed computer models.
At which point I told him that’s okay because his models do not involve people. Which is part of it. Throw one person into a model, and you’ll wish the person were a spherical cow of uniform density in friction-less vacuum.
But the reason the cow story is funny, of course, is that you don’t even need a person to upset that kind of very exact calculation, because cows are not in fact spherical or of uniform density, and would fare rather poorly in friction-less vacuum.
However, much worse than a person is a group of people. Particularly when the group has its own culture, its own geographical “plant” and its own way of being in the world. Throw those into any model, and even if what you’re trying to model is a single, small, fairly well known group, the model will have a leak.
You see, people don’t always behave the way you expect. And frankly, they find ways to get around things they don’t like. Or they just do unimaginably stupid and crazy things.
To be fair to the left they never have — and possibly never will — understand that. Their whole program is the idea that human beings are fungible. Having glomed on the idea some humans are not like the others, they of course decided to sort humans by external or largely irrelevant characteristics.
No, I DO NOT in fact understand why the collectivists, the people who keep wanting to do what the group is doing, and who are more socially oriented than any of us fail to get people. Except perhaps that G-d has a sense of humor. (Low one, puts itch powder in your pressure suit.)
What I do know is that — are you ready? — human societies, involving multiple nations or even our own culturally diverse, geographically spread out nation, are not now nor will they ever be a spherical cow of uniform density in friction-less vacuum.
So…. why is it that even now that they admit the scary Imperial model is insane, our authorities, from federal on down are treating the US as though it were just that mythical cow, and on top of that exactly the same as the cow in Italy, Spain or France.
This is a stupid thing. What’s more important, it’s a stupid thing that’s not only killing the economy, it’s getting in the way of us figuring out what the Winnie-flu is, how bad it is, and what causes high-lethality clusters.
Let’s leave side for the moment the fact that the books are being cooked, okay. They are. this is undeniable. As is undeniable they’re cooking them the most in places like Louisiana and NYC, and we probably know why.
It’s hard to deny the disease presents in weird clusters. I have a friend whose Georgia County is about the same level of bad as Italy. Which makes no sense whatsoever, as they have no high Chinese population. And while the cases might be guess work (with tests only accurate AT MOST 70% of the time, it’s guesswork all the way down) the deaths aren’t. The community is small enough they all know each other. And they’re losing relatively young (still working) and relatively healthy (no known big issues) people.
The question is WHY?
In the same way, when I go to FB and I say “Is this really as bad as people claim,” people from NYC who have relatives in the hospital get very upset.
But instead, what we should be doing is applying the severe restrictions to places with these clusters, and figuring out why the clusters develop. (Instead of shutting down the economy of a nation of 320 million, and making people in Lone Cow Nevada follow the same restrictions as New Yorkers.)
Look, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sure, quarantines are justified. But that word doesn’t mean what we’re doing. Quarantines is when you isolate the sick. What we’re doing is mass house-arrest.
Which brings us into why this is crazy.
I can GUESS at some reasons why NYC has a lot more cases than anywhere else in the country. They are the closest thing to an European country in our midst, relying mostly on public transportation (or truly unsanitary taxis), living in apartment buildings with shared air circulation, keeping minimal personal distance in the street.
To all that add that there are problems with their health workers being third-world hires and as cheap as humanly possible. (I suspect Seattle has the same issue. In fact, other states do. Having heard stories, particularly of long term care homes, I’ve told my sons that if I ever need that (Please, no. Mom and Dad haven’t) and they can’t afford to send me to one of the best, just put rat poison in my tea.) And OF COURSE there are problems with culture in that too.
So, I’ve covered this before, but here’s the thing: Italy has a completely different culture. Yes, it also has a sclerotic, understaffed and just impoverished healthcare system. (Yes, every time I post that I have to spam a million comments telling me how well the WHO ranked Italy — which is great, except the WHO ranks a single payer system above everything else, including outcomes — and how Lombardy is the envy of Italy or something, which leads me to say “Sucks to be you.”)
However, that’s just a factor in the debacle. The other factor is culture and no one is taking it into account. Multi-generational families live together (I should throw stones, yes) or in the same house which becomes a sort of compound. (This is common to all Mediterranean cultures. I grew up in such a compound until the age of six.) which means that while Grandma isn’t abandoned to the tender mercies of Haitian health workers, it’s also really hard to isolate her when little Guido gets the never-get-well at school and cheerfully brings it home. Even when they don’t live together, extended families have a level of closeness that freaks out even the closest American families. If you and your relatives live within driving distance of each other and don’t see each other every other day, there’s something wrong.
Every house is a continuous cacophony of visiting relatives and friends. In safer times, we just left the back door unlocked because it was easier than answering the doorbell every five minutes. When I first got married, I had the TV on all day, because otherwise the house was so silent, it freaked me out. (I left Disney channel on all day, because it was less likely to startle me with explosions or evil laughter. This led my inlaws to believe I only understood “English for children” (rolls eyes.) I wasn’t even in the room with it. I just needed that noise, or I freaked out, because of the habit of a lifetime.
The freakiest thing in my exchange student years was that my family never had people drop by, several times a week, just because.
On top of that, of course, a lot of the younger people live in stack-a-prol apartments with shared air, and most people commute by train or bus or something.
Now, in Portugal at least most trains and buses aren’t as full as they were in my youth. You are rarely packed in like sardines. But it’s still public transport, and at rush hour every seat is taken and there are people standing.
As much as I get sick here, I got sick way more often there, and had a few really close calls, starting at about thirteen. Because you live in each other’s pockets.
And I understand that in Italy, as in Portugal, as in, for instance, France, people kiss a lot more. Adult men might not, unless they’re close(ish) relatives, but women and children get kissed by everyone from close kin to total strangers.
All of those create conditions for the virus to explode. In Italy, in France, in Spain. I understand it’s not exploded nearly as much in Portugal, but I also wonder how much of that is Portuguese reluctance to go to the doctor or the hospital. Because “the hospital is where you die.” (Yes, sue me. Some cultural assumptions remain. Which is why my husband is the one who normally drags me to the hospital.) Because, you see, we DO know for at least one of the clusters, the hospital was making it worse. Go to the hospital for any other reason, catch Winnie the Flu.
All of these uncertainties are even more uncertain with China, which is a culture that is, by itself and by design fairly opaque to us, round eyed devils. BUT because they are on top of that also totalitarians, the culture becomes double opaque. As Writer in Black put it in the comments, paraphrasing:They lie because they lie, they lie when the truth will serve, they lie because they can get away with it, they lie when they can’t.
And we simply don’t know the conditions on the ground. Most Americans don’t know, and most “progressives” refuse to admit that China has air quality not seen in this world since London ran on coal and its air resembled pea soup. I heard that their air pollution makes everyone, man, woman, preschooler and infant inhale the same amount of particulates and pollutants as a three-pack a day smoker. Or that China’s prosperity is mostly for show/limited to a certain class (as we said in Portugal “for Englishmen to see”) and in the countryside, and the lower classes, life is more or less medieval and very close to the bone. So close it might have tipped into actual famine, once we engaged in curtailing China’s exploitative trade practices. On top of which, the mode of life being medieval and the government unpredictable, most people live in close proximity to a food animal or two. Which– Which has given us all the bird flus, the swine flu, and soon to come and excitingly another bird flu.
So, do we even know that China is locking up again because of Winnie the Flu? or because of the new bird flu?
We don’t and neither do they. Their diagnosis was by “has pneumonia” since their tests are THIRTY PERCENT accurate (a coin is more accurate) and honestly, they don’t care for the lives of individual citizens. They care to hide a debacle from the world.
So trying to understand why the Wuhan cluster happened and how bad it really happened might be beyond us. As I write this China has gone into lockdown again, which will send the Western hysterics into convulsions and give those like my governor who hanker for well polished boots and a Hugo Boss uniform in red and black another excuse to stomp on our inalienable liberties. (And if at the end of this there aren’t a thousand civil rights law suits, I’ll be seriously disappointed.)
Because in his mind, Colorado and China are spherical cows of uniform density in friction-less vaccum. (Stupid or malicious? Well, in Polis’s case? BOTH.)
And dear BOB, guys. Colorado and New York City (or state) are not the same culture. Heck, North Carolina and Colorado are not the same culture. I know, because I transitioned from North Carolina to Colorado.
Let’s put it this way, if you stand as close to people in Colorado as you do in North Carolina, we’re going to freak out. Give it another foot (and that’s a foot more than NYC.) Unless you’re obviously a tourist. In which case we’ll send you to the next city to look for something improbable. And while we’re not an unfriendly bunch (truly) we are not precisely the kind that gets together in a big bunch for no reason whatsoever. (Unless they’re recent transplants.)
When we moved to Colorado we belonged to a national social club. We tried to continue our involvement here, but eventually gave up, because though the group was larger, the meetings were small, odd, and kind of lackluster. The explanation? Coloradans are OUTDOORS people. They’re out hiking trails, or, when urban, walking around. Sure, they might eat at restaurants, or go to museums, but the natural group size for Colorado is one or two.
You observe this in our parks, during summer, when you stare at groups of more than about four, because they’re so rare. And in museums, even when going through as a family, our family of five tends to go through really individually, just keeping the others in sight most of the time. And we’ve been doing that since the kids were about five. And this is normal.
Yes, there are subcultures. But even our college students don’t really clump as I see in other cities/states/on TV.
Our NORMAL mode, with very few exceptions, is social distancing. You see this better perhaps in church. Whenever I go to church out of state/country, I’m puzzled at people crowding towards the front, in big masses. In Colorado it often seems like the law is “let me find a space no one can touch me.”
I understand — Colorado is the only Western state I’ve LIVED in — that in the west that’s more or less the norm. That our normal standing-apart is about two and a half to three feet. (And though yeah, there’s outliers like someone sneezing, the normal spacing for virus transmission, is one and a half feet.)
This alone, not accounting for the fact that trying to get Coloradans together is like herding cats, makes us completely different from NYC.
Heck, we do have the train that was supposed to go between Denver and Colorado Springs (WHAT IS with socialists and trains?) but it is about halfway there, and frankly when we drive alongside it, it seems to be empty. The use is probably not helped by the fact our state made it free for homeless (ride the murder and assault carriages!) But even the homeless aren’t at great risk, since they’re like one per carriage. Buses… about the same. Though there is one route where I’m surprised people aren’t dropping like flies, but then, really, no one seems to be except in clusters.
Frankly without the clusters, I WOULD actually think this was just the common cold or the greatest hoax since the Trojan horse.
So, why are the same rules being applied to both places? AND why are both places treated exactly alike? And why are both places assumed to be on the same curve as Italy or Spain or Wuhan, places and cultures, and ways of living that have absolutely nothing to do with how we live or who we are?
And here’s the kicker: if you allow states like Colorado and others that naturally self-distance to go about their lawful business, not only time but more money will be available to study the problem clusters.
What is actually going on is the entire world being punished because SOMEONE spit on the teacher’s desk and China won’t fess up it was them.
Which means this is what our “betters” in charge think they are. The teachers, the important people in charge, who must make sure all of us spherical cows of uniform density in frictionless vacuum do as told.
That’s all this is about: a fundamental misunderstanding of humans and cultures, and that individuals and individual cultures exist.
And these are the people who “believe in science.” (A statement that by itself tells you they have no clue what science is nor how to learn it.) And who presume to tell us how things will go.
Which is why we’re in the middle of killing our economy and destroying the wealth of generations, because we’re always — always — two weeks behind the peak. Or, as one particularly mentally handicapped governor put it “We just have to keep pushing the peak off for the next year or two.”…. does he mean through non-flu season, and into flu season, and out of it again, till everyone who would have died of flu dies of famine, with a bunch more beside?
And again I ask all you, my fellow spherical cows of uniform density in frictionless vacuum: How long will you tolerate this?