Hey, USA! How are those death Projections?

Well, despite my dramatic and terrifying underestimate of how US residents would pull together and alter their behavior to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, there are still many COVID-19 deaths happening around the USA. Looking at graphs, the growth of the disease looks a lot more linear than exponential lately, and that’s a very, very good thing. With linear growth, each doubling takes twice as long as the last doubling, which means that we buy ourselves lots and lots of time to make vaccines and take more preventative actions before reaching megadeath-scale numbers. Of course, this is still much worse than negative growth rate in COVID-19 deaths or just stopping the disease in its tracks, but when the choice is between linear growth and exponential growth, as it was for the USA at the end of last month, you have to choose the former.

[Read more…]

I’m Glad Pandemic Modeling Isn’t My Job

So just recently I wrote a post pointing out how reasonable it was to expect 6 doublings of COVID-19 deaths in the USA by early May (which would have given us a bit over a quarter million total persons dead), and how after that even one more doubling would be an unthinkable tragedy. But we’re not seeing doublings on the rate I feared (and which seemed reasonable given a comparison to other nations then-current rates of doubling when they had initiated nationwide stay-at-home policies before the USA). Commenter militantagnostic was early on the case, informing me on April 6th:

[Read more…]

US COVID-19 Death Rate: Understanding a link

So I linked to one important source I used in my non-professional but (hopefully) mathematically literate guesswork about how COVID-19 deaths in the US will increase over the next while. What I didn’t appreciate at that time was that the graphic that they used to discuss geometric growth in deaths in various countries is a dynamic graphic. Every time a country updates its total deaths on its own official websites, which happens once a day or more for Eurpoean and North American countries, the graphic itself updates. This means you can’t click on the link from a past article (or in this paragraph) and get easy access to the numbers I used when writing a particular blog post.

[Read more…]

How fucked is the USA? A COVID-19 DeathSplainer.

SARS-CoV2 infections were originally doubling once every 2.5 days, according to the CDC and the WHO. Over the last 4 days, deaths in different countries have had different doubling rates, but US deaths doubled very close to once in that 4 days.

This is a result of the fact that the places with the highest numbers of deaths also have done the most to slow transmission via shelter-in-place orders and other measures. So even if infections and deaths are doubling much faster in counties and states that haven’t yet been hit hard, the total number of deaths they add from a single doubling might yet be small compared to deaths in, say, New York City, which had over 500 on Friday. (By the way, New York City’s measures haven’t yet been effective at slowing the doubling: their deaths doubled in a mere 3 days.) We are not likely headed for a slowdown of the doubling rate because there are so many places where the virus is just beginning its infectious burn, and while each individual county might be small, there are many counties with many, many people in Texas and Florida and Georgia and other red states.

[Read more…]

Hand washing getting repetitive?

Now you have instant options! The website “Wash Your Lyrics” will generate a poster copied from the NHS but with the lyrics to the song of your choice – automatically, no typing of lyrics whatsoever. Input the song name and artist & away you go! My first creation was based on Bikini Kill’s Tony Randall, off the album Reject All American. This is how it came out:

[Read more…]

Trump Administration Ordered Immigration Courts to Spread Coronavirus

Is almost literally what happened earlier today, March 9th, 2020. The National Association of Immigration Judges recommended that immigration courts display disease prevention posters in english and several other languages to protect court employees, lawyers, and attendees.

But as odd as it seems for a court to be part of the executive branch, in the case of immigration courts, they are organized under Article II powers (executive powers, thus  accountable to the president) rather than article III (judicial powers, thus accountable to the Supreme Court generally on some matters, or the Chief Justice specifically on remaining matters) because the constitution gives authority over immigration and naturalization to the executive, subject to duly passed laws.

As a result, the President has the authority to interfere with immigration courts to the extent not prohibited by law passed by Congress and signed by the President (or passed with veto-override). Apparently the President or his delegates were none too pleased that immigration judges wanted to prevent death and disease and ordered immigration courts to take the posters down:

It’s hard to explain just how heinous and shortsighted this is, but mostly because it is so obviously heinous and shortsighted. To the Trumpists who actually need this explained, I doubt comprehension will ever come.

Minnesota Gets It Right

Here’s a good use of state tax dollars for ya:

Minnesota just allocated nearly a million dollars in incentives for people to transform their lawns into bee-friendly wildflowers, clover and native grasses.

The state is asking citizens to stop spraying herbicide, stop mowing so often, and let their lawns re-wild into a more natural state.

The goal is to provide “food sources for pollinators of all kinds, but will specifically aim at saving the rusty patched bumblebee, a fat and fuzzy species on the brink of extinction

I reduced the size of the lawn when I owned my own single-detached home. I specifically replanted a good portion with wildflowers and scattered moss through a very large portion of the rest of the lawn. The moss is incredibly good in the PNW: it holds quite a lot of moisture, so the grass can’t grow very fast (and rarely goes to seed), but it also can’t dry out too much because there’s a point where the balance tips and the grass is dry enough it can steal water from the moss instead of the other way round.

Moss doesn’t work everywhere, and neither do prairie plants, but looking for the plants native to your area before human development and planting them can make your land (should you have any) more beautiful and lower-maintenance. Sure, it might mean that less area is available for soccer or picnics, but is that what you were using the yard for before? And are there no nearby parks in which to do those things? At my old house, I was one block away from a manicured city park with lots and lots of grass. There was no need to keep any at my house. (I really did so only because of local laws that at the time prohibited natural yardscapes b/c neighbors were worried about their lawns getting weeds from untended properties.

Cthulhu Found In The Depths – UPDATED!

In the Proceedings of the Royal Academy B tomorrow (later today for those a few hours ahead of me) there will be an article announcing the description and naming of a new critter, Sollasina cthulhu. Related to the sea cucumber, Sollasina is definitely ancient at ~430my old, squarely in the middle of the Silurian. As a benthic scavenger and/or grazer, it was also definitely lurking in the deeps, though perhaps no more than a couple hundred meters at most. NewAtlas has a popular article up right now, including this artist’s reconstruction created by Elissa Martin at the Peabody Museum, Yale:

Elissa Martin’s artistic reconstruction of Sollasina cthulhu. Credit: Peabody Museum, Yale


Expect public access to the Proceedings B paper to go live within the next few hours. For now, you’ll just have to make do with that link to Proceedings B’s recent articles and hope it shows up. There is currently no word on the sanity of the paleontologists who originally uncovered the specimen or the preparators who spent countless hours staring into its tentacle-dominated face.



UPDATE: The paper is out!

The title is exactly what you’d expect from someone driven mad by the thing:

A new ophiocistioid with soft-tissue preservation from the Silurian Herefordshire Lagerstätte, and the evolution of the holothurian body plan

Dig in!


Hunter/Gatherer Serial Killers: Guess who hunts their victims & who gathers them…


There’s a new paper out by Marissa Harrison (of Penn State) et. al. collected historical data on the crimes of 112 murderers who killed 3 or more people with at least one week between each murder (killing more quickly did not disqualify one so long as there were at least 3 periods of single/multiple murder that were separated from all other periods of single/multiple murder by a full week on each side). 55 of the killers were women. This is the all but 9 of the women serial killers in the US from 1821 to 2008 – at least that they could find. From the men serial killers during that period they selected “matches” of the women subjects. “Matches” here means that they were approximately equivalent to their women counterparts on certain variable which the researchers wanted to control.

Then they ran some criminological statistics on the gender-separated populations & looked for differences. The resulting research was published in the Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology. NewAtlas, reporting on the study, tells us that:

[Read more…]