I was fascinated by this article for two reasons: first, because it clearly explains how ventilators work, and what some of the complex parameters of their operation are. There is information here. They need, for instance, to be able to sense the patient’s natural breathing rhythm and follow it, rather than just simply imposing a robotic rhythm of their own. This stuff is difficult.

But the second interesting thing is the clear explanation of how Boris Johnson and the UK government barreled ahead, deciding to harness the power of British industry to build ventilators, just as they built Spitfires in WWII. Unfortunately, the job was put in the hands of bureaucrats who didn’t have the slightest idea of what the medical requirements were, so they issued contradictory and invalid specifications that led to wasted effort and failure.

The author is on Twitter and explains some of the underlying concepts. The article itself is formally written, but Twitter lets him say what he really feels.

“LISTEN TO PEOPLE WHO KNOW STUFF” is something the US government also needs to do.


  1. raven says

    “LISTEN TO PEOPLE WHO KNOW STUFF” is something the US government also needs to do.

    So far, the Trump regime has dropped just about every ball they could during this Covid-19 pandemic.
    We’ve got the world’s largest number of Covid-19 cases, a dead economy, and 36,000 dead people to show for it.

    .1. They aren’t going to stop now.
    If they haven’t got it together by now, they never will.
    .2. There is no evidence that they have learned anything and decided to give it a try at being honest and competent.

    To be more specific, the testing was critical and is a massive failure.
    It still isn’t fixed.
    It may never be fixed.
    Same with the PPE shortages.

    The next ball to be dropped is opening up the economy again.
    They will drop this ball too.

  2. raven says

    The next ball for the Trump regime/GOP to drop is opening up the economy again.
    They are already on track to fail at this.

    .1. First Trump declared he had total authority and was going to single handedly open up the economy while tens of millions of Americans cheer wildly.
    .2. It turns out he does not legally have any such authority.
    It’s left to the 50 state governments.
    .3. The next day, he left it up to the 50 state’s governments.

    Here, astonishingly enough, he actually did something smart.
    .4. It also turns out that Trump/GOP have no idea how to open up the economy again.
    .5. So they off loaded that task to the states.

    If the states fail at this procedure, he can do one of his favorite things.
    Blame someone else.

    To make up for it, the next day he called for an uprising of Nazis and white supremacists against the states of Virginia, Michigan, and Minnesota because you know, they have Democratic governors.

  3. says

    Whoa, man! All the great counterculture rock anthems say that we just need to know how to love and that these so called “experts” just want to tell the kids what to do and keep them from partying. You can’t, like, tell people what to do, man, they have to follow their own path, man. Your cryptofascism is seriously unbalancing my chakras.


  4. wzrd1 says

    Nonsense and poppycock! We can build ventilators that inflate lungs to popping easily, with cheap Raspberry Pee poopcessors, we don’t need any real-time processing!
    People are like balloons, just blow them all the way up, that’s Musk’s almighty planless.

    Real ventilators require and use those capabilities to ensure people’s lungs don’t emulate an overinflated balloon. Musk and his asshole emulators just slapped any old inflation thing together and most belong in a landfill. They want to use them, let them use them straight unto their demise.

    It’s like an idiot who thought he understood all fields of electronics describing a defibrillator. Just need to jab 220 onto the chest or some bullshit. No synchronization with existing conduction patterns, just blast away like it’s 1947!
    Cook a few hearts, oh well, just as good as globally ruptured alveoli.
    Might as well shoot the patient, that’s far more merciful than cooking their thorax or rupturing every exchange chamber in the lungs.

    No, we’ll instead listen to morons who know nothing about a field, would that those doing so would choose the corner butcher for their brain surgery. After all, it’s all the same, both cut meat.

    @3, raven, notice that Trump has begun to soft peddle on this. He wanted to go balls to the wall, volunteered companies and CEO’s for his “council” without discussion or permission and got told where to go, then the CEO’s of Fortune 200 corporations told him just precisely where to stuff his plans if testing was absent, as they’d refuse to reopen to kill their employees within a couple of weeks.
    Dud is firing blanks, he’s just keeping the bullshit alive for a bit longer to keep his moron base happy. More worrisome is his attempt to pressure those CEO’s with this liberate bullshit. He doesn’t seem to comprehend what a civil war is or how close this nation has been to one, even while he pushes on the suicide buttons.
    I can only assume that he believes that his being dead is better than losing money and power and of course, since we’re not worthy of his consideration, he’ll happily take us along for the ride to a dirt nap.

  5. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Raven, you forgot
    .6. Tweet encouraging insurrection in blue states to undo the efforts of blue-state governors that are working.

    This drive to ignore experts is not a bug. It’s a feature. They actually teach this crap to MBAs–devalue the experts, devalue the opinions of the people doing the work. The next person who says we need a businessman as President is going to get a pair of pliers grasping a testicle.

  6. davidc1 says

    Over here in good old GB the govt have asked a vacuum cleaner maker named dyson to make ventilators ,the fact that he knows sod all about them is not important ,nor is the fact that he is a major donor to the tory party anything to do with it .
    And as for experts ,a tory mp called michael grove once said the people are sick of experts .

  7. brucegee1962 says

    There was an interesting story recently on NPR about the US effort to ramp up ventilator manufacturing. Basically, there is a small company in the northwest that was making around 2000 ventilators a month, but the demand was going to be an order of magnitude or more higher. Then GM appeared. The quote I remember, from the ventilator company president: “I realized that GM isn’t just a car making company — they are the best supply chain managers in the world.” GM found and managed sources for all the 600 or so parts that they needed, and arranged shipping for everything — then delivered on schedule. No government involvement was mentioned.

    Has anyone heard if there’s a flip side to this story? Was NPR unrealistically rosy?

  8. unclefrogy says

    there are many in washington who do not listen much to anyone about anything at all. there are the “true believers” who have the WORD OF GOD and all those experts deny god so they are wrong, the tea party sure don’t listen, the only voice they listen to only speaks in private and always about what they have to do for gain. the fat man is incapable of listening to anyone who does not offer profit or praise.
    uncle frogy

  9. bodach says

    Jeeze, somebody check on poopyhead immediately! He may have gotten the rare* Trumpian virus, making him write in ALL CAPS!
    (not that what he’s saying isn’t correct and true)

    *maybe not so rare after all

  10. epawtows says

    brucegee1962 (#8): Stories about that have been running in local papers around Seattle. The NPR story was a bit rosy, but not excessively so. Loosely, the gist is that a competent Federal effort would have eased things considerably, particularly if working with GM. GM is indeed very good at logistics, but there were some issues (particularly related to internationally-sourced parts) where being able to call the State Dept. up and say ‘can you lean on these people a bit’ would have sped things up considerably.

    However, given that this State Department pretty much doesn’t have any helpful people left, and if anything is run by people looking to make a buck, they were much better off doing it with just them an GM.

  11. robert79 says

    Any large company that produces a large variety of products like GM has people in it who are absolute experts at supply chain management. These are people who know how to ask “what do you need?” and know how to solve the problem of “how do I get it to you in time?”

    These are people with degrees in mathematics, operations research, or similar fields, not management. They are, unfortunately, not the people in charge. Let alone the people Trump talks to.

  12. gijoel says

    Me am tired, me am talk bad. The video I posted discusses, presumably like the article, the difficulties in designing and building ventilators. The author also gives a serve to rocket companies that are trying to cash in free publicity, by building inadequate ventilators.

  13. Akira MacKenzie says

    Here’s the problem… the people who won’t listen to people who ACTUALLY know stuff, THINK they are listening to people who know stuff. In their universe Alex Jones “know stuff.” Ken Ham and Kent and Eric Hovind “know stuff.” Franklin Graham, Rick Wiles, Mark Taylor, Dave Daubenmire, whoever the fuck Q-Anon is, and, Of course, Dear Leader Trump “knows stuff.” And those people will believe one over the other because of AMERICA, or FREEDOM, or JESUS. And that’s all that matters,

    My advice for the reality-based portion of the American Left (as opposed to the fucking New Age hippie morons): Get over your aversion to violence and firearms. Because if the recent anti-quarantine protests are any indication of trends, the redneck MAGA-trash are coming.

  14. tacitus says

    In their universe Alex Jones “know stuff.”

    Was just chatting with a young woman on the Austin Reddit forum who went to a lockdown protest earlier today. Bizarrely, she claims that Alex Jones cured her panic attacks about the pandemic because he told her the “virus” (her quotes) was not what they claim it to be…

    She was pretty pissed at Jones though. He showed up at the rally outside the capitol grounds in his fake tank, but never got out and joined the crowd. He may be one of the worst human beings alive, but he’s not completely stupid, apparently.

  15. tacitus says

    Get over your aversion to violence and firearms. Because if the recent anti-quarantine protests are any indication of trends, the redneck MAGA-trash are coming.

    Meh. It’s all talk. Armchair warriors, the lot of them. Summoning up the courage to go to a protest when you know you’re not going to be stopped, let alone arrested, is one thing, but putting your life and livelihood on the line is a different matter entirely. They talk a big game, but they’re almost all cowards in reality.

    That’s not to say there aren’t a few nutjobs out there who could go and shoot up or bomb a government building, but most of them still have way too much to lose, and they know it, even if they would never admit it.

  16. chrislawson says

    This is the essential failure of today’s Tories. They all want to be the new Churchill by emulating his pigheadedness. They don’t understand that Churchill’s pig-headedness was necessary but not sufficient. With regard to Spitfires, Churchill was pigheaded enough to insist on building an air force before Germany got around to invading. He wasn’t pigheaded enough to tell Supermarine (the manufacturer of Spitfires) that it would be easy to do, and all they needed was to pump out hundreds of planes without attention to aerodynamics, logistics, pilot training, etc.

    Also worth noting, Supermarine nearly lost the Spitfire contract because they didn’t like sharing blueprints with their subcontractors. As a result, initial production was so slow that the Air Ministry came within a whisker of moving the contract to Bristol to make Beaufighters instead. It took an impassioned plea from Supermarine and a change of management philosophy to keep the contract. Remember this when the Spitfire is used as an example of British manufacturing excellence — the company nearly destroyed its own product through petty thinking (imagine knowing you need subcontractors to meet production targets but refusing to share the blueprints to make the wings — seriously, the wings were one of the subcontracted parts they delayed sharing plans for!). Hardly a rousing endorsement of managerial integrity in the face of a national crisis.

    (Leaving aside Churchill’s many other flaws…)

  17. says

    sez wzrd1 @5:

    [The Angry Cheeto] doesn’t seem to comprehend what a civil war is or how close this nation has been to one, even while he pushes on the suicide buttons.
    I can only assume that he believes that his being dead is better than losing money and power and of course, since we’re not worthy of his consideration, he’ll happily take us along for the ride to a dirt nap.

    I believe it’s even worse than your assumption. As best I can tell, the Cheeto is a sociopathic narcissist; all the world is a stage on which The Triumphant Story Of Donald J. Trump plays out, and all the people other than the Cheeto are merely bit players whose only reason for existence is to give the Cheeto all the adulation that is the Cheeto’s rightful due. Here’s how it seems to me that the Cheeto’s mind works:

    The Cheeto is the smartest human being who ever lived or ever will live. The Cheeto is always right. Anything the Cheeto says is obviously 100% correct. When the Cheeto says a thing will be done, it will be done, because the Cheeto said it will be done. And if something the Cheeto said will be done doesn’t get done, why, it must obviously be the fault of one of the subinfinite number of horrid people who hate the Cheeto for his brains and rugged handsomeness and general all-around wonderfulness.

  18. KG says


    I have a fascinating book, which I think I must reread; Britain’s War Machine by David Edgerton. It’s main theme is that Britain in 1940 was still a great industrial power, and at the centre of a worldwide network of raw materials and human resources – it was never the “plucky underdog fighting alone” of postwar mythology. But IIRC, one of the subsidiary themes is that Churchill was too impressed with brilliant offbeat inventions such as Mulberry harbours and PLUTO (Pipeline Under the Ocean), and too little with less flashy but ultimately much more important stuff such as operations research.

  19. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Tacitus: “Was just chatting with a young woman on the Austin Reddit forum who went to a lockdown protest earlier today. Bizarrely, she claims that Alex Jones cured her panic attacks about the pandemic because he told her the “virus” (her quotes) was not what they claim it to be…”

    I think that is the thing that we forget–these people are motivated by fear. That makes them more rather than less dangerous. Conservatives tend to feel negative emotions more strongly than the rest of us–disgust, fear, hate. Basically, when confronted with a threatening situation, they have to downplay the risk they face because otherwise they are paralyzed by fear. This has the added advantage that they can dismiss those of us in the reality-based community as “nervous nellies” and pretend they are the brave ones.

  20. chrislawson says


    I wouldn’t extrapolate the psychology of the whole movement from one member. I think most of them are motivated by anger and hatred rather than fear.

  21. stroppy says

    @ 25
    I don’t have the study at my fingertips, but there does seem to be some evidence that conservatives tend to be more sensitive to fear. It’s not so much an extrapolation from watching the news…

    BTW, Trump uses fear as a tool both to cow the opposition and to manipulate his faithful. It works so well because talking heads have paved the way. (Right off the top my head is that Dana Loesch NRA ad warning of liberals rioting and torching the streets against the glory of the flag, and how holy gun owners need to hit them hard–my characterization but not far off.)

    Fear stokes anger and hatred.

  22. lochaber says


    I never read the original studies, but I distinctly remember it hitting the mainstream press a few years or so back, with a bunch of articles about how conservatives tend to be more driven by fear and anger. What I found particularly amusing, if somewhat sad, were the comment forums were inevitably filled with something along the lines of “I’m a conservative, and this article is bullshit, and I ought to kick your ass”

  23. stroppy says

    On second thought, after looking up the word ‘stroopy’, I’ve realized that I’m actually not feeling like that at all. Not so amused now.

    I remain stroppy.


  24. lochaber says

    ach, apologies about that, my keyboard likes to skip some letters and multiply others, and I inevitably miss some of them when I look over my comment before posting it. I may have also just been sloppy in my reading/typing. Either way, sorry about that, it wasn’t intentional, for what that’s worth…

  25. unclefrogy says

    I think the operative word is “seen”
    he has to be seen as smart, rich, brave and all the wonderful thing he says he is. i have no idea if he thinks he actually needs to be any of that. It all is a performance it does not matter if he actually is any of the things he claims he only needs to be seen as such to win and be successful. That is what has worked his whole career. He is none of it in reality he is 100% fake a bad actor who only struts , and speaks in bombast some how he has gotten enough support and with some manipulation is title POTUS.
    and yes he is a sociopathic narcissist
    uncle frogy

  26. bassmanpete says

    stroppy @ 30

    Well, that’s a new word for me next time I’m playing Scrabble.

    Btw, my grandnephew plays drums in a band called The Stroppies (definitely not The Stroopies!) in Melbourne, Australia. Just thought I’d add a lighter touch to the comments in these dark times.