A solution to the pandemic?

H. L. Mencken famously wrote that, “there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong”. That serves as a warning to anyone who thinks they have come up with a solution to a problem that has defied the best efforts of experts in the field. I come across such ‘solutions’ all the time from people who think they have solved a complex problem in physics. These are usually those who have done just a smattering of reading in that field,
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“No shirt, no shoes, no masks – no service”

The above sign, without the mask requirement, is commonly found posted at the entrance to many business establishments in the US and has been so for a long time. As far as I am aware, it has not caused any controversy and shirtless or shoeless people have not threatened the businesses with lawsuits. And yet, because mask wearing has been made into a culture war issue by Donald Trump, we now have the bizarre spectacle of people doing just that. Take this case:

Hugo’s Tacos, a beloved LA chain, announced Sunday that it was temporarily closing both its taco stands after its employees reported increasing harassment from customers who refused to wear masks during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The harassment – ranging from racial slurs to food and objects being thrown at employees – “has taken a toll” on staff, CEO and part-owner Bill Kohne told BuzzFeed News. Kohne said he wants to give his employees a break as the company works toward solutions to better protect them.

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TV review: Opiods, Inc

The investigate public TV program Frontline just released an episode with the above title that looked at how the company Insys Therapeutics deliberately set out to make people addicted to its formulation of the powerful pain killing drug based on fentanyl so that it could make huge profits. Because it is such a powerful addictive (100 times as strong as morphine), the drug is only meant to treat the excruciating pain experienced by certain types of cancer patients but the company, under the direction of its founder John Kapoor, pushed its sales team to bribe doctors to prescribe much more widely and in much larger doses than recommended, resulting in huge profits. Naturally, Wall Street investors did not look too closely at a company that was giving them huge returns on their investments.
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The Loch Ness Monster still does not exist

In my book The Great Paradox of Science: Why its conclusions can be relied upon even though they cannot be proven (that I hope all readers of this blog have bought!) I discuss in some detail the nature of scientific logic that enables us to arrive at very firm conclusions about so many things despite never having absolute certainty. This is particularly important in the case of assertions about the non-existence of any entity. Believers in things for which there is no positive evidence (such as gods and ghosts) point to this lack of proof to suggest that it is reasonable to believe in their existence.

My book argues that that argument is invalid and that in science we can quite confidently assert in the non-existence of some things (and have done so in the case of the aether and phlogiston for example) and that same logic can be extended to assert the non-existence of other things.
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John Oliver on the prison scandal

At the best of times, the state of US prisons are a scandal but what is happening during the pandemic is unconscionable, with inmates kept in conditions that guarantee that almost all of them will be exposed to the virus. John Oliver examines the problem and provides some common-sense steps that could be taken to ameliorate the situation but of course they are not being done because being seen as soft on criminals is seen by many politicians as a electoral death sentence, even though there is no way to confine the virus to just the prison population.

California covid-19 cases rise as people flout safety guidelines

After initially managing to bring the covid-19 infection rate down in California, the state I live in, and the state started to open up a bit, there has been a disturbing resurgence in cases, similar to rises seen in other states. It has not been statewide but mainly in certain counties. This has resulted in the governor Gavin Newsom ordering restrictions on behavior.
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The pandemic may be the death of the coal industry

While the economy struggles to recover from the pandemic, an unexpected casualty that may not survive is the coal industry.

The global coal industry will “never recover” from the Covid-19 pandemic, industry observers predict, because the crisis has proved renewable energy is cheaper for consumers and a safer bet for investors.

A long-term shift away from dirty fossil fuels has accelerated during the lockdown, bringing forward power plant closures in several countries and providing new evidence that humanity’s coal use may finally have peaked after more than 200 years.
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The pandemic has not been the CDC’s finest hour

One of the things that this pandemic has revealed is how diminished the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) has become. This organization was once highly respected around the world and should have been front and center during the crisis because it has the expertise and resources to marshal all the information and provide guidance to the public. The experts from the CDC should have been the people holding daily press conferences, calling upon other experts in the field of infectious disease like Anthony Fauci who heads the Infectious Diseases division of the National Institutes of Health.
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