AIDS follies

Was thinking about similarities and differences between the reaction to AIDS and to  SARS-2.   AIDS hit much more slowly, of course.  It was way more dangerous per customer, but it was obvious early on that it was only spreading in a small fraction of the population.

The health authorities such as the CDC didn’t believe in quarantine then,  either, and they prevailed. They were wrong, of course.  They spent a lot of effort trying to convince the public that HIV was a significant threat to straight men and women: that was a lie.  Presumably it was  motivated by the probably-correct notion that people wouldn’t give a shit unless they were personally threatened, or possibly just because.  Wiki is still doing its part to further nonsense on this topic:  ” Announcements by various celebrities that they had contracted HIV (including actor Rock Hudson, basketball star Magic Johnson, tennis player Arthur Ashe and singer Freddie Mercury) were significant in arousing media attention and making the general public aware of the dangers of the disease to people of all sexual orientations.” Arthur Ashe got a bad transfusion: as for the others, what do you think? 

Although it really did manage to spread in the general population in Sub-Saharan Africa – but not much elsewhere.

I don’t remember if the CDC bought into this particular bit of madness, but some local health types argued that gay bathhouses should be kept open because it allowed efficient distribution of educational leaflets, which presumably had an effect like saltpetre.

It took time for people to realize what was causing the disease: nobody had much experience with retroviral infections, or with immunosuppression caused by a contagious disease. Molecular biology was much less advanced than it is today.

For a while, some suspected that it might be an effect of some newly popular drug used by gay men – this never seemed likely to me, but in the first few months, when information was scarce, the idea wasn’t crazy.  Peter Duesberg, noted virologist, bought into that and never let go – but then, he was crazy. Still is.

Crazy, because after a while there were transfusion cases, which clearly showed that  AIDS was caused by a communicable agent.  Some famous people died that way, like Isaac Asimov and Arthur Ashe.   These cases were made more likely by blood banks that refused to ‘discriminate’ against homosexual donors –  I understand they all went bankrupt after being sued into oblivion, but the damage was already done.  Political correctness is triple-distilled foolishness.  There oughta be a law.

The Duesberg story was a semi-interesting example of people being confused by credentials – mostly people that already wanted to be confused. I remember a friend asking why he should believe me, rather than a a tenured expert that was member of the National Academy of Sciences: answer, because of those transfusion cases, cases in hemophiliacs, contact tracing, etc. Simple, clear evidence. As I recall, my arguments didn’t have much effect. Now when the triple therapies showed up and worked, that had an effect.  It almost cured the disease, and that did change people’s minds.

Were there ‘conspiracy theories’? Sure: but comical ones, that involved the CIA having vast malice (probably not) and superhuman competence ( it is to laugh  !)  used to invent a new supervirus aimed at killing off various undesirables. I say comical, but  not sure they can compete with Bill Gates’ chunky-style COVID-19 vaccine, now with microchips !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Live Mice

Deng Xiaoping once quoted the old  proverb: “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, if it catches mice it is a good cat.”  He was endorsing what worked, capitalism in that case.

By 2020 standards, that is a profoundly un-American statement.  The only thing that matters is whether the cat is black or white.

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Time Dilation

I’ve noticed that people’s sense of time, including my own, is all messed up.

A comparison: in the US, the number of Cov-19 deaths has gone from about 300 to ~95,000 in two months.

The 1918 flu: First noticed on March 11, Fort Riley. Maybe a few hundred deaths in the spring of 1918. Really took off in September (12,000 deaths) – six months later, not two.

It looks as if covid-19 has a higher R0 than 1918 influenza when allowed to run free, while transportation and movement are considerably faster today than in 1918.

The idea that it must not really be very infectious, since it has only infected ~4% of the US in two months –  not very infectious compared to what?

 

 

 

 

 

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How far we’ve come

Not very. So, far cov-19 has mostly not infected a terribly high percentage of the population , with the exception of some places in Lombardy where it likely reached saturation( > 60%). NYC, about 20%.

Spain: 5%. Major League Baseball employees : 0.75%.

Indiana: 2.8%

Percentage infected in the US has to be lower than in Spain: I’d guess something like 3%. So far,  > 80,000 dead out of that 3%. What can we expect if A. we let it rip and B. herd immunity is at ~70% ?

 

The people arguing that it had already spread very far and had a very low mortality were wrong, like I said a while ago.  Obviously wrong, to me, and to a few others that could actually do the required back-of-the-envelope calculations.   This means, by the way, that the IFR was > 1% in Spain.  Not obvious to the authors of that Stanford study, though: I thought that surely they had been paid off, but they were apparently just dense.

But old bullshit is being replaced by new bullshit, due to popular demand.  The new notion is that a more detailed analysis of viral propagation ( roughly, considering networks of fast-spreaders) suggests that it is possible to achieve herd immunity at far lower percentages infected than simple SIR theory predicts –  instead of something around 70%,  more like 15 or 20%.

Sometimes people are saying something not altogether crazy: like saying that we could achieve herd immunity at fairly low % infected if we made significant social changes (masks , distancing, Scotchguard everybody) that interfere with viral transmission and stuck with those changes indefinitely.   When repeated, people usually leave out those behavior-change details and suggest that,  soon,  we will all be dancing in the streets. Swinging, swaying, records playing.  Or, they’re saying that a more complete analysis predicts 60%, instead of 70%: might be so. But we know that simple SIR models have worked decently in the past – they can’t be too far off.

But mostly they’re just saying that herd immunity has to be possible at low incidence because it’s GOTTA be, the same reason they knew that Cov-19 was ‘just another flu’.  The Swedish government is saying that Stockholm is close to herd immunity: they’re lying.

The numbers in Lombardy falsify this.  But, go ahead, explain that Italians are special, not subject to same principles as other human populations.

These low numbers show that we’ve controlled the spread to a very  significant degree.  But we surely seem to be getting ready to stop doing so:

Guess what happens then!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Stars in Their Courses

Imagine that astronomers discovered a new comet, one that was an exact duplicate of the Chixculub object and was going hit the Earth in 30 years.  Which would, if  uninterrupted, exterminate the human race.

Let us also suppose that the numbers work out so that a hearty effort, something like the level of US war spending in WWII, but for decades, could stop it, by making and delivering enough hydrogen bombs to alter the orbit .   We would need to design and build Orion ships, be frantically mining uranium ( and thorium), breeding plutonium and U-233, using lithium for bombs rather than batteries, like God intended.  We’d be frantically building up heavy industry, making steel and building rockets, writing codes modeling hot dense matter rather than handling social media.

Sure, it all _sounds_ good, but we would also have people explaining that no one can really predict ballistic trajectories many years in advance (although we can, really) , talking about dodgy digital orreries, saying that the anomalous precession of the perihelion of Mercury’s orbit discredits the models (nope), that Orion ships might not work ( that would be bad !),  that slight discrepancies in eclipse timing ( due to tidal slowing of the Earth’s rotation) prove that Fomenko was right.  Or that, halfway through,  having slightly altered the orbit, with a massive effort, proves that we really never really needed to do anything in the first place.

We’d have guys writing long-winded articles pointing out that Ptolemy’s model of the solar system was wrong, so how can anyone believe those that JPL puts out today ?( hat tip to SJ Gould and  Cordelia Fine).

We’d have septuagenarians pointing out that by the time it hit, they’d probably be dead, so why should they care?  We’d have philosophy professors arguing that the future doesn’t really ‘exist’.

People would make and share these kinds of falsehoods, creating their own information ecology, one made up fresh out of  whole cloth – except for a few traditionalists, flat-Earthers and followers of Velikovsky.  One full of lies obvious to everybody that ever studied the Kepler problem..  everybody who is anybody !

We’d have demented billionaires subsidizing hacks  –  hacks that told us whatever their paymasters wanted us to hear, told us that 100 million megatons wasn’t really that bad, or that it was probably our time and that in the long run good things, like the rise of the mammals, could flow from such a cleansing.  We should ’embrace’ cosmic collisions, as a creative force. Some of the billionaires would end up believing the lies they paid for !

The Washington Post would warn us that fears of cosmic extermination might fuel racism and xenophobia.  The New York Times would worry about the world being saved by the wrong people – people of color would not be playing much of a role, of course.

Still, we might manage to get the job done.  There are ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The best is yet to be

The big mistake people are making is comparing the overall impact of a bad flu season (like the Hong Kong flu in 1968) – one in which ~50-70% of the population eventually caught it – with a more virulent epidemic ( higher IFR & higher R0)) that is just beginning ( < 5% of the US infected by coronavirus so far. )

Something like comparing the casualties of the first three months of WWII with the casualties of all of WWI.

Well, they’re making other mistakes too, but then they want to.

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We shouldn’t worry when a virus mutates during disease outbreaks

So says a remarkably stupid article in Nature.  Of course we should.

I have at least ten readers that can explain why.

 

 

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