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The Fascinating Story of the Oscillating Epidemic.

I was surprised, today, to find this graph on Google. What struck me was the evident periodicity in the number of deaths in the US. Most of the deaths take place on Thursdays and Fridays. On the contrary, the minima in the curve are almost always on Sundays. Why don't people die on Sundays?It may well be just a case of bad reporting. I went on, exploring for more data and I discovered that there is something of a worldwide "beat" that generates a weekly periodicity in the deaths. Here are the data.  In this case, instead, people seem to like to die on Fridays and Saturdays, but they stay more alive on Tuesdays.  Some regions show clear oscillations, such as the Netherlands, as shown here. In the Netherlands, people die mostly on Wednesdays and survive best on Mondays. Other countries, such as Italy, don't show a clear periodicity in the number of deathsSo, what can we conclude? Well, I think that the hypothesis that it is a reporting problem is the most likely, yet it is a little strange for various reasons. Possibly it is the bad quality of the data that messes things upBut there is another possibility that I have been considering: that the deaths caused by the coronavirus feel the weekly "beat" of the world activities. In other words, people have a weekly rhythm of working and moving around. It is a periodicity that is reflected in the number of social contacts, then reflected in the number of infections, and finally in the number of deaths. It is an [More]

Three Neglected Advantages of Controlled Infection

I've increasingly come to think that my previous post on when SARS-CoV-2 Controlled Voluntary Infection is worthwhile was excessively pessimistic.  I previously noted the benefits of low viral load (variolation), timing the burden on the medical system, and enabling people to safely return to normal life.  Three additional factors to consider include:(1) Controlled infection enables pre-symptomatic treatment, which tends to be more effective (in some cases yielding "virtually total protection" against an illness whilst still developing protective antibodies and subsequent immunity to reinfection).(2) Reducing accidental spread.  Each person who undergoes CVI (followed by two weeks quarantine) is someone who won't unknowingly acquire an asymptomatic (or pre-symptomatic) infection and spread it to others without realizing.  This makes everyone else much safer.(3) With reduced spread comes reduced overshoot beyond herd immunity.It's completely insane that nobody seems to doing the necessary research to find out just how effective CVI could be, especially when some parts of the world are (either deliberately or de facto) pursuing a strategy of herd immunity via uncontrolled infectious spread, which we have every reason to expect to be vastly [More]

The Fascinating Story of the Oscillating Epidemic. (it is true that complex systems always surprise you!)

I was surprised, today, to find this graph on Google. What struck me was the evident periodicity in the number of deaths in the US. It is the same if we look at the number of new casesIt is clear just by the raw data that the periodicity is weekly. A Fourier analysis (courtesy of Riccardo Zamolo) confirms that (for those of you unfamiliar with the Fourier analysis, let's just say it detects the frequencies of a periodic phenomenon)But what causes this periodicity? Initially, I thought it was a question of reporting: maybe hospitals are understaffed on weekends and the reports of new deaths are postponed. But I quickly discarded that hypothesis: the number of deaths peaks mostly on Thursdays and Fridays and that can't have anything to do with underreporting occurring on Sundays. And you would think that a virus doesn't know which day of the week it is when it infects a person. Unless the little beasties are much smarter than we think!So, I scratched my head for a while, looking for other cases with similar trends. I didn't perform a complete search (if readers can suggest further cases, please do that in the comments), but I couldn't find any such periodic oscillations for most European countries. Then, eventually I did find one: Sweden. Here are the data (on Google we only have data for new infections, not for deaths).And yes, the same weekly cycle of oscillations we see for the US.Now, what do Sweden and the US have in common? Maybe they both have a tradition of [More]

Folk Religion and the Medical Engineering of Rural Black Laborers

AbstractIn the study of American religion, scholars use the category folk to illuminate the religious worlds of populations on the margins of society. The category has been deployed to valorize the unique cultures of populations while extending the meaning and function of religion beyond conventional markers. Judith Weisenfeld’s religio-racial concept underscores how different state bureaucracies played an important role in the daily religious worlds of Black laypeople. This article applies Weisenfeld’s contribution to American religion by demonstrating that the folk category also sheds light on the agency of state actors and networks. Using the 1931 Macon County, Alabama, venereal disease program, I will argue that the folk category was part of the state’s biomedical campaign to regulate the daily religious cultures of the Black [More]

Questions about the coronavirus: the epidemic seen in a historical perspective

The figure above shows the effect of the two major outbursts of plague in Europe (you can find a detailed discussion of this subject in my book "Before the Collapse"). Here, Rorberto Mussi developes a historical perspective of past epidemics and of how that can help us understand the current one. (image from Langer et al., 1964)   Guest Post by Roberto Mussi The COVID-19 epidemic is generating a lot of questions from scientific, medical, political, and societal points of view. It not yet the time for complete answers, they will come slowly in the future together, hopefully, with antiviral treatments. But we can at least ask correct questions: this article tries to do that by looking at past history.The first question that comes to my mind is about the conditions that generate a pandemic outbreak. Are pandemics completely random events or do they spread only when some specific conditions occur in society? Historians can provide information about similar events of the past. They tell us that the "Black Death" arrived in Europe after the economic downturn of the late 13th century (some talk about a true economic revolution occurring between the 11th and 13th centuries [1]). It’s also a pretty intuitive statement: a virus can attack more easily an undernourished population [2]. In modern terms, the reproduction number (R0) depends on the context. In a historical dimension, pandemics are a consequence of a crisis, not a cause. So, the consequent question is: why now? [More]

The Structure of Moral Revolutions: Studies of Changes in the Morality of Abortion, Death, and the Bioethics Revolution

2020.05.14 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Robert Baker, The Structure of Moral Revolutions: Studies of Changes in the Morality of Abortion, Death, and the Bioethics Revolution, MIT Press, 2019, 317pp., $45.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780262043083. Reviewed by Laurence B. McCullough, Zucker School of Medicine/Baylor College of Medicine (Emeritus) Robert Baker brings to this remarkable book his training in the history and philosophy of science in synergy with decades of experience as a philosopher in the clinical setting and a pioneering scholar in the history of medical ethics. Baker's book makes an outstanding addition to the Basic Bioethics series edited by Arthur Caplan for the MIT Press. This synergy is on full display in this intellectual tour de force that makes a compelling case for philosophers to rethink moral philosophy and for bioethicists to rethink bioethics. Neither concerns a "static conception of moral concepts and paradigms," (p. 213) including "a common or universal morality" (pp. 209-210). "My first concern is simply that a common morality does not exist, never has,... Read [More]

Luca Incurvati’s Conceptions of Set, 12

We turn then to Chapter 6 of Luca’s book, ‘The Stratified Conception’. This chapter starts with a brief discussion of Russell’s aborted ‘zigzag’ theory, which tries to modify naive comprehension by requiring that it applies only to sufficiently “simple” properties … Continue reading → The post Luca Incurvati’s Conceptions of Set, 12 appeared first on Logic [More]