This graph of covid hospitalizations over time is informative (and probably the only consistent information we have!)
Revanche discusses her Lakota giving project and how you can help.
Did you know that men are more likely to have belly button lint than are women? Here’s why! (also why #notallmen)
Are you an economist looking for diverse speakers to bring out? Here’s a list!
An explanation of why seemingly successful series are being completed but then not even shown. Spoiler: It’s for a tax break.
This may be a spoiler if you haven’t read the first two Oz books, and really you should read the first three Oz books. The first is iconic. The second is waaay ahead of its time in terms of social commentary and is the subject of this article that explains why homophobes and transphobes hating on the new movie are completely stupid. And the third (Ozma of Oz) is just extremely tightly plotted and has some of the creepiest like, the creepiest, villains in the entire series (and is probably the best book of the entire series, IMO). All the Oz books are available for free as e-books and your library probably has paper copies of the first three with marvelous illustrations somewhere.
January 14, 2023 at 8:07 am
I have quite a few of the original OZ books which I bought used at Acres of Books, a wonderful used bookstore in Long Beach, Ca. Wow-they were in Wikipedia-Acres of Books was the largest and oldest family-owned second-hand bookstore in California, claiming to have in stock over one million books. Acres of Books closed on October 18, 2008.
This was in sometime in the sixties. I’ll have to see if I have the first three.
January 14, 2023 at 4:13 pm
January 14, 2023 at 9:21 am
Deaths, we also get deaths. Eventually.
January 14, 2023 at 10:15 am
You’re right. :(
January 14, 2023 at 2:50 pm
Those covid graphs are depressing, though good to know. Thanks!
A couple of sets of friends just got covid for the first time over the holidays–one traveling to Italy, one to Florida.
Those graphs make it look like in the long run, not only are we all going to get covid, but we’re all getting it annually. But surely the trend won’t continue indefinitely. I mean, how much more contagious can it get? Really, I know very little about how viruses evolve. I have heard that they evolve to get less deadly; I don’t know how much vaccines affect that trend. The way Americans are[n’t] getting vaccinated, maybe not that much.
I have a lot of annoying emotions about this (about travel, about leaving the house, about parties, about fixing the homemade masks I just inherited to make them fit better).
January 14, 2023 at 5:19 pm
Viruses do not evolve to get less deadly because evolution is not deterministic. (I am sorry that i will now issue a mild rant because bio PhDs teach evolution like this on the regular and it is WRONG.) All organisms mutate randomly and may experience selective pressures, which result in what we call evolution: a change in genetic distribution over time. This is also how you get genetic diseases and islands full of redheads or platypuses!
However, the viral strain that spreads the fastest almost always wins out because…. it’s spreading the fastest. On average, things that kill people really fast or really a lot of the time (like MERS!) don’t spread as fast because there’s a shorter time between exposure and Feeling Really Sick, and once you’re really sick you’re less likely to go breathe on people/ too sick to go out/ dead. Diseases like MERS, with a relatively high fatality rate and basically zero asymptomatic transmission, are socially and logistically easier to contain. (Imagine if all those forehead temperature checks had ACTUALLY picked up everyone with contagious covid instead of, like, 0.1%.) So while we see diseases become less deadly over time, it’s generally from a combination of at least partial immunity in survivors, and the “race” selection conditions, not because they have to become one way or another.
An analogy is that if ranch houses were more likely to burn down than two story houses, and everything was on fire, over time you’d end up with more two story houses.
January 14, 2023 at 6:51 pm
OK, but logically doesn’t that mean that IRL (and following the reasons you, @Jenny F Scientist, describe), viruses will evolve — that is be selected, because of relative effectiveness at spreading — to become milder? But only if the reason the less mild ones are not as successful (at reproducing) is because they produce symptoms quickly or because they kill people off (perhaps quickly). Seems to me there’s a big range between that option and, well, lots of other possibilities that don’t involve milder viruses being the more successful ones.
… also it’s not obvious to me that e.g. measles or polio have evolved to be “milder?” I mean maybe (I have learned in the COVID era that actually, most polio cases are asymptomatic), but — compared to what?
January 14, 2023 at 11:23 pm
For many years my main job was to study how pathogens evolve drug resistance. Smallpox, cholera, and Bubonic Plague never did evolve to become mild. New types of Influenza do become less dangerous but not mainly from the virus becoming less virulent but rather everybody getting immunity to it.
One of the common cold Coronaviruses is thought to have caused a pandemic in the 1800s that killed a few million people before everybody developed immunity to it. Today everybody gets that one by age five or so, then gets a cold from it every few years as immunity wears off. We think it would be deadly for immune-naïve old people, but there basically are no old people on earth who haven’t had it multiple times when younger.
Eventually I think COVID-19 will end up like that when everyone has seen many variants of it. But getting immunity by infection has a huge price in deaths and sickness. Vaccines and boosters are basically just safer ways to get immunity.
January 15, 2023 at 5:04 am
Bogart, that’s exactly what I was trying to get at: if/ when we see viruses get “milder” it’s because some conditions were met, not because they MUST become milder, which is also why many viruses do not. And as Matthew also points out, morbidity and mortality change over time due to the partial (or sometimes full!) immunity post infection.
January 15, 2023 at 6:25 pm
@Jenny, @Matthew thank you both. Yes, that’s what I was wondering — lots of people (who aren’t particularly knowledgeable about this issue, which certainly is also true for me) say the virus will become milder, and my perspective has been more of the “well, I hope so, but I don’t know that we can count on that” school. I’m as vaccinated as I can be and hope (and believe) that helps (also a diligent masker), but mostly am hoping that numbers will at some point go down, both for my own peace of mind and, you know, so that not so many people are getting sick and dying.
January 16, 2023 at 7:10 am
Thanks, Jenny, for the rant, and to everyone else for commenting too!
January 16, 2023 at 9:34 am
Debbie, please don’t wear those homemade masks; the time for them is long passed. A good KN95 that puffs up a bit when you exhale is best in public, indoor environments, and an N95 is better. And make sure to cover your nose! :-)
January 14, 2023 at 11:10 pm
This graph is my summary of the latest COVID metrics that I follow:
Due to limited testing in the USA now, and the fact that most tests are done at home and not reported, I pay most attention to wastewater virus counts and to hard outcomes such as hospitalizations and deaths.
A clever aspect of how the biobot.io website tracks wastewater is how they normalize the data to adjust for variations in how much of a facility’s wastewater comes from poop as opposed to all the other sources. They measure a second type of virus, a plant virus that is ubiquitous in our food! This plant virus passes right through our guts unchanged so it’s a great measure of how much of a given wastewater sample is poop.
January 16, 2023 at 7:12 am
Thanks! I have trouble reading your graphs, but I also like the idea of looking at wastewater and especially like your link to https://biobot.io/data/.
January 16, 2023 at 11:53 am
My oldest child just informed me that The Wizard of Oz is a parable about the gold standard. Apparently he learned this studying for his AP US History exam. Who knew?
January 16, 2023 at 11:59 am
There’s some suggestions that maybe it wasn’t intentionally. But the analogy works very well– she originally wears silver slippers, not ruby. The silver standard would inflate the currency which would allow farmers (like Uncle Henry and Auntie Em) to pay less in terms of real money on their mortgages. People think everything is green in emerald city (wall-street) because they wear emerald (money) colored glasses.
January 16, 2023 at 12:00 pm