Remarks on the Corona Pandemic
Here are some remarks that I noticed in these difficult times. Some are math-related, some are not.
- Humans seem to be unable to image big numbers or grasp the concept of exponential growth. In fact, I cannot really do that myself. What I have to do is compute figures and set them in relation to the total. To help us understand the problem here is one example: Letting the virus spread in a small town of 10000 can easily mean that 1/4 of them are infected at the same time, i.e., approximately 2500. About 1/20 of those need intensive medical treatment, and at least 1/100 need ventilation. We end with a number of 25. This is impossible to do for any countryside hospital. Those small numbers can be understood and they should frighten you to the point that you understand how necessary it is to break the chains of infection. Of course, the same computation for the complete US or German population is even more frightening.
- Most of us do not understand how bad it is that the world population will grow to eleven billion in the near future. We should have stopped that by education, sharing of wealth and women’s rights thirty years ago. Moreover, we have destroyed local support chains by globalism and our excessive capitalistic system. This falls on our feet now. In African countries, the population has to live in slums at close contact and is depending on the global food chain, and also on the medical support of „first world“ countries. This is a recipe for disaster. Even we are affected by the problem because our support with masks and other medical aids is broken since China is no longer delivering. My only hope is that we come to rethink our world after that crisis.
- We all cannot grasp probabilities properly. I am now over 60 years old. That means that my non-corona chance of dying in the next year exceeds the corona related chance, even if I catch the virus. I am more likely to die of a heart attack, get brain or lung cancer, get involved in a car accident, or get usual pneumonia during that year. We cannot avoid death. It is never a good idea to think about the chance to die too much. Remember the words of Epicurus: „The death is none of your business. When he is here you aren’t. When you are here he isn’t.“
- The press and TV are now running on full speed to shovel numbers onto the public and present the drama of single cases. Unfortunately, this agenda together with a lack of social contact may cause a lot of harm to some individuals. If only we would take other causes of unnecessary deaths with the same degree of attention! I would prefer a more scientific attitude in the media, and more reticence to dramatize individual fates. This only leads to a distorted view of reality.