Friday 28 January, 2022

Ludwig’s corner

My late wife Carol is buried in Ascension Churchyard in Cambridge. So is Ludwig Wittgenstein, and whenever I go to Carol’s grave I also visit his grave, because visitors often leave intriguing messages and other kinds of memento there. When I checked on the day this photograph was taken, there was a one-Euro coin and a mysteriously broken mug.

Quote of the Day

”A healthy adult male bore consumes each year one and a half times his own weight in other people’s patience.”

  • John Updike

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Schubert | Ständchen | Camille Thomas and Beatrice Berrut


Long Read of the Day

’Endemic’ doesn’t mean harmless

Sobering article in Nature by Aris Katzourakis.

The word ‘endemic’ has become one of the most misused of the pandemic. And many of the assumptions that people are making about it encourage a misplaced complacency. It doesn’t mean that COVID-19 will come to a natural end. It’s here to stay.

To an epidemiologist, an endemic infection is one in which overall rates are static — not rising, not falling. More precisely, it means that the proportion of people who can get sick balances out the ‘basic reproduction number’ of the virus, the number of individuals that an infected individual would infect, assuming a population in which everyone could get sick. Yes, common colds are endemic. So are Lassa fever, malaria and polio. So was smallpox, until vaccines stamped it out.

In other words, a disease can be endemic and both widespread and deadly. Malaria killed more than 600,000 people in 2020. Ten million fell ill with tuberculosis that same year and 1.5 million died. Endemic certainly does not mean that evolution has somehow tamed a pathogen so that life simply returns to ‘normal’.

Good piece. And a useful antidote to the magical thinking about the virus that one finds in some politicians — and in many of our fellow-citizens.

Chart of the Day

From Scott Galloway

4 hours and 23 minutes.

That’s how much time Americans spend on their smartphones every day. In 2010, we spent 24 minutes on our phones — that’s 3% of our waking hours. Today, smartphone usage consumes one third of waking hours.

The Next Big Thing

My conversation with David Runciman on Talking Politics about the so-called ‘Metaverse’ and related matters.

The NYT’s The Daily podcast also had a very good edition about the Metaverse madness.

My commonplace booklet

  •  Robot vacuum cleaner escapes from Cambridge Travelodge Link
  • Om Malik’s photographs Link
  • Spotify had to choose between Neil Young and Joe Rogan. Guess who they chose. Link

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