Category Archives: Coronavirus

Inoculating your brain against misinformation

Bayes theorem

If more people had been “mentally inoculated” somewhere during their education with a simple logical “vaccine” called a “Bayesian prior” we perhaps would not be in this current state of political craziness with elections and vaccine hesitancy. Here is an “In the News” example: When thousands of signatures on mail-in ballots appear, to the untrained eye, to be different from… Read more »

Worth a read: Life’s Edge by Carl Zimmer

An interesting tidbit from a recent DNA study documented by researchers in the Netherlands, translated for a general audience in Science News: Overall, as many as 12% of human pregnancies may start as multiple pregnancies, but under 2% carry to term, resulting in a vanishing twin. To think that a new science book can contribute positively to the hot-again issue… Read more »

Governance via unamusing anecdote

      1 Comment on Governance via unamusing anecdote
Readers Digest Condensed Books

The monthly Readers’ Digest magazine and the related hardcover “condensed books” were the bulk of the bathroom library at my house where I grew up during the 1950s. It is from there that I learned of this word “anecdote” at an early age. Reader’s Digest told me every month that if I had an “amusing anecdote,” I could make big… Read more »

When we become inured to death

      No Comments on When we become inured to death
Petrarch's Triumph of Death.

In 2017 and 2018, when all eyes were on several horrific incidents of mass gun violence, the United States was averaging just under one incident of mass gun violence per day (defined by the excellent Gun Violence Archive as four or more people killed or injured in one reported incident). During the pandemic year of 2020, that number rose to… Read more »

The self-destructive bravado of the Covid snake-handlers

Snake handler

“And these signs will accompany those who believe…they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them.” — Mark 16:17-18, NRSV During my years living in Cincinnati, across the Ohio River from Kentucky, we would regularly see a news story from south of the river with a headline like this:… Read more »

The Covid math of “us” versus “me”

Smallpox vaccination

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the Covid crisis has exacerbated the need for America to move from a very self-centered “me” culture into the more compassionate and action-oriented “us” culture required to combat the virus. Listening to the voices raised in protest to such collective action as mandated vaccinations and masking, I have noted that there are… Read more »

The capricious God of Covid

      No Comments on The capricious God of Covid
Dice icon

“At the first glance, the only ‘law’ … seems to be that of Caprice — caprice in inheriting, caprice in transmitting, caprice everywhere, in turn.” — Philosopher William James (1842– 1910) One of the classic examples in an introductory statistics class is the drawing of billiard balls from an opaque sack containing an unknown mix of various colored balls, and… Read more »

When your pain becomes our pain

      No Comments on When your pain becomes our pain
Empathy-Sympathy-Compassion

Odds are…you personally will not suffer any ill effects from the coronavirus. But over 600,000 U.S. families have watched loved ones die, often without the hugs of family who had to say goodbye via FaceTime. Odds are…you personally will not be killed in a grocery store by a domestic terrorist wielding an AR-style high-lethality weapon. But over 40,000 families lost… Read more »

When public health gets political

      1 Comment on When public health gets political
Iron lung

Note: This post was published earlier at the Iowa blog BleedingHeartland.com Despite a strong start at vaccinating its populace against Covid-19, my former home state of Iowa has begun to slip in the national rankings in its percentage of vaccinated residents. In Texas, some hospital workers have taken their management to court to fight suspensions for refusing the vaccine, despite… Read more »

Talking in three languages about Covid vaccines

religion-science-politics

I had long thought that the phrase “to babble” had its origins in the Genesis story of the Tower of Babel. Instead, you can find linguists arguing for Western European or Latin roots with the meaning of “to prattle” or to imitate baby talk (“ba-ba-ba”). By any definition, there is a lot of mutually-incomprehensible babbling going around that is as… Read more »