About Me

My photo
Senior Vice-President for Research and Innovation, Professor of Theoretical Physics, Michigan State University

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Raman Sundrum: Physics and the Universe - Manifold Episode #44



Steve and Corey talk with theoretical physicist Raman Sundrum. They discuss the last 30 years in fundamental physics, and look toward the next. Raman argues that Physics is a marketplace of ideas. While many theories did not stand the test of time, they represented avenues that needed to be explored. Corey expresses skepticism about the possibility of answering questions such as why the laws of physics have the form they do. Raman and Steve argue that attempts to answer such questions have led to great advances. Topics: models and experiments, Naturalness, the anthropic principle, dark matter and energy, and imagination.


Transcript

Raman Sundrum (Faculty Bio)

Sabine Hossenfelder on the Crisis in Particle Physics and Against the Next Big Collider  (Manifold Episode #8)


man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

Monday, April 27, 2020

COVID-19: CDC US deaths by age group

Reader LondonYoung points to this CDC data set. Table 2 is reproduced below.

If we assume that CV-19 has infected a few percent of the total US population, we should multiply the numbers in the CV-19 deaths column by ~30x to extrapolate to a full population sweep. With that adjustment factor the impact on people younger than 25 is still very modest. It is only among people ~50y or older for whom the effect of a full CV-19 sweep is comparable to All-Cause deaths.

As a rough estimate I'd guess a full population sweep (under good medical conditions) costs about 10M QALYS. How much is that worth? A few trillion dollars?


Of course, we should keep in mind that there might be very negative long-term health consequences from serious cases of CV-19 infection that do not result in death.

Added:

1. Germany’s leading coronavirus expert Christian Drosten on Merkel’s leadership, the UK response, and the ‘prevention paradox’ (Guardian).

2. US National Academy of Sciences COVID-19 Update.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

GOOG AI directs me to interview with Ari Ben-Menashe on Jeffrey Epstein


People talk about a future cybernetic era in which human intelligence will be fused in some way with machine intelligence (AI). To a degree, that era has already arrived. The GOOG AI watches almost everything I do -- not just my search queries, but pages I access via Chrome, seminars and interviews I watch on YouTube, my meetings on Google Calendar, what topics I discuss over gmail, where I travel, etc. I can now depend on it to make useful recommendations. (I hope the AI remains friendly to me in the future...)

This morning it suggested the interview below with Ari Ben-Menashe. Probably because it knows I have been interested in Jeffrey Epstein (see post Epstein and the Big Lie from Aug 2019), the activities of intelligence services (see, e.g., Twilight Struggles in a Wilderness of Mirrors: Admiral Mike Rogers, the NSA, and Obama-era Political Spying), and also nuclear weapons history.

Ben-Menashe was an Israeli intelligence operative, best known for his role in Iran-Contra in the 1980s. He was also one of the main sources for the book The Samson Option, by Sy Hersh (the journalist who uncovered both My Lai and Abu Ghraib). The Samson Option describes how the world became aware of the Israeli nuclear program, thanks to whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu. After revealing the secret program to the British Sunday Times, Vanunu was kidnapped by Israeli intelligence agents, stood trial in Israel, and spent almost 20 years in prison. Ben-Menashe worked with publisher Robert Maxwell (Ghislaine Maxwell's father) to locate Vanunu in London and to capture him using a honey trap (female agent).

Ben-Menashe knew Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell through Robert Maxwell. He states on the record that Epstein was involved in a honeypot operation for Israeli intelligence.

Ben-Menashe also comments on topics such as:
Epstein's "suicide" in MCC (where, by coincidence, Ben-Menashe was also held in the aftermath of Iran-Contra).

Ghislaine Maxwell's current location.

Robert Maxwell's mysterious death.

How Epstein could live and operate as if he had a 10-11 figure net worth when his actual wealth was one or two orders of magnitude less.
I do not know whether any of this is true, but I found the interview interesting.




Warning: in the comments I will censor anti-Jewish remarks.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

COVID-19: False Positive Rates for Serological Tests

It looks like very few of the tests have false positive rates in the percent range. Since most populations (with the exception of NYC and some other highly impacted places) do not have infection rates higher than a few percent, there is a danger of overestimating total infection rates and underestimating IFR using these tests. (See, e.g., the recent Stanford-USC papers.)

Sure Biotech seems to be an HK company, while Wondfo is in Guangzhou.
NYTimes: ... Each test was evaluated with the same set of blood samples: from 80 people known to be infected with the coronavirus, at different points after infection; 108 samples donated before the pandemic; and 52 samples from people who were positive for other viral infections but had tested negative for SARS-CoV-2.

Tests made by Sure Biotech and Wondfo Biotech, along with an in-house Elisa test, produced the fewest false positives.

A test made by Bioperfectus detected antibodies in 100 percent of the infected samples, but only after three weeks of infection. None of the tests did better than 80 percent until that time period, which was longer than expected, Dr. Hsu said.

The lesson is that the tests are less likely to produce false negatives the longer ago the initial infection occurred, he said.

The tests were particularly variable when looking for a transient antibody that comes up soon after infection, called IgM, and more consistent in identifying a subsequent antibody, called IgG, that may signal longer-term immunity.

“You can see that antibody levels rise at different points for every patient,” Dr. Hsu said. The tests performed best when the researchers assessed both types of antibodies together. None of the tests could say whether the presence of these antibodies means a person is protected from reinfection, however.

The results overall are promising, Dr. Marson added. “There are multiple tests that have specificities greater than 95 percent.”
Preprint: Test performance evaluation of SARS-CoV-2 serological assays

From Table 2 in the paper:


Dr. Patrick Hsu -- quoted in the Times article above, and a co-author of the paper -- is no relation, although we know each other. He has appeared in this blog before for his CRISPR work.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Vineer Bhansali: Physics, Tail Risk Hedging, and 900% Coronavirus Returns - Manifold Episode #43



Steve and Corey talk with theoretical physicist turned hedge fund investor Vineer Bhansali. Bhansali describes his transition from physics to finance, his firm LongTail Alpha, and his recent outsize returns from the coronavirus financial crisis. Also discussed: derivatives pricing, random walks, helicopter money, and Modern Monetary Theory.

Transcript

LongTail Alpha

LongTail Alpha’s OneTail Hedgehog Fund II had 929% Return (Bloomberg)

A New Anomaly Matching Condition? (1992)
https://arxiv.org/abs/hep-ph/9211299

Added: Background on derivatives history here. AFAIK high energy physicist M.F.M. Osborne was the first to suggest the log-normal random walk model for securities prices, in the 1950s. Bachelier suggested an additive model which does not even make logical sense. See my articles in Physics World: 1 , 2


man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

Friday, April 17, 2020

The von Neumann-Fuchs bomb, and the radiation compression mechanism of Ulam-Teller-Sakharov


Some useful references below on the Ulam-Teller mechanism, Sakharov's Third Idea, and the von Neumann-Fuchs thermonuclear design of 1946. They resolve a mystery discussed previously on this blog:
Sakharov's Third Idea: ... If Zeldovich was already familiar with radiation pressure as the tool for compression, via the Fuchs report of 1948, then perhaps one cannot really credit Teller so much for adding this ingredient to Ulam's idea of a staged device using a fission bomb to compress the thermonuclear fuel. Fuchs and von Neumann had already proposed (and patented!) radiation implosion years before. More here.
It turns out that the compression mechanism used in the von Neumann-Fuchs design (vN is the first author on the patent application; the design was realized in the Operation Greenhouse George nuclear test of 1951) is not that of Ulam-Teller or Sakharov. In vN-F the D-T mixture reaches thermal equilibrium with ionized BeO gas, leading to a pressure increase of ~10x. This is not the "cold compression" via focused radiation pressure used in the U-T / Sakharov designs. That was, apparently,  conceived independently by Ulam-Teller and Sakharov.

It is only recently that the vN-F design has become public -- first obtained by the Soviets via espionage (Fuchs), and finally declassified and published by the Russians! It seems that Zeldovich had access to this information, but not Sakharov.

American and Soviet H-bomb development programmes: historical background by G. Goncharov.

John von Neumann and Klaus Fuchs: an Unlikely Collaboration by Jeremy Bernstein. See also here for some clarifying commentary.


A great anecdote:
Jeremy Bernstein: When I was an undergraduate at Harvard he [vN] came to the university to give lectures on the computer and the brain. They were the best lectures I have ever heard on anything — like mental champagne. After one of them I found myself walking in Harvard Square and looked up to see von Neumann. Thinking, correctly as it happened, that it would be the only chance I would have to ask him a question, I asked, ‘‘Professor von Neumann, will the computer ever replace the human mathematician?’’ He studied me and then responded, ‘‘Sonny, don’t worry about it.’’


Note added from comments: I hope this clarifies things a bit.
The question of how the Soviets got to the U-T mechanism is especially mysterious. Sakharov himself (ostensibly the Soviet inventor) was puzzled until the end about what had really happened! He did not have access to the vN-F design that has been made public from the Russian side (~2000, after Sakharov's death in 1989; still classified in US). Zeldovich and only a few others had seen the Fuchs information, at a time when the main focus of the Russian program was not the H bomb. Sakharov could never be sure whether his suggestion for cold radiation compression sparked Zeldovich's interest because the latter *had seen the idea before* without fully comprehending it. Sakharov wondered about this until the end of his life (see below), but I think his surmise was not correct: we know now that vN-F did *not* come up with that idea in their 1946 design. I've been puzzled about this question myself for some time. IF the vN-F design had used radiation pressure for cold compression, why did Teller get so much credit for replacing neutrons with radiation pressure in Ulam's staged design (1951)? I stumbled across the (now public) vN-F design by accident just recently -- I was reading some biographical stuff about Zeldovich which touched upon these issues.

https://infoproc.blogspot.com/2012/10/sakharovs-third-idea.html

Consider the following words in Sakharov’s memoirs, with a note he added toward the end of life:

Now I think that the main idea of the H-bomb design developed by the Zeldovich group was based on intelligence information. However, I can’t prove this conjecture. It occurred to me quite recently, but at the time I just gave it no thought. (Note added July 1987. David Holloway writes in “Soviet Thermonuclear Development,” International Security 4:3 (1979/80), p. 193: “The Soviet Union had been informed by Klaus Fuchs of the studies of thermonuclear weapons at Los Alamos up to 1946. … His information would have been misleading rather than helpful, because the early ideas were later shown not to work.” Therefore my conjecture is confirmed!)
Another useful resource: Gennady Gorelik (BU science historian): The Paternity of the H-Bombs: Soviet-American Perspectives
Teller, 1952, August (re Bethe’s Memorandum): The main principle of radiation implosion was developed in connection with the thermonuclear program and was stated at a con­ference on the thermonuclear bomb, in the spring of 1946. Dr. Bethe did not attend this conference, but Dr. Fuchs did. [ Original development by vN? ]

It is difficult to argue to what extent an invention is accidental: most difficult for someone who did not make the invention himself. It appears to me that the idea was a relatively slight modification of ideas generally known in 1946. Essentially only two elements had to be added: to implode a bigger volume, and, to achieve greater compression by keeping the imploded material cool as long as possible.
The last part ("cool as long as possible") refers to the fundamental difference between the vN-Fuchs design and the U-T mechanism of cold radiation compression. The former assumes thermal equilibrium between ionized gas and radiation, while latter deliberately avoids it as long as possible.

Official Soviet History: On the making of the Soviet hydrogen (thermonuclear) bomb, Yu B Khariton et al 1996 Phys.-Usp. 39 185. Some details on the origin of the compression idea, followed by the use of radiation pressure (Zeldovich and Sakharov).

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Jaan Tallinn: Coronavirus, Existential Risk, and AI - Manifold Episode#42



Steve talks with Skype founder and global tech investor Jaan Tallinn. Will the coronavirus pandemic lead to better planning for future global risks? Jaan gives his list of top existential risks and describes his efforts to call attention to AI risk. They discuss AGI, the Simulation Question, the Fermi Paradox and how these are all connected. Do we live in a simulation of a quantum multiverse?

RATIONALITY

Jaan X-Risk Links

LessWrong

Slate Star Codex

Metaculus


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Transcript

Fermi Paradox — Where Are All The Aliens?

Is Hilbert space discrete?
https://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0508039


man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

COVID-19: Testing, Isolation, Geolocation in Korea



The guy in the video has just returned to Korea from abroad. He is tested right away (results by next day), and asked to self-quarantine for 2 weeks. His location is monitored via phone (GPS) during this time. During quarantine the government supplies him with food free of charge.

Systems like this make it possible to contain the epidemic without shutting down the economy. Is there any chance the US can get to this point by May?

Sunday, April 12, 2020

COVID-19: Iceland tests 10% of population, CFR ~0.5%


I can't find a better reference for this than the Daily Mail, which may have garbled the results. But if the headline is correct, CFR ~ 0.4% (this may increase as the disease runs its course among the infected) and infection rate is just over 4% (1.6k infected / 36k tested). [ See update below the graph for better information. ]
Daily Mail: Iceland has tested one-tenth of its population for coronavirus at random and found HALF of people have the disease without realising - with only seven deaths in 1,600 cases
At the JHU coronavirus page, the latest numbers reported are 1700 infected with 8 dead, or CFR ~ 0.47%. From the graph below it appears that most infections in Iceland happened less than 2-3 weeks ago, suggesting that further deaths will result among the population currently infected. See here for comprehensive Iceland data. From the description there, about half the people tested were already in quarantine (e.g., due to contact tracing), so the Daily Mail claim that the results come from random sampling of the population does not seem correct.

If the 1700 positives did result from testing a completely random selection of 1/10 of the total population, then IFR ~ 8 / 17000 ~ 0.04%, which is very small.

But 4% infected (probably less, due to bias in sampling from quarantine) seems inconsistent with a super-rapid sweep, and is far short of herd immunity. [ See below for better information! ]


Added: I found a better source of information than the Daily Mail.
Iceland Review: ... The screenings of the general population have been carried out by Reykjavík-based medical research company deCODE genetics ...

CEO Dr. Kári Stefánsson: “Fifty per cent of those that test positive in our screenings of the general population are symptom-free at the time. Many of them get symptoms later,” Kári said.

Therefore, although about half of those who have tested positive for coronavirus in deCODE’s screenings did not have symptoms at the time, most of those who have tested positive developed symptoms at some point. A positive sample from an individual without symptoms means that the sample was most likely taken early in the virus’ incubation period, before symptoms such as dry cough or fever began to present themselves.

“DeCODE has now screened 10,401 individuals in Iceland. Of those, 92 were positive. So about 0.9% of those who we screened in the general population turned out to be positive. And that is probably the upper limit of the distribution of the virus in society in general,” Kári explained.

Interview: “The testing has been going on for 15 days – there was a little pause in the middle because we were missing swabs – but all of these 15 days, the rate of positives has been a little bit below one percent, which makes it likely that this is the true population prevalence. Today we are calling in people randomly, just selecting at random from the telephone directory. There is probably no perfect way to get a random sample. But I think it is very likely that the number is going to turn out in the end to be somewhat close to this number, probably somewhere between 0.5-1%.”
If the population prevalence of infection now is 0.5 to 1% (or 1.8k to 3.6k people in all of Iceland), then the 8 deaths imply an IFR in the range 0.22% to 0.44%. This should go up over time as many of the infections are early and we expect more deaths later. The 4% infection prevalence obtained using the Daily Mail numbers is probably an overestimate due to testing of already quarantined people -- DeCode has done about half the testing in Iceland, presumably using the random sampling method described by Stefansson, and another entity did the rest. All of this is aggregated in the current ~1.7k total confirmed cases as of now.

DeCode has genetic data on essentially all Icelanders, so should be able to identify alleles that make one more or less vulnerable to CV19.

Friday, April 10, 2020

COVID-19: CFR ~1% estimated in large random sample (Austria)


CV19 antigen test of a random representative sample in Austria. CFR (or IFR, to be very precise) is close to 1%.
WSJ: More twice as many people have been infected by the new coronavirus in Austria than official figures showed, according to a new survey, with a fatality rate of 0.77%.

The nationwide survey, which the Austrian government described as the first of a country with a sizable population, showed that lockdown measures, which are particularly strict in Austria, were necessary to avoid mass casualties and overwhelming the health-care system, said Heinz Fassmann, the country’s education minister, who presented the study in Vienna Friday.

The study, conducted by polling firm SORA in cooperation with the government the Red Cross, tested a random, representative sample of 1,544 people aged 0 to 94 from across the country in their homes or in drive-in testing stations. It indicated that 28,500 people, or around 0.33% of Austria’s 8.9 million population, were infected with the virus by April 6, sharply higher than the 12,467 infections recorded by that date, with 220 people dying of Covid-19, the disease the virus causes.

The findings suggest that while the death rate implied from the study, 0.77%, is lower than the World Health Organization’s estimate for reported cases, which is over 3%, it would still mean that the virus could kill many millions of people before a vaccine is available.
95% confidence interval for infection rate is 0.12% to 0.76%, so CFR range of ~0.3% to ~2%. The "standard model" of CV-19 epidemiology seems to be correct.


Note Added: First sign of Google / Apple action to bring the full power of geolocation to bear on contact tracing and isolation! These capabilities have been available in China for some time now.
Bloomberg: Apple Inc. and Google unveiled a rare partnership to add technology to their smartphone platforms that will alert users if they have come into contact with a person with Covid-19. People must opt in to the system, but it has the potential to monitor about a third of the world’s population.

The technology, known as contact-tracing, is designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus by telling users they should quarantine or isolate themselves after contact with an infected individual.

The Silicon Valley rivals said on Friday that they are building the technology into their iOS and Android operating systems in two steps. In mid-May, the companies will add the ability for iPhones and Android phones to wirelessly exchange anonymous information via apps run by public health authorities. The companies will also release frameworks for public health apps to manage the functionality.

This means that if a user tests positive for Covid-19, and adds that data to their public health app, users who they came into close proximity with over the previous several days will be notified of their contact. This period could be 14 days, but health agencies can set the time range.

The second step takes longer. In the coming months, both companies will add the technology directly into their operating systems so this contact-tracing software works without having to download an app. Users must opt in, but this approach means many more people can be included. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have about 3 billion users between them, over a third of the world’s population. ...

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Dan Gable: Legendary NCAA and Olympic Wrestler & Coach - Manifold Episode #41



Steve and Corey talk to legendary NCAA and Olympic wrestler and coach Dan Gable. Gable describes the final match of his collegiate career, an NCAA championship upset which spoiled his undefeated high school and college record. The Coach explains how the loss led him to take a more scientific approach to training and was critical for his later success. They discuss the tragic murder of Gable's sister, and the steps 15-year old Gable took try to save his parents’ marriage. Gable describes his eye for talent and philosophy of developing athletes. Steve gets Gable's reaction to ultimate fighting and jiujitsu.

Transcript

Dan Gable vs Larry Owings - 1970 NCAA Title Match (video)

The Champion (1970 documentary on Gable's senior NCAA season)


man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.


Added: The wonders of YouTube! A great interview with Chris Campbell -- perhaps Gable's best wrestler!

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

COVID-19: A False Lockdown Dichotomy?


This was posted by commenter "husposter" in the thread for COVID-19: CBA, CFR, Open Borders, and I thought I would promote it here. Along similar lines, I read somewhere today that economic indicators for Sweden (no lockdown) are quite similar to those for neighboring countries that are under lockdown. Rational people will tend to enact social distancing even if it is not forced on them.

From what I understand, CV-19 is a terrible infection to have even for many people who avoid going to hospital. There may be an ~80% chance of a mild or entirely asymptomatic case, but the tail of the probability distribution is very unpleasant... and in the worst case, it seems like a terrible way to die.
husposter: Why do people assume that the economy will "get back to normal" if the lockdown is ended without the disease being controlled?

Are all you people going to start going to the bar and baseball games if the government lets you? Are you going to let you kids go to what are effectively infection factories (daycares and schools)? Are you going to start going to doctors offices full of people that might have Covid?

The "lockdowns" came AFTER the private market started to shut down voluntarily. I was there. I saw it. My company was canceling travel and the NBA was cancelling its season while "the government" was still encouraging people to go out.

Who the heck is going to take a 1% chance of dying? A 10% chance of hospital stay and permanent lung damage? Who is going to expose friends, loved ones, and co-workers to that chance if they get infected?

To even propose that there is some kind of "choice" to save the economy at the price of a few old people dying (and its not like the victims are even as clear as you'd like it to be) is a dangerous false dichotomy. There is no way the economy is exiting the lockdown until the disease is under control.

The "lockdown" just gives the authorities the ability to go after egregious malcontents that are so socially degenerate they can't obey basic behavioral norms at a time like this. Your workplace would not be open right now even if the government allowed it.

Either get the disease under control, or there is no economy. You aren't a clever heartless individual, you're an idiot that wants to seem "tough".

This is what people would be risking so they could go to a concert:
It first struck me how different it was when I saw my first coronavirus patient go bad. I was like, Holy shit, this is not the flu. Watching this relatively young guy, gasping for air, pink frothy secretions coming out of his tube and out of his mouth. The ventilator should have been doing the work of breathing but he was still gasping for air, moving his mouth, moving his body, struggling.

We had to restrain him. With all the coronavirus patients, we’ve had to restrain them. They really hyperventilate, really struggle to breathe. When you’re in that mindstate of struggling to breathe and delirious with fever, you don’t know when someone is trying to help you, so you’ll try to rip the breathing tube out because you feel it is choking you, but you are drowning.

When someone has an infection, I’m used to seeing the normal colors you’d associate with it: greens and yellows. The coronavirus patients with ARDS have been having a lot of secretions that are actually pink because they’re filled with blood cells that are leaking into their airways. They are essentially drowning in their own blood and fluids because their lungs are so full. So we’re constantly having to suction out the secretions every time we go into their rooms.
Added: WSJ on exiting lockdown in Wuhan... important sociological and public health experiment to watch.




Good twitter thread by J.D. Vance
addressing skeptics.


More Added: Ioannidis preprint estimates that a large fraction (e.g., ~30 percent) of US CV19 dead are under 65, in sharp contrast to Europe and Asia (~5 percent). This suggests (as pointed out many times by commenters here) that cocooning may be more difficult here than abroad. While this data is very noisy at the moment it is hard to believe that the entire difference is due to noise.

Friday, April 03, 2020

COVID-19: Exiting Lockdown and Geolocation

Pressure will mount around the end of this month (assuming we are past the peak death rate and virus spread is under control) for the US to exit lockdown. This needs to be done in a smart way, which includes:

1. Required use of facemasks
2. Cocooning of vulnerable populations
3. Contact tracing and forced isolation of cases, perhaps using geolocation technology

See related posts

COVID-19: Smart Technologies and Exit from Lockdown (Singapore)
COVID-19: CBA, CFR, Open Borders
COVID-19: Cocoon the vulnerable, save the economy?
COVID-19 Notes

WSJ: Western governments aiming to relax restrictions on movement are turning to unprecedented surveillance to track people infected with the new coronavirus and identify those with whom they have been in contact.

Governments in China, Singapore, Israel and South Korea that are already using such data credit the practice with helping slow the spread of the virus. The U.S. and European nations, which have often been more protective of citizens’ data than those countries, are now looking at a similar approach, using apps and cellphone data.

“I think that everything is gravitating towards proximity tracking,” said Chris Boos, a member of Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing, a project that is working to create a shared system that could take uploads from apps in different countries. “If somebody gets sick, we know who could be infected, and instead of quarantining millions, we’re quarantining 10.” ...

Some European countries are going further, creating programs to help track individuals—with their permission—who have been exposed and must be quarantined. The Czech Republic and Iceland have introduced such programs and larger countries including the U.K., Germany and Spain are studying similar efforts. Hundreds of new location-tracking apps are being developed and pitched to those governments, Mr. Boos said.

U.S. authorities are able to glean data on broad population movements from the mobile-marketing industry, which has geographic data points on hundreds of millions of U.S. mobile devices, mainly taken from apps that users have installed on their phones.

Europe’s leap to collecting personal data marks a shift for the continent, where companies face more legal restrictions on what data they may collect. Authorities say they have found workarounds that don’t violate the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which restricts how personal information can be shared. ...
Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. are reluctant to draw attention to their already formidable geolocation capabilites. But this crisis may focus public awareness on their ability to track almost all Americans throughout the day.
WSJ: Google will help public health officials use its vast storage of data to track people’s movements amid the coronavirus pandemic, in what the company called an effort to assist in “unprecedented times.”

The initiative, announced by the company late Thursday, uses a portion of the information that the search giant has collected on users, including through Google Maps, to create reports on the degree to which locales are abiding by social-distancing measures. The “mobility reports” will be posted publicly and show, for instance, whether particular localities, states or countries are seeing more or less people flow into shops, grocery stores, pharmacies and parks. ... 
This is just a hint at what Google is capable of. Check out Google Timeline! Of course, users have to opt in to create their Google Timeline. But it should be immediately obvious that Google already HAS the information necessary to populate a detailed geolocation history of every individual...




Added from the comments:
There are really two separate issues here:

1. What is the basic epidemiology of CV19? i.e., R0, CFR, age distribution of vulnerability, comorbidities, mechanism of spread, utility of masks, etc.

2. What is the cost benefit analysis for various strategies (e.g., lockdown vs permissive sweep with cocooning)

While we have not reached full convergence on #1 I think reasonable people agree that the "mainstream" consensus has a decent chance of being correct: e.g., CFR ~ 1% or so, possibility of wide sweep in any population, overload of ICUs means much higher CFR, warmer weather might not save the day, etc. Once this scenario for #1 has, say, >50% chance of being right you are forced to at least take it seriously and then you are on to #2. (It is not required to believe that the scenario above is true at 95% or 99% confidence level...)

#2 is a question of trade-offs and two reasonable people can easily disagree until the end of time... I've already posted very simple CBA that show the answer can go either way depending on how you "price" QALYs, what you think long term effects on economy are from lockdown -- i.e., how fragile you think financial, supply chain, psychological systems are in various places; is it a ~$trillion cost, or could it go nonlinear?

Re: Physicists (and addressing gmachine comment below which has a lot of truth in it), we have no trouble understanding modeling done by other people (whether in finance, climate, or epidemiology), and we are also trained to deal with very uncertain data / statistical situations. We can "take apart" the model in our head to see where the dependencies are and how the uncertainties propagate through the model. I am amazed often to meet people who built a very complex model (e.g., thousands of lines of code, lots of input parameters), but they lack the chops to develop good intuition for how their model works, to make qualitative estimates for uncertainty quantification, etc. I have seen this in economics, finance, biology, and climate contexts many times. "There are levels to this thing..." Understanding the model can be more g-loaded than building it!

Finally, we are trained to think from first principles -- which assumptions are crucial to reach the conclusions, which are not? What are the key uncertainties in the analysis? Do we really need very specific assumptions about, e.g., social interaction rates as in the Imperial models? Or can I do a quick Fermi estimate which gets me a more robust answer at the cost of a factor of 2 uncertainty that does not really affect the main conclusion -- e.g., will ICU overload happen?

Enrico Fermi at the Trinity test: "I tried to estimate its strength by dropping from about six feet small pieces of paper before, during, and after the passage of the blast wave. Since, at the time, there was no wind I could observe very distinctly and actually measure the displacement of the pieces of paper that were in the process of falling while the blast was passing. The shift was about 2 1/2 meters, which, at the time, I estimated to correspond to the blast that would be produced by ten thousand tons of T.N.T." The actual yield was about 20 kt. Sometimes a smart guy can get to within a factor of two, and with much greater clarity, than a huge team of modelers...

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Klaus Lackner on Carbon Capture, Climate Change, and Physics



Steve and Corey talk to Klaus Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions (CNCE) at Arizona State University and the first person to suggest removing CO2 from air to address climate change. Steve asks whether Klaus’ research was motivated by a tail risk of catastrophic outcomes due to CO2 build up. Klaus explains that he sees atmospheric CO2 as a waste management problem. Calculations show that removing human-produced carbon is energetically and economically viable. Klaus describes his invention, a “mechanical tree”, that passively collects CO2 from the air, allowing it to be stored or converted to fuel.

Note: Klaus, in theorist fashion, performs a number of Fermi estimates in real time during the discussion. To fully understand his reasoning, it might be useful to consult the transcript or replay the relevant parts of the interview.

Transcript

Klaus Lackner (Faculty Bio)

Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at ASU


man·i·fold /ˈmanəˌfōld/ many and various.

In mathematics, a manifold is a topological space that locally resembles Euclidean space near each point.

Steve Hsu and Corey Washington have been friends for almost 30 years, and between them hold PhDs in Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Theoretical Physics. Join them for wide ranging and unfiltered conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.

Steve Hsu is VP for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. He is also a researcher in computational genomics and founder of several Silicon Valley startups, ranging from information security to biotech. Educated at Caltech and Berkeley, he was a Harvard Junior Fellow and held faculty positions at Yale and the University of Oregon before joining MSU.

Corey Washington is Director of Analytics in the Office of Research and Innovation at Michigan State University. He was educated at Amherst College and MIT before receiving a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford and a PhD in a Neuroscience from Columbia. He held faculty positions at the University Washington and the University of Maryland. Prior to MSU, Corey worked as a biotech consultant and is founder of a medical diagnostics startup.

Show Website

Blog Archive

Labels