What Went Wrong

On June 30, the Los Angeles Police Department detonated fireworks in a containment vessel mounted on a vehicle. The resulting blast damaged cars and houses and injured people. Sahra Sulaiman has been covering the blast and subsequent events. She has summarized the events around the blast.

I’m always intrigued by reports of explosives gone wrong. I worked with scientists in the explosives division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in their laboratories, on a chemistry project that did not involve explosives. In order to do that, I had to have training on explosives safety. Additionally, because people who decide to make their career in explosives love explosions, I was invited to observe a number of explosions.

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Modeling The Pandemic: How Many Will Die?

A while back, when it seemed like a lot of people were becoming ill with covid, I wondered how long it would take to get to herd immunity the hard way. It turned out that, although it seems like horrendous numbers are becoming ill, the percentages of the population were much smaller than I had intuited.

It’s time to do another calculation. IIRC, we didn’t have vaccines when I last did that calculation, and it was before Delta made its appearance. There’s not much talk about herd immunity these days because of Delta’s much higher transmissibility and maybe because it’s gotten mixed up in the “let it rip” crowd. I hope to write a post on R and those calculations one of these days.

I built a VERY simple Excel model. The point is to get a handle on the numbers, and two significant figures are good enough for that. If anything, it may overpredict deaths, which would be a change from our expectations of the last almost two years.

The state population numbers are from the World Population Review. The covid numbers are from last night’s New York Times tracking.

I converted the cases and deaths per 100,000 to percentages. I assumed that 10% of those vaccinated had been infected and removed that overlap. I also assumed that 10% of those vaccinated were still susceptible to serious cases of covid. I added the percent of cases to the adjusted 0.8 of vaccinated to get the immune %. The susceptible are thus everyone else. I multiplied the death percentage times the susceptible (this is probably the largest source of pessimism) to get the expected deaths.

The bottom line, expected deaths for the US, is close to 300,000, which will give a total close to a million dead from covid. That doesn’t count excess deaths from the overloading of the medical system. Combined immunities from illness and vaccination are not too different from the percent of vaccinations. The pandemic is far from over.

Photo: The Guardian

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Death From The Sky

On August 29, a Hellfire missile hit a target that General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured us was a “righteous strike” against the bombmaker responsible for the explosion at Kabul International airport that killed 60 Afghans and 13 American military personnel.

The New York Times and the Washington Post tell us that was not the case. They have identified the driver of the targeted white car as Zemari Ahmadi, a worker for the American aid group, Nutrition and Education International. Nine people besides Ahmadi, seven of them children, were killed in the strike. The fact that the two accounts were prepared independently, with different emphasis, suggests that the media accounts are more accurate than what the military has told us.

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Too Much Virus

This may be simple and obvious, but it’s worth saying.

The more virus there is around, the more danger to all of us, including the vaqccinated. That’s why nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) like masks and distancing are important.

The more virus you encounter, the more likely it is that one of those encounters will go well for the virus and badly for you. So when case numbers go up, it makes sense to take more precautions.

The reason that anti-vaxxers are often able to avoid having their children infected with measles is that there is usually no measles virus circulating. An immune system that can’t handle the virus is safe as long as it doesn’t confront the virus.

This ties into speculation on the endemic endgame for SARS-CoV-2, although I haven’t seen anyone consider it explicitly. We can, through a combination of vaccines, natural immunity, and NPIs, get the virus down to the levels we’re accustomed to with measles. At current rates, however, that will take years. It might be instructive to look at how measles cases declined after vaccination became available.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Moar Weapons For Moar Arms Control

This article clearly enunciates a particular strain of conventional wisdom and coats it in sugar.

Headline from Breaking Defense: A Nuclear Cruise Missile Could Be Vital For Arms Control And Nonproliferation Efforts

You too can have moar arms control and moar nonproliferation by making moar kinds of weapons and moar of them! The magic factor is called “leverage,” which along with “deterrence” is what moar weapons give you!

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Who Are The Blob?

Ending the war in Afghanistan brought out opposition that has been labeled “the Blob.” But who are the Blob?

The commonality among those being labeled the Blob seems to be that they want the war to continue. Many of them deny that but present arguments that a “small” military presence might be maintained. Most argue that the withdrawal was badly done but fail to offer how it might have been done better.

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