Progress in our ideas of progress

Way back in 2016, Ada Palmer wrote an essay on progress and historical change. It’s well worth reading in its entirety, but I especially wish more of my colleagues were familiar with the history of science and philosophy of Frances Bacon she describes in section two. Science has philosophy and history, and to be ignorant of them as a practicing scientist is very limiting.


Two hundred years is a long time for a vastly-complex society-wide project to keep getting support and enthusiasm, fed by nothing but pure confidence that these discoveries streaming out of the Royal Society papers will eventually someday actually do something.

Keep trying, and please watch Don’t Look Up

They do not die screaming in terror, nor have they lost faith in each other.2 It is a similar moral to Albert Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus”: the near-certainty of failure should not lead to resignation, but to even more determination. To end your life contentedly and without regrets, you need to know that you tried, regardless of the outcome.



This is going to get ugly

I sure do wish Canada’s economy was more than fossil fuel zombies and a housing bubble.

In February, a study of “the world’s least affordable housing markets” showed how Canada’s speculative bubble has made Toronto and Vancouver one of the world’s frontrunners when it comes to unaffordable housing. Using a scale in which a rating of over 5.1 is “severely unaffordable,” Toronto, with a score of 8.6,  beat out London and San Francisco. Vancouver at a staggering 11.9, is entirely off the chart. The US Federal Reserve’s “Exuberance Index” has shown that, as one media report puts it, “Canadian home prices have been in bubble territory for 6 years without a correction.”

American fascism

There’s a good article on American fascism in The Guardian this week. It’s not sensationalist, but it is frightening and sad.

There’s a pandemic on that our governments continue to respond to in delayed and reactionary ways. There’s apparently no plan for actually dealing with covid which means the de facto plan is a dramatically degraded healthcare system, the death of our loved ones from covid and other preventable causes, and an indefinitely dragging economy.

This dramatic institutional failure will fuel fascism in America and many other places.

Canada has a lot of problems and is mismanaging the pandemic in many ways, but it’s not like America. I wish I could get more of my loved ones to immigrate here or elsewhere.

It’s Christmas and I hope you are snug with your loved ones and a tree and a good meal. Take care of one another.

If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist, right?

Your Local Epidemiologist critiques a graph of daily covid case projections:

I do disagree with this graph hitting 1 million cases. We don’t have the testing capacity to record this many cases. We will run out of tests, reagents, and plastic. Lab capacity is finite. We would hit a plateau in case reporting, while the “true” cases may continue to increase.

A cornerstone of BC’s approach to keeping the numbers down for the last year seems to be limited testing for covid (along with straight up data withholding). Looks like the rest of you will be joining us shortly, whether you want to or not!

We don’t just need better ventilation because of covid

Because while we are investing heavily in vaccination, the sense that the pandemic is going to “end” at some point in the not-to-distant future is leading to an underinvestment in other structural solutions we are going to need – a revolution in filtration and ventilation so that buildings do not readily spread disease and free, readily-available rapid testing to make gatherings safer.

The sense seems to be that endemic Covid will look something like the flu, but we know that Covid is currently much more deadly than flu, so is there any good reason to believe this to be the case?

And further, what people do not realize is that the flu is actually much more deadly than the estimates of flu deaths suggest.

[from Jeremy Chrystler]