Caught between the twisted stars the plotted lines the faulty map that brought Columbus to New York
Betwixt between the East and west he calls on her wearing a leather vest, the earth squeals and shudders to a halt.
“Romeo had Juliette” Lou Reed
The Drake Equation was created by Dr. Frank Drake. From wiki:
The Drake equation is a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.
The equation relies on 7 variables to produce the answer to the question, how many alien civilisations are there out there?
The 7 variables are:
R∗ = the average rate of star formation in our galaxy.
fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets.
ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets.
fl = the fraction of planets that could support life that actually develop life at some point.
fi = the fraction of planets with life that actually go on to develop intelligent life (civilizations).
fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space.
Depending on the estimated values of each of these variables, we find that the number of alien civilisations in the universe sits somewhere in a range between zero and 50 million.
Let me repeat that. Between zero to 50 million.
So, the Drake Equation is an interesting intellectual exercise but of absolutely no use in determining any kind of tangible action to be taken. We’re not going to start sending Matthew McConaughay out light years away to make contact. Similarly, it’s probably a waste of time and resources building global defences against invading Martians.
Which brings us to the infamous Imperial College computer model used to produce the report which the UK and many other world governments relied on to determine their response to the China Flu.
Spoiler alert; the model is shit.
You didn’t need a programming expert to tell you that though, the evidence is flooding in from around the globe.
The model’s predictions are falling apart wherever we look. Hospitals are not overwhelmed anywhere. No, not even in New York City.
Awkwardly, Sweden seems to have magically saved tens of thousands of predicted fatalities despite ignoring the report’s recommended actions.
The holy church of the UK’s National Health Service is being applauded every Thursday evening like an inverse Emmanuel Goldstein whilst having barely any of the predicted volume of patients.
What’s going on? Well, one possible explanation is that we’ve made the biggest peacetime policy decision ever, based on shit maths.
How shit? Really fucking shit.
But it’s ok though, no need worry, the UK government have a plan out of this mess. Boris Johnson is basing his decisions to release the public and economy on the “R number”.
Curious minds might have one or two questions perhaps, such as:
What is the R number currently, and how is it measured?
To which the answers are, dunno and using guesswork.
The infamous pederast, John Maynard Keynes, said, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?“.
My current opinion is that the initial responses to close borders and enforce some restrictions on public gatherings was correct and rational behaviour in the face of a new virus that has reached pandemic status.
However, the justification given for these suspensions of freedom was that we couldn’t afford to overwhelm our hospitals.
Tick. We didn’t overwhelm the hospitals.
It is not at all clear how using the R number as a reason to release restrictions can be reconciled to that original justification.
If we have managed to flatten the curve (remember when that phrase was fashionable?), it doesn’t mean the area beneath the curve has reduced. To be clear; the same number of infections and deaths occur under every model where hospitals are not overwhelmed.
Has any politician had the cojones to come out and say that yet? Of course not.
And this is the problem; going into lockdown was easy by comparison with the political courage required to end it.
As the Chinese (oh, the irony) proverb says:
He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount.