Mar 082020

Heinrich Hofmann Christ and the Rich Young Man 1889


Around mid-January I started including coronavirus news in the daily Automatic Earth “Debt Rattle” news aggregators, and wrote the first essay on the topic on January 29. Tons of people since have asked why, but I thought the virus had “potential”. Though not everybody would agree, I still think that. So the Debt Rattles are full of coronavirus these days.

For a proper understanding, we must remember that China was 4-5 weeks too late in reporting the disease, and after that the west was 4-5 weeks late in acting on the news. This happens simply because a politician who cries wolf will have a short career, and reporters, certainly today, follow that same model.

I explained 5 weeks ago why this happens the way it does in China in The Party and the Virus, but western countries’ political and media systems are structured very much the same way. Being early to warn does not help your job prospects. Unless you’re 100% sure, but then you won’t be alone and there’s nothing left to warn about. So might as well stay mum.

Until you must speak, and then you’re way behind, and you’ll be as wrong as you are late. Cast in stone. Bias “R” Us. But then, that’s why there’s the Automatic Earth. The Matrix is never perfectly sealed.


In the case of COVID19, the story is not about the numbers of cases or fatalities at any given point after two months and change, it’s about the disruption it will cause. We have a highly contagious virus that can cause death. That is all you need to know really. Feel free to claim that reactions and measures are over the hill, but no government has the option to say things are not all that bad and it’s business as usual.

They all tried again though. It’s in their job description. One of their tasks is to prevent panic, and yes, they use that to hide their ignorance behind, but they still must do it. But that’s alright, because all halfway smart people know what to do when a politician says not to panic.

However, they will still quarantine you and close borders, no matter what you think. Politicians are dead set to react too late, and then when they do, to order measures that are over the top and at best partly effective. But it’s not them, it’s the model they function within.

I first said this days ago, that it’s easy for people to look past that reality, but it’s always good to see Nassim Taleb share that view, that what you think about your own situation is not an option for politicians:



And people comparing COVID 19 to seasonal flu are therefore way off base. It’s not apples and oranges, it’s apples and baseballs -if not baseball bats-. Both are round but they have little else in common. The seasonal flu has been around since at least 1899, when the first epidemic was reported, what ever that meant back then.

The COVID19 virus is, far as we know, 3 months and change old. So any numbers you can toss around, of so many people killed by one and not the other, are pretty much meaningless. They are completely different entities that just happen to perhaps look alike if you don’t look to close. You can bring up the comparison, but you don’t say a thing about COVID19 if you do.


There are more interesting things to say about COVID 19. Unlike seasonal flu (largely), this one is not standing still. That means it will take 12-18 months to develop a vaccine, while any given year’s vaccine vs that year’s “normal” flu takes a few weeks. That difference may not say it all, but it comes close.

The most striking characteristic of the virus may be, if not should be, its exponential (or quadratic, if you will) progress once it gets hold. Ben Hunt tweeted earlier today, in reaction to Rome shutting down a quarter of the entire country, that “Italy is a time machine that shows us our future. Why do we ignore it?” But it’s not just Italy. It’s a pattern, it’s a dynamic, it’s motion. All things that regular flu is not.

And here’s what that dynamic looks like:


First, South Korea till March 4. when it had 5,621 cases. Today it has 7,313. But it is suspicious; they have very few deaths AND very few recovered cases. Well over 90% of cases are unresolved, way more than in other countries. It also has by far the largest numbers infected per million people.


Click for larger version in new tab

Italy till March 4. when it had 3,089 cases. Today it has 7,375. 1,492 new cases today, and 133 new deaths (366 total). Ouch. 25% more cases, 57% more deaths.


Click for larger version in new tab


China may have leveled off a little (who knows, really?), but the rest of the world is just getting started.


Click for larger version in new tab


The US is starting to get in line:



And this pair of graphs from Worldometer just keeps going as well:



COVID19 is not a point in space, it’s not standing still. You can’t look at it and compare it to anything else around today, because it moves much faster. Let’s try this vein:

I would suggest we’re looking at something like this:
Wave 0: Wuhan/Hubei (11/58.5 million people)
Wave 1: Rest of China (1.375 million people, total China 1,435)
Wave 2: Italy, South Korea, Iran (59, 51 and 81 million people)

And the next wave could well be, given their development in new cases, countries that are following the early phases of the graphs for Italy and South Korea above:
Wave 3: US, Germany, France, Spain (?!) (330, 83, 67, 47 million people)

The UK is a candidate with its 66.8 million people, but it’s either cheating (don’t test) or it may “have to wait” for Wave 4. Note: the US doesn’t have all that many cases either, but its death rate is high.

I mention the numbers of inhabitants because Wave 3 may also include some countries with fewer people (Wave 3.5?):

Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands (8.5, 10.1, 11.5 and 17.1 million people) are all countries with relatively small populations and relatively high numbers of new cases that may well contain the same sort of clusters that have caused the explosion in cases in Wave 1 countries. We can not predict excatly what happens, but we can see trendlines.


The virus is a time machine in the sense that whereas we can -in theory- assume that the regular flu moves in human time, COVID19 very much appears to move in virus time. Almost something you would ask a quantum theorist to look into.

Meanwhile of course you can theorize about the possibility that this is a bioweapon, but first of all that doesn’t help any patients right now, and second it’s only interesting if you can find out whether it was made on purpose or by accident, released by accident or on purpose, and was it the Chinese, the Americans, the Russians, the British, or someone else, why did they do it, why does it target which group, etc etc.

This thing plays out today, not in an imaginary future where you may have found out the who what and why. In the meantime, people are dying.

If you look at the graphs for Italy and South Korea above, you can see your future. Not in a precise way, but certainly in a general one. You can see ahead. Time machine.



If you read us, please support us. Donate on Paypal and Patreon.


Home Forums The Virus is a Time Machine

Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
  • Author
  • #54985

    Heinrich Hofmann Christ and the Rich Young Man 1889   Around mid-January I started including coronavirus news in the daily Automatic Earth “Debt
    [See the full post at: The Virus is a Time Machine]


    Intended or unintended outcome
    Testing the Response system and fine tuning.
    Convirus response.

    Dr D Rich

    Dr. D,
    Hatchett has it about right when he says “…”because of the combination of infectiousness, and a lethality that appears to be many-fold higher than the flu.”” This comment and the conditional phrases it contains would be true for any disease including flu.
    Except where are the numbers that show the “infectiousness” is “many-fold higher than the flu.”????


    The risk response I sometimes think of is climate change and plastic pollution, loss of species. All of these things have the potential to wipe out many humans along with other life forms. Yet that does not lead to the tough measures happening for this virus. International travel is not being cancelled, people are not discouraged by politicians from going on cruises (in Canada this is happening to avoid getting the virus though). Draconian anti-pollution measures are not happening, no one is stopping production of plastic immediately (on the contrary we are worried about ensuring our supply of stuff from China). I think that there should be a greater societal response to these and other similarly significant risks. The virus is showing us that it can be done.


    The numbers of coronavirus in Canada and US will explode as more test kits become available.

    In Canada, the health officials have only allowed people who travelled to eight countries and are ill to be tested.

    Only now are they admitting they “may” need to start testing for community spread. But it is just talk for now.

    Most Canadians think they can just walk into a hospital and get results in 1 hour, if they want, thanks to the media spread gov propaganda.

    In Canada the media doesn’t bite the government hand that feeds them.


    A contagion is very much the interplay between the pathogen and its host over time. Genetics defines the infectiveness and lethality. The environment mitigates or enhances both. Humans are unique in that they have science to understand disease transmission. This is how seven billion of one species can live on a single planet in the middle of nowhere. The other reason is humans live in societies and culture that are adaptive and cooperative.

    On the Diamond Princess in a population of 3700 there were 696 confirmed cases, 410 were patients with no symptoms, and 7 deaths so far. This is an 18% infection rate in an attempted quarantine and a 0.19% death rate. What is unusual is 59% infected who had no symptoms, went undetected, and passed the virus throughout the ship. This plus the lethality to the elderly, explain why cruise ships and nursing homes are hit particularly hard. The difference between Italy and South Korea could be explained by the different lethality of the strains of the virus. On the other hand, when healthcare in the West is overwhelmed it is just as bad as Iran which is a theocracy and under sanctions.

    The incompetence and lack of response in the USA is due to a society that has been commoditized. Wealth of the rich won’t be used to keep the old and unproductive alive. Preparing thousands more ICU beds and ventilators cuts into quarterly bonuses. Profit is all that matters.

    This pandemic is a “Killer Cold” aided and abetted by greed and corruption.


    Mathematical Discontinuities, Strange Attracters and Event Horizons all around this morning.


    Glenjeff: Heh. Chaos theory.
    Sounds about right.


    The numbers seem to be all over the place. Germany has more than 1000 cases, but not a single death. Yet the first African fatality was a German in Egypt.

    In most countries the virus seems to affect men more than women. But in Korea 63% of the cases have been women, with women in their 20s seeing a higher infection rate than other age groups:

    Although I do not believe the official Chinese statistics, air pollution level in Wuhan have crept back up, and they seem to have shut many of the makeshift hospitals. So the measures they have taken have indeed brought down the R0.

    The superspreaders who ignite the clusters seem to be the danger.

    Dr. D

    Great points all. Dr., yes, I’m seeing all kinds of strange things now as brains shut off. The 40% hospital vacancy rate was one of them. That it’s more contagious than flu (when Corona by definition IS the flu, a longstanding common strain ) is another one. They can say a lot of things, that it’s more serious, more deadly, sure, but since it has the same basis, it’s worse? And if it isn’t more dangerous, why would we care HOW contagious it is? Or even now, actually, since we’re all going to get it. That’s why they keep showing the “infected” charts, which are hyper-dramatic, instead of the “recovery” charts, which are 99 – 44/100% safe.

    Keeping sense, Martensen points out that at the expense of slowing via grave quarantine, you can spread the impact on the health system over time. Which is indeed an excellent and advisable point, almost certainly worth the effort. He does miss by saying outside China we “prioritized GDP and the economy” – that’s an opinion. In my mind, “t’is not done”, and why? Because in the West we prioritize FREEDOM, and wouldn’t put on marital law, welding apartment doors shut, and shooting dissidents in the street, no matter WHAT happens. And I hope we agree on that. — Death is the least thing to be feared. The economy is a second, which as a few days ago ALLOWS us the prosperity to do anything at all medically vs living in caves. Like masks, ventilators, etc. Sure we like toys, but that’s not the whole point.

    Yes, this shows that we CAN do something, and since it’s 100% all the same people, shows that they DID NOT BELIEVE a single thing they were saying about CO2 Global Warming in the last 20 years. All bulls—t for taxes, money, and power, which you could tell from them all flying private jets between 5,000’sq houses bought at sea level, Presidents included, or especially.

    And it strikes me people may be thinking I’ve been a denier or something. No, what part of “a million people will die” would that be? And I’m guessing a million died ALREADY in Wuhan, and expect 1M more in larger China? But now I’m not alarmist enough, I bet — always out of fashion. The difference is, I can point out that +1M have ALREADY died from time to time and it ALREADY didn’t turn the dial at all, a very grounded opinion. Even Spanish Flu with 10% death rate barely mattered.

    And I expect the death rate is 0.1% or so, which is probably wildly higher than the flu, way WAY lower than their 3% rates, yet 0.1% = 80M people. The Diamond Princess is going to be predominantly elderly which have a 15x higher death rate, but even so that would be 5M. That’s not nothing, and we still have the larger problem of supply chains and re-localization. Although that ultimately may be healthy for us, any change that moves too fast is dangerous. This is the plan St. Greta was proposing, voluntarily, and now you can see how many people just the change alone would kill, lacking any virus. And she wanted to shut off all energy use as well. Don’t get your world advice from 15-year-old mentally ill dropouts I guess.

    So more generally, what do you all want out of this? Martial law and total government control with mandatory testing and prison-enforced vaccinations? You know, in exclusive service to keep the few over 70 alive, who are a net draw on their children? Or freedom for them and your threescore and ten? What kind of world are you building, do you hope to see? Hiding in packed flats behind a toilet paper fortress, or in the rural distance of your neighbors, poorer and somewhat solitary?

    Leg two here, markets down 1,200 as the cycles charts said. Got to get under 20k minimum, and we still have three weeks to April. Unexpected the oil prices, I appreciate that. Remember no cycle can end without a blowoff top.


    Assuming that the Diamond Princess population was fully tested, the fatality rate is about 1% of those who contracted the virus. Not 0.18% (you can’t include cases that weren’t cases). If there are still unresolved cases (I don’t know), then the fatality rate may increase.


    There was a very recent study using the Diamond Princess data to estimate the infection fatality rate or IFR (deaths among all those who contracted the virus). With such limited data, the errors are high but the IFR was estimated at 0.5% (in a range of 0.2% to 1.2%). Currently, the fatality rate of all resolved (those cases which resulted in recovery or death) known cases worldwide is 5%-6%.


    “The greatest shortcoming of the human species is our inability to understand the exponential function.”
    Dr, Albert Bartlett (

Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.