In December 2019, the Chinese authorities notified the world that a virus is spreading through their country. The virus was called "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Related Coronavirus 2," which causes the disease "Covid-19", after which all hell broke loose. We have all the news channels running 24x7 discussing it, pop-ups on social media platforms for awareness, caller tunes in different languages, WhatsApp university forwards, gau mutra parties (cow's urine), radio stations, newspapers with huge ads, people with their religious beliefs, and whatnot. This era is often called the information age, but after a while, when everything is going haywire, it's tough to segregate information from misinformation.
In this article, we will be linking the old school science and maths with the pandemic.
The human mind is not very good at visualizing some concepts of simple mathematics like exponential growth and gigantic numbers, it's not our fault since inception. We needed only small natural whole numbers to survive. For demonstration, we can very easily imagine five apples and three oranges, and we can visualize that there is a difference of two between the count of both the fruits. On the other hand, how well can you, as a reader visualize a million seconds, or a billion seconds, or a difference between both of them. Take a minute, try it out. You will be flabbergasted to know that a million seconds is 11.5 days, whereas a billion seconds is 31.7 years! So, it is really hard to visualize when we hear that thousands and millions of people are affected by a virus! Hence, it is more likely that we don't take it seriously!
Secondly, the human mind intuitively is not able to visualize exponential growth as well. If a virus is growing exponentially and all of a sudden it outbreaks throughout the world, everybody is shocked and taken aback! Even though the virus is raising a specific exponential factor through the growth curve! For the demonstration let's imagine a lake, with a species of frog in it, which reproduces once in a day. So, on day one, there is one frog, two on day two, four on day three, eight on day four, so on and so forth. Let's assume that it takes (two months) 60 days for frogs to cover the lake completely, when do we think the lake will be covered halfway. You will be shocked to know that the answer is 59 days!
Moreover, according to the mathematics involved, it takes as long as 54 days to even cover the lake with 1% of the lake! It takes a very long time to cover a small fraction of lake with frog, and then all of a sudden, it takes an amazingly short time to spread from nearly empty to complete pond in a week! The same analogy can be used to explain the coronavirus outbreak, which has an exponential factor of an average of 1.5 for every day!
The virus is arguably non-living by itself. It is nothing but a hull around few proteins, and genetic material, which, when comes in contact with any person, starts its journey from hand, mouth, eye, nose, etc. to the lungs of the infected person. When it reaches the lungs, it multiplies exponentially and affects the lungs, up until this point of time, the infected person feels none to mild symptoms of dry cough and fever. But, after the virus has infected the lungs, it attacks the immune system and creates more copies of itself. The infected person becomes the epicenter of the virus again to spread again to any other person through cough, touch, or breath. Since we do not have any scientific vaccine to kill the bacteria till date, we should socially re-engineer ourselves to behave as a social vaccine. There are only two things that we need to take care of, one, not getting infected, the other is not infecting others. Although it might sound very orthodox but washing hands with soap actually is an excellent remedy for fighting against the virus, but since the solution to the problem is so simple, people tend to overlook it. The coronavirus, as stated earlier is nothing but a hull around some proteins and genetic materials, the soap that we use breaks the hull which is made up of fats, which renders the virus unable to infect you. Moreover, how conscious we should be while washing our hands, you ask. Imagine that you were just cutting chilies and you have to wear your contact lens now, how fiercely will you wash your hands is the answer to your question.
There many other aspects in which this epidemic can be viewed. We will be covering them in the next few articles. Until then, it might not be the best experience to maintain social distancing and quarantine for a while. But, it is of very much importance nonetheless.
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