Amoeba’s Lorica: How Dense Is Your State?

No. Not <= that kind of dense. Though Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba is entirely too aware of how much of that is going around.

This => kind of dense is what YFNA means. Though you may be forgiven, dear reader, if you’ve forgotten what a crowd looks like in the time of COVID. Keep your distance, foul leper unclean.

But, social distancing or no social distancing, there’s no concealing the fact that there’s a crowd of people in the United States of America in the year 2021 CE. In case you missed it, the USA is currently the third most populous nation on Earth, squeezing more than 300 million people against those border walls that are kinda sorta still getting built, maybe. Only China and India, with nearly 1.5 billion (with a B) people each, have got more human mouths to feed, and spew carbon dioxide, than Murica has got. 

So how crowded is that, really? And, what does it matter? After all, in an earlier exercise, YFNA found that density – of either kind – hasn’t mattered a whole lot when it comes to trying to explain where and how SARS-CoV-2 is distributed across the USA.

Turns out that China, the most populous nation in the world, only ranks 58th in population density. Italy, to name one, packs in more peeps per square mile than China does. (No one seems to have attempted calculations of population density per woke mile in any jurisdiction, a piece of potentially significant information lacking from discussions of diversity and inclusion.)

India, no. 2 in total numbers of people, is only the 19th-most densely populated country, though its neighbor Bangladesh, once part of India, ranks 6th and is the most densely populated nation that is not a geographically tiny city-state like Monaco or Singapore.

If you were born in the USA, Bruce? You live in the 145th most densely populated nation, and there are only 194 nations on the list. How the hell, with all that wide-open space, could COVID-19 have ever gotten established here? People must have wanted the government to expand unemployment benefits that badly

So, YFNA was contemplating all this, as usual while he was supposed to be doing something else, and he realized (it had something to do with a waking nightmare involving a high school history teacher, back when elephants had fur) that the USA is a union of states. What if each state were counted as an independent nation? How would each stack up, in terms of population density, against the sovereign nations of the world? 

Behold, the table. Clicking/tapping on it should make it bigger. (The ‘something else’ is still waiting to be done, of course.)

And, the takehomes.

  • Only New Jersey has more people in it per square mile than India.
  • Florida and China have similar population densities, and should be able to commiserate on the associated challenges. It is, however, hard to imagine a US state that is less likely than Florida to commiserate with China on anything.
  • New Hampshire, which tends to pride itself on its uniqueness, is the most average state in the Union in terms of world population density.
  • Missouri is near the geographic center of the USA and is also at the midpoint of the population density distribution among US states.
  • Nebraska is what Russia would be like if Russia were at a habitable latitude. (See Alaska, which was once part of Russia.) There is, to date, no evidence of Nebraskan interference in Russian elections.
  • There is no truth to the rumor that Canada will use its similar population density figures to justify annexation of the Dakotas.
  • There is also no truth to rumors that Genghis Khan Appreciation Societies have sprung up in Wyoming, though downloads of songs by The HU may have increased. The state is being closely watched for signs of unrest or aspirations of world conquest.

Mind you, all the USA’s wide-open spaces haven’t prevented it from ranking 10th (of 22o countries and territories) in the total number of COVID-19 cases per million people, between the start of the pandemic and 16 May 2021. For all of its recent (and intensively publicized) difficulties, India is only 108th on this list. China is no. 213. The differences can only be attributed to population density.

The other kind.

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Amoeba’s Lorica: Meme-ories 33 (Centers for Disease Control and Propagation)

Yesterday [13 May 2021], the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] effectively acknowledged it had fallen behind the scientific evidence: Even though that evidence has not changed in months, the C.D.C. overhauled its guidelines. It said fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks in most settings, including crowded indoor gatherings.

The change sends a message: Vaccination means the end of the Covid crisis, for individuals and ultimately for society. If you’re vaccinated, Covid joins a long list of small risks that we have long accepted without upending our lives, like riding in a car, taking a swim or exposing ourselves to the common cold.

The announcement also sends a message to the unvaccinated (who, the C.D.C. emphasized, should continue wearing masks in most settings): Life is starting to return to normal, and a vaccine shot is your best protection against a deadly virus.

A health care CEO responded: “I’m ecstatic about this news! It’s evidence-based and it’s bold. I hope that the updated guidelines incentivize more people to get vaccinated.” – Morning Newsletter, The New York Times [edited]

WASHINGTON, DC (API*): [Breaking News] The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has closed its doors, effective immediately.

Visitors to the AAAS website discover that the site has been taken down, replaced by a splash screen announcing the closure, and that its home office in DC has been sold to lobbyists for the Keystone Pipeline and other fossil-fuel energy providers. A similar announcement has been posted to LinkedIn. All other social media accounts are dark, with no posted explanation.

A former AAAS staff member spoke with API on condition of anonymity. “The CDC announcement was the last straw”, she said, visibly angry.

“Any authentic scientist knows that ‘months’ of data amount to nothing. Especially given the piddling amounts of money given to the scientists to collect those data. And heaven help the scientists should those ‘months’ of data be in error. Do you have any idea how much it burns to discover that the very same environmentalists and environmental organizations that slammed nuclear power in favor of the continuation of fossil fuel energy consumption, and have slammed scientists for decades for daring to suggest that the nuclear energy risks were overstated, now are clamoring for nuclear energy as the safest option available in the context of the climate change that their activism has helped to bring about?!?

“For the CDC to suggest ‘an end to the Covid crisis’ when the data tell us that the daily increase in cases, and deaths, is at its highest level ever, is telling science to sit on it and spin. Oh right, most of those new cases are in India. That’s way over there, and dark people. We don’t care, now do we?

“Speaking of deaths. Three million of them, boo hoo. Does anybody bother to mention that those deaths have offset a whole two weeks of human population growth since the beginning of 2020? So that instead of having 125 million more people on the planet now than we did in January 2020, we now have ‘only’ 122 million? Covid-19 has always been a ‘small risk’ on the scale of global pandemics through history, and this has been clear to scientists from the get-go. But try saying anything about this, try putting this in the context of population biology. And see what thanks you get. So we shut down the world’s economy. Apparently, for nothing.

“And now we’ve set up badges to identify people who can safely be persecuted. And for why? To keep pharmaceutical companies committed to actually making medicines instead of fun pillsSo their executives can continue to enjoy their personal Dreamliners? Have we learned nothing?

“Never mind. We’ve finally recognized that greed, fear, and the Harvard Law dictate human behavior, and in such a world, science has no place, except as a slave and a target. We are shutting down, and we recommend that our membership, and others who have claimed the ‘scientist’ mantle, likewise shut down, and occupy themselves in activities that society values. Like dressing up as superheroes and going to the movies. And may Apollo protect you.”

The response to the AAAS closure has, to date, been silence. Among the few comments was one from a Venezuelan known only as “Chavez”. “The very name of the AAAS”, Chavez tweeted, “has helped perpetuate the idea that the only peoples in the Americas who matter are those in the United States. Good riddance to the idea, and the organization.”

Law enforcement in DC has neither interfered with, or assisted, the departure of AAAS staff from their former headquarters, nor have they engaged with the building’s new owners and occupants. They are, however, closely watching the tipis and their occupants that have begun to appear on adjacent sidewalks.

* API: Amoeba Press International. All the News That’s Fit to Fake Print.

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Amoeba’s Lorica: Called

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. – Francis Wayland Thurston, 1926 – 1927*

The scientist listened patiently while the much younger man from the Great University “across the pond” pitched, in precise, sincere, earnest detail, his plans for saving the planet.

So intent was the younger man on his pitch that he had neglected to check his computer’s camera settings before starting the call, so that all the scientist saw of the youth throughout the video conference was his nose, his eyes, and the top of his already-balding head. Of this, the scientist said nothing, for though he had himself finished breakfast a mere hour before, for his caller it was well after dinnertime, and yes, graduate students are famous for keeping long, late hours, but there are limits. As, the scientist reminded himself with a wry inward grin, he had himself reason to know; reason to think that, a few short decades ago, the youngster at the other end of the internet could have been himself. So, he listened with compassion, and waited for the ask.

It soon came. The young man, founder and CEO of his new company, had worked out how to make a microorganism suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and trap it so that it could not get back in to the atmosphere, thus (it says right here on the prospectus) stopping, and eventually reversing, the buildup of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning that was threatening Life As We Know It. The trouble was, he and his company could grow a little of this magic microorganism in the laboratory, but in order to make this work, he and his company would have to grow a lot of it, and they didn’t know how. Could the scientist and his company help?

The scientist thought briefly, and with considerable apprehension, about what the Venerable Gentleman would have to say about this. He decided to see if he could get the younger man to give up on the idea without having to be told “No” in so many words.

“It sounds like you have a good idea”, the older man gambited, “there are aspects of your plan that I haven’t had proposed to me before, and haven’t appeared in the papers I’ve read. But I see many obstacles, and a long development time for your project. And do we have that time? From all I’ve seen and read, it looks to me like the only way we’re going to get this carbon dioxide thing under control with anything like the urgency required is to reduce the human population to the levels of the 18th century, and reduce the living standards of the survivors to those current before the Industrial Revolution, also 18th century, all before the end of the decade.”

The response that the scientist expected from this provocation was a huffy, and long, defense of climate change research and entrepreneurship. That response was not what he got. What he did get was this, delivered straight ahead, without any hint of condescension or defensiveness.

“I agree with you.”

After a beat (the scientist thought he kept the shocked surprise off his face, but couldn’t be sure), the young CEO continued. “You clearly see the obvious. The COVID pandemic bought us one year of the kind of global reduction in carbon dioxide that, the physicists and atmospheric scientists tell us, we have to continue reducing, by the same percentage every year, for the rest of the century. The human cost of that one year was horrific, which only massive government spending, on a scale that can’t be repeated, prevented from becoming catastrophe. The social scientists, and the economists, tell us that the cost is politically and economically unsustainable, even for dictatorial regimes. Already the airliners are back in the sky, and the seats are full.

“We feign, following the IT experts, that computers will limit travel and help us save energy, but the ecologists scream that the power needed to keep those computers running has the same carbon footprint as the airlines, and is growing apace, with the massive growth of blockchain-dependent functions such as cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens the major contributors to that growth. And this does not take into account the growing scarcity of the raw materials needed to build computers, or other supposedly ‘green’ technologies such as solar panels, or the huge energy, and carbon, costs of extracting from the ground what’s left of those materials.

“I do not need to insult your intelligence by spelling out, as the agricultural scientists have, the disastrous human consequences of denying fossil-fuel energy to the original green revolution, and to the transportation networks upon which distribution of the agricultural goods made possible by that fossil-fuel energy absolutely depend. And we could solve these problems only to find out from the mineralogists that the planet has run out of fertilizer for the crops.

“Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera”, the man from across the pond concluded. “Every move we make, on the advice of some expert, merely uncovers some more formidable obstacle revealed by some other expert. Not to mention formidable citizen opposition to any of the moves that have already been attempted. We know all this. It is sometimes hard to see any way forward except the draconian measures that you propose.”

“And yet”, the scientist responded, “you and your fellow ‘blue economy’ entrepreneurs persist.”

“We may as well do something“, came the rejoinder.

“I see”, the older man mused. “And dancing naked around piles of burning bodies doesn’t appeal to you?”

“It does not. And that is a most unkind thing to say about Mr Johnson‘s premiership”, the younger man scolded.

“Those who govern do so only by consent of the governed”, the scientist reminded. “Which is why we on this side of the pond still have the Cheeto Mussolini on our hands. And our consciences.”

“My condolences”, the student CEO commiserated. “And I agree, the reluctance, even, I may say, the counterrevolutionary reluctance, of our fellow citizens to contemplate any major change in lifestyles, short of what your generation used to call ‘acts of God’, I believe, is a major obstacle. But we can but try. And this is science. By definition, we don’t know what we’re doing. Which means we don’t know what might work in the end, and we do both ourselves and our society a disservice, to say no more, to claim otherwise.”

“You certainly do yourselves a disservice by turning down chances to profit by society’s distress”, the elder man challenged.

“That too”, the younger one admitted. “Same as you. And if either of us were truly interested in profit, wouldn’t we be doing pornography?”

“Not if the internet gutted that industry’s profitability like I hear it has”, came the retort. “I thought that the game, these days, was to join Reddit investor groups and buy stock in obscure, failing companies.”

“Like … ours?

“What goes up must come down. Hard. I don’t recommend it. What I do recommend is that I take your proposal under advisement, and if I like what I read and my bosses approve, see what we can do about growing your bug at scales that will make a difference.”

“Thank you,” came the conclusion from across the pond. “And, good luck!”

* Lovecraft HP. 1928. “The Call of Cthulhu”, opening paragraph. Weird Tales, February 1928.

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