COVID-19 and the ‘Wheat and Chess Board Problem’
I’m seeing so many people struggling with understanding why our nation (and other nations) are essentially in lockdown, especially when “more people die of flu” and “just a tiny few have been identified so far“.
Do you understand how quickly the growth of a virus can move throughout humans? The wheat and chess board problem below is a great illustration of how exponential growth works — similar to how a virus spreads in a human population — and why the governmental reaction is happening to restrict our movements at this point in time.
THE CALIFORNIA EXAMPLE
As of yesterday, all non-essential services in my current State of California are shut down and people are mandated to “shelter in place” so as not to communicate the novel coronavirus to others. But why is this happening now?
According to How overwhelmed is California’s health care system about to be? California may not even be able to handle the surge of COVID-19 cases with the current hospital beds:
“Projections by state health officials have indicated that California hospitals could handle a surge — right now, statewide — of about 10,000 patients. But given the potential for the virus to spread so far and so fast, some models project the state could need twice that, closer to 20,000 extra hospital beds.”
A few facts about the State of California and the death rate and the state’s ventilator need is in order:
- As of the end of 2018, the population of California is 39.56 million people.
- Approximately 3.4% of people 60+ years of age are dying from the virus. Others in multiple younger age ranges are ending up with lung damage and both require ventilators to survive or minimize that lung damage.
Yesterday California Governor Newsom made announcements and sent a letter to the Trump administration stating that 56 percent of the state’s population — 25.5 million people — is projected to be infected with the coronavirus over an eight-week period.
With California’s citizenry being left to move about as before the virus emerged, the projection is that within two months a whopping 25.5 million people would have COVID-19 and therefore 3.4% of 25.5 million = 850,000 dead (and an unknown number of younger people with lung damage).
THE WHEAT AND CHESS BOARD – A LINEAR VS. EXPONENTIAL GROWTH EXPLANATION
The reason for the lockdowns is that the deaths are caused by acute respiratory failure requiring ventilators for those afflicted. If there aren’t enough ventilators the death rate goes way up.
The spread of a virus, especially one as communicable as this novel coronavirus, is exponential…and that’s the problem. Left unchecked (i.e., we were NOT locked down) the virus would spread exponentially.
You maybe saying, “Steve…I still don’t get how or why it would grow so fast and why the government’s numbers of people infected are so high.” It’s not your fault if you don’t understand since your brain understands linear growth easily, but your brain is NOT good at understanding exponential growth.
Linear growth is always at the same rate, whereas exponential growth increases in speed over time. If the coronavirus spread at a linear growth rate the numbers are larger than most people can understand since they are so enormous.
To understand both types of growth, let’s look at a chess board which has 64 squares on it and is one where you place grains of wheat on each square.
1) Linear growth is always at the same rate, so this is easy when you put one grain of wheat each day for 64 days. At the end of 64 days you have 64 grains of wheat.
2) How many grains of wheat would be on the chessboard when you finish with exponential growth? Since exponential growth increases in speed over time — just like a virus would spread — let’s see what happens when you double the number of grains each day for 64 days like you would if you were at the mall, in a restaurant, and moving about as you did normally before the virus hit:
- FIRST DAY: You place one grain of wheat on the first square on the chess board
- SECOND DAY: You double the grains of wheat on the second chess board square … so now there are two grains on that second square
- THIRD DAY: You double the grains again and now you have four grains on the third chess board square
- FOURTH DAY: You double the grains again and now you have eight grains on the fourth chess board square
- FOURTH THROUGH 64TH DAY: For the next two months continue to double the grains each day and place them on each subsequent square.
At the end of 64 days you would have 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 quadrillion grains of wheat! (NOTE: A quadrillion is a thousand trillion).
THAT is why we are in lockdown and trying hard to flatten the curve, performing social distancing, and trying to stop the exponential spread of this virus until a vaccine (and other mitigation strategies) can be found.
Here’s an interesting video to give you an idea on how quickly exponential growth occurs:
Watch the Net Neutrality Senate Livestream on June 11th
Since I care (as we all should) about privacy, security, government surveillance, third-party trackers, and all the other downsides that have already happened to this thing we love called the internet, WE ALL need to stand up and make our voices heard about the recent bill passage to gut net neutrality. That's why I just donated (and have continued to donate) to the Fight for the Future cause and will be watching the livestream next Tuesday, June 11th, to see what is happening and to leverage social media to bring attention to it.
One year ago, Big Cable’s dream came true: they killed net neutrality, giving ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T control over what we see and do online. Millions of people demanded that Congress restore net neutrality. In response, the House of Representatives passed the landmark Save the Internet Act. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — who has taken over $1 million in campaign donations from Big Cable — is refusing to allow his branch of Congress to vote on this popular bill. So on June 11th, net neutrality supporters in the Senate will try to force a vote using a procedure called “Unanimous Consent.”
How can you help?
We’re organizing an epic livestream so that millions of everyday people just like you can watch their lawmakers, and hold their lawmakers accountable for their actions … or inaction. Fill out the form above and tell Congress why you support net neutrality. We'll make sure your comment gets hand-delivered to Congress, and we'll be reading our favorite comments during the livestream on June 11th. You can also spread the word on social media to make sure everyone knows what's happening.
Watch the livestream on June 11th
We are having solar installed on our new home. In less than five years our cost for electricity will be nearly zero
Solar power generation is awesome … especially when it enables a person’s electricity consumption to become nearly free within a handful of years. Solar is a smart investment for us personally in our new home and could be for you, too.
BUYING A SOLAR INSTALLATION WAS A NO-BRAINER FOR US
When we moved from Minnesota to California in June of 2018, we knew costs for everything would be higher. We expected that any new home we would buy would cost a lot more (our new home cost nearly double the value of the home we sold back in MN), but what we did not expect was the high cost of electricity!
In Minnesota we had Xcel Energy whose cost for electricity around-the-clock was 11.7 cents per kilowatt hour. Our new home here in southern California happens to be located in San Diego Gas & Electric‘s (SDGE) region, and it turns out that their electricity cost is the highest in the nation!
SDGE’s pricing plans are numerous, but the year-long average per-kilowatt hour cost — which prospective solar install companies used to calculate our solar system size — was going to be roughly 32 cents per kilowatt hour, nearly 3X what energy cost us when we were living in Minnesota.
On almost all of those SDGE plans there are off-peak, super off-peak and on-peak rates (and one plan even has a cheap car-charging rate from midnight to 6am of only $.09 per kilowatt hour). The on-peak rates are in effect during the summer months — which run from June 1 – October 31 during the 4-9pm time-frame — and what stunned us was the rate during those five hours each day can cost up to $.53 cents per kilowatt hour!
Because of that unexpectedly expensive energy, a few weeks after we closed on our new home we immediately set about learning everything we could about solar, what we needed and what it would cost. We then set about finding the four “best” solar install companies and have them propose a solar panel solution. We selected the best installer for our requirements, signed-up, and everything is in motion.
Within the next several weeks our new solar panel installation will be complete on top of our new home and, based on our projected energy use for the year, our break-even on our solar investment is expected to be 4.8 years. After that our only cost for electricity will be approximately $12 per month for the SDGE “interconnect fee,” which covers the electric meter on our house and account management by them.
Energy rates continue to accelerate and I’ve read numerous articles on the projected 20 year rates that SDGE has received agreement on with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). However, this article from less than a month ago said this:
If approved by CPUC commissioners, average electricity rates in SDG&E’s service territory would increase from 26.25 cents a kilowatt-hour this year to 27.4 cents next year, a rise of 4.54 percent. For a typical residential customer living in the company’s inland climate zone and using 500 kilowatt-hours a month, a bill during a summer month would increase $5.59, according to SDG&E estimates.
I’ve seen SDGE’s own projections and 4.5% per year price accelerator is expected. So as each year passes, our investment in solar energy will pay off even faster and continue to look like a very smart move on our part. But solar (or wind) alone will help combat climate change, but even if every one of the 2,500 homes in our development went solar, it wouldn’t make a serious dent in the emission of greenhouse gases in to the atmosphere.
For our system being installed, our estimated net electricity cost savings over 25 years will be over $82,000 (assuming a 4% per year utility price escalator). That’s why it was a no-brainer for us to get solar!
Obviously our solar generation will go back in to the grid and offset all of our energy use, including at night. In fact, we’ll be adding about 30% more energy back in to the grid than we consume, just in case we end up with two electric cars at some point and need that extra amount to offset an increase in our consumption.
WHAT ABOUT ENERGY STORAGE?
We drive hybrid cars (and I’m getting a plug-in hybrid in two weeks that will cover 90% of our driving needs on electric) since both my wife and I believe in climate change and that the United States must move forward toward a clean energy future and away from carbon emitting fossil fuels. Charging my PHEV from solar will be easy and free in the near-term, but with energy demand increasing monthly in the United States and around the world, we at least considered buying battery storage to run essential systems (e.g., the refrigerator and some lights).
As such, we also looked at the addition of solar energy battery storage in our garage. Unfortunately batteries are far too expensive and not worth the investment currently (e.g., one Tesla PowerWall is $12,000 and we’d need four of them to be completely energy self-contained) so we’re holding off on storage, perhaps permanently.
As part of our analysis and reading, my wife and I also talked about large-scale battery storage, just in case renewable energy creation does reach critical mass here in California and more energy from solar goes back in to the grid. What might happen if SDGE begins to embrace battery storage for solar-produced energy?
The green energy storage problem is too expensive right now, but we’ll keep an eye on it.
TRUMP & THE GOP DENIGRATING RENEWABLES
It pisses me off that the Trump administration continues to try to gut clean energy spending with his proposed budget that does exactly that. It is clear that this current administration, and Republicans who support Trump’s position on clean energy, continue to position climate change as a “hoax” and the oil & gas industry as “the future” of energy.
Remember when one of the key talking points for the GOP (for decades) was toward less dependence on foreign oil? That wasn’t positioning for renewables, that was positioning for more drilling (and now for fracking shale to squeeze out oil and get natural gas).
Do either Trump or the GOP think that all of their own base of supporters and constituents are too stupid to think for themselves? Such idiots that they don’t believe in science? Though I don’t think President Trump is even capable of thinking deeply about any issue, Republicans should at least realize that even corporations are calling for action on climate change and they’d better stop being dumbf*cks, sucking-up to the oil & gas industry.
Also, I’m glad I’m not alone in my outrage and found this hilarious:
Millennials Disappointed in Business & Not Prepared for Industry 4.0
Catching up on news and information this weekend I was intrigued when I came across this new 2018 Millennial Survey by the consulting giant Deloitte. It confirms many of the things about the Millennial generation that I’ve been observing, especially amongst those I know personally. Almost without exception the Millennials I know are exhibiting enormous distrust in business and bemoan the lack of ethics, morals, values and the increasing despair they feel when it comes to both business and government.
Add to that the low wage growth globally — all while the top earners accumulate most of the wealth like those here in the United States — and that adds to the despair. Who wouldn’t be angry if you had accrued huge student debt, housing prices had exploded so high that you couldn’t even afford to buy your first home, and you watched as bankers, business leaders and others raked in most of the monetary spoils in the economy?
While you can download and read the report yourself — which is focused on business and not government but is a fascinating read nonetheless — the executive summary sums up the essence of the survey and its results:
Following a troubling year, where geopolitical and social concerns gave rise to a new wave of business activism, millennials and Gen Z are sounding the alarm, according to Deloitte’s seventh annual Millennial Survey. Millennials’ opinions about business’ motivations and ethics, which had trended up the past two years, retreated dramatically this year, as did their sense of loyalty. And neither generation is particularly optimistic about their readiness for Industry 4.0. Their concerns suggest this is an ideal time for business leaders to prove themselves as agents of positive change. The findings are based on the views of more than 10,000 millennials questioned across 36 countries and more than 1,800 Gen Z respondents questioned in six countries. The survey was conducted 24 November 2017 through 15 January 2018.
Millennials recognize that we’re all in this together and that cooperation is key to our survival, growth, peace, and brings meaning to our lives.
This survey was across 36 countries but thinking just of the United States of America, democracy doesn’t work if it’s every person for his or her self. When business regulations mean it’s OK to do just about anything if it means increasing the bottom line. When our country’s leader moves in the opposite direction on climate change, the environment, while lying like a rug and disparaging our intelligence agencies, journalism, other countries, and everything else but himself.
Millennials are done with this crap (as is 50% of the country) but they are in the driver’s seat when it comes to affecting change: They’ll inherit this country and are the ones who can remake it. They will demand business puts on their big-boy pants and realizes we’re all in this together, and act like it in all dealings. I do believe this next generation will make America great again by demanding we bring back compassion, truth, ethics, values, and a vision of global cooperation.
The Treatment for Steve Borsch
What happens when you discover that there is a virtually guaranteed, life-saving or life-prolonging new drug — made specifically to target the exact genetics of you, your child, your spouse, or a best friend — but it costs $600,000 or $1,000,000 dollars a year?
Your health insurance company and Medicare will have to turn you down, that’s what.
Let me tell you a quick story about my first exposure to a strategic-level thinker who was with an organization already way out in front when thinking about this problem. They already knew that this type of genetic medicine (also known as personalized or precision medicine) would change the future of healthcare…and maybe not in a good way if not affordable.
In the year 2000 I led a sales effort at the web content management company Vignette, working to close a deal with UnitedHealth Group (UHG) and met one such strategic-level thinker. UHG’s information technology (I.T.) group had a CEO who was seeking an enterprise-wide layer that could sit on top of all of their business systems and put them online as websites. Since this was a multiple-million dollar deal, I brought in my CEO to meet with UHG’s I.T. group CEO to finalize all the details.
At that meeting my CEO excused himself for a bathroom break and I was left to talk with UHG’s I.T. CEO. Making small talk I asked him, “With respect to technology, what keeps you and your senior level colleagues up at night?‘ His response was “the treatment for Steve Borsch.”
Chuckling I said “No seriously…what does keep you up at night?” He again emphasized, “The treatment specifically for you.” That provocative leading statement then launched us in to a discussion about the mapping of the human genome, customized treatments for a specific individual which would arrive within 10-15 years, and how those customized treatments — if mandated by Congress to be paid for by health insurance companies — would absolutely put those health insurance companies out of business!
It was certainly exciting when the human genome was sequenced for the first time. The promise of genetic medicine — which would be targeted to an individual’s exact genetics — might be able to “fix” just about any medical ill facing any of us. The reality is that it just might fix previously untreatable ills, but at what cost and who will pay for it?
Self-Driving Cars by 2030 Will Decimate the Auto Industry BUT Will Save Consumers $1 Trillion & Grow The Economy!
A new research report by the think-tank RethinkX was just published today and has some startling forecasts (my bold and in red):
We are on the cusp of one of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruptions of transportation in history. By 2030, within 10 years of regulatory approval of autonomous vehicles (AVs), 95% of U.S. passenger miles traveled will be served by on-demand autonomous electric vehicles owned by fleets, not individuals, in a new business model we call “transport- as-a-service” (TaaS). The TaaS disruption will have enormous implications across the transportation and oil industries, decimating entire portions of their value chains, causing oil demand and prices to plummet, and destroying trillions of dollars in investor value — but also creating trillions of dollars in new business opportunities, consumer surplus and GDP growth.
The impacts of TaaS they predict will be both exciting and frightening — if you’re in the transportation business — but the savings for the rest of us (and increased GDP growth) is amazing (again, my bold):
- Savings on transportation costs will result in a permanent boost in annual disposable income for U.S. households, totaling $1 trillion by 2030. Consumer spending is by far the largest driver of the economy, comprising about 71% of total GDP and driving business and job growth throughout the economy.
- Productivity gains as a result of reclaimed driving hours will boost GDP by an additional $1 trillion.
- As fewer cars travel more miles, the number of passenger vehicles on American roads will drop from 247 million to 44 million, opening up vast tracts of land for other, more productive uses. Nearly 100 million existing vehicles will be abandoned as they become economically unviable.
- Demand for new vehicles will plummet: 70% fewer passenger cars and trucks will be manufactured each year. This could result in total disruption of the car value chain, with car dealers, maintenance and insurance companies suffering almost complete destruction.
Besides all of the obvious downsides to the Trump Administration opening up National Parks and federal lands to oil drilling and mineral exploration —all while decimating the Environmental Protection Agency and labeling climate change a hoax — the positive economic impacts of using solar for energy production, having autonomous vehicles (especially those that are electric) is just smart (which likely explains why the Trump Administration is against those…but I digress).
There is so much more detail in this report that it is definitely worth your time to go and download it:
Go to the RethinkX Website
Read the Press Release
Download the Report Here
A Story About Genomics & ‘Precision Medicine’
What if you could get a free eBook* that would help you understand a lot more about a field that has already made a big impact on the human race, and is one that is accelerating toward a revolution in precision medicine? A woman uniquely suited to telling this story has already created the eBook prototype and needs your help in getting it to the point of launching.
You’ve heard about DNA, right? How about the term “genomics”? Of course you have since you’re living in 2015 and watch CSI, Sherlock and other shows where they use this field to catch murderers, rapists and those who shed their cells at crime scenes. It’s likely you’ve also read about almost-weekly major breakthroughs in medicine—especially those enabling precision medicine which target treatments at an individual’s unique genetic makeup—but probably thought like I have, “Sounds cool but I kinda, sorta don’t really get the whole genomics thing.”
If you help this woman get the story out, you will be able to “get it” with genomics in an entertaining way (plus I’m going to connect with an education technology leader in my local school district since it will be perfect for school kids).
An artist I’ve known for 25 years, Lynn Fellman, has done amazing work for the last decade on interpreting DNA in to various forms of media, including interactive multimedia back in the 1990s to print, textiles and more today.
She doesn’t toot her own horn enough (which I’m trying to get her to do more of) but she’s been on NPR Science Friday multiple times (and Ira Flatow is a huge, and supportive, fan); a Fulbright scholar within evolutionary genomic research at Ben-Gurion University; and has worked with genomic scientists at Baylor in Texas and at the University of Minnesota.
During a personal healthcare experience she became very frustrated at the lack of DNA knowledge out there and knew she was uniquely suited to do something about it…so she is.
In a few short months she’s built a prototype and just began this crowdfunding campaign to complete her illustrated, interactive eBook. It’s premise is a character looking for precision medicine for herself and for everyone. It is designed for a general audience and its focus is as a guide to understanding our genome.
She asked me for my opinion on her initial beta version of the eBook and I was so surprised and delighted that I encouraged her to move ahead and immediately. When she did I offered to help get the word out and that is why I’m writing this post.
Check it out and please support her so this eBook can get out in to the world. When you go to her crowdfunding page, scroll down and see the incredible gifts you can receive for the various funding levels.
Here is Lynn’s crowdfunding page for the eBook
Learn more about Lynn, her work, & Fellman Studio
*In order to fully deliver on the interactivity, she’s creating it in Apple’s iBook Author (which is the best possible way to deliver interactive eBooks, by the way) and the eBook will be available for free to anyone with a Macintosh computer, iPad, or iPhone.
Housing America’s Older Adults
Yep. I’m getting older, but so are you. Since some of my work is with non-profits focused on seniors and aging, I re-read a study from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University called Housing America’s Older Adults you might be interested in the huge number of 50+’ers there will be in just over 15 years:
America’s older population is in the midst of unprecedented growth. With the aging of the large baby-boom generation and increased longevity, the 50-and over population is projected to increase about 20 percent by 2030, to 132 million. In just 15 years, one in five people will be at least aged 65.
Wow. At least I’ll have some company! Take a peek at the Harvard Symposium AGING + PLACE at YouTube or look at the infographic below for some fun factoids…
A Gene Story by Lynn Fellman
In the not-too-distant future your genetics will inform and guide your healthcare and those that treat you. Your genetics will outline your risk factors. How you will react to medications. What is the optimal course of treatment for all the variables that make up you.
Even though I’ve had my own DNA sequenced and learned a lot about my own makeup, I know so little about the current state of applied genetics as it is applied to one’s personal healthcare that I wish someone would write a book about where the science is at, what is up with all that DNA stuff, and where the science is headed.
Someone is creating that book: Lynn Fellman.
I’ve known illustrator, author, artist, podcaster, and genetic communicator Lynn Fellman since we met in the early 90s in an interactive multimedia group. She’s spent the last decade plus learning about, and communicating on, everything DNA and genomics. To say this woman knows A LOT about genomics is an understatement. So much so that she’s been on NPR’s Science Friday with Ira Flatow (and other radio interview shows) since she can speak so eloquently about the science, and the meaning of, genetics and what it means for all of us.
To show you I’m not the only one that sees the powerful interpretive value Lynn brings to the science, she was recently recognized and granted a Fulbright Scholarship award to Israel for 2014-2015. Lynn will be working with Professor Dan Mishmar, evolutionary biologist at Ben Gurion University. She will be developing a video and lecture about Prof Mishmar’s research in the mitochondrial genome.
With all she knew and all the scientists and genetic leadership organizations Lynn was connected to, she was in for an unpleasant surprise. It happened when she learned she had cancer and needed a personal medical breakthrough. That’s when everything she’s learned came full circle: Lynn realized how far the science has come with genetics, but yet how far it has to go in order to directly benefit those of us who need it.
So Lynn is doing exactly what needs to be done for herself, for the science, and for us: She’s applying all of her media and communication expertise to create an ebook that is perfect for parents, children and even for use in schools! Right now she has a proposal out to various leadership organizations involved in advancing medical genetics in order to obtain full funding to complete this work. (By the way if you, or someone you know, is interested in finding out more or reviewing her proposal, please email Lynn directly).
When finished this will not be some ordinary ebook. I’ve seen a significant amount of her (already pretty far along) ebook prototype and it is a beautifully illustrated, interactive journey through the science…but written as her own adventure and search for genetics application for her situation. The ebook is an adventure we’re on with her and the byproduct (intentional, of course) is that we learn an incredible amount about genetics, all wrapped up in an engaging and delightful story we want to keep reading.
ABOUT THE EBOOK (from Lynn’s website here)
The electronic book titled “Gene Stories” is about genomic science and how it is expanding our ideas about who we are. Blending narration, digital paintings, scientific content and story, the presentation appeals to both parents and their children.
With the advance of whole genome sequencing, the complexity of our genetic ancestry will gradually be understood. Will this knowledge expand our self-perception and cultural identity? This project explores innovative ways to encourage curiosity in our multifaceted ancestry while appreciating the beautiful complexity of human evolution.
The project received support by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) during my residency at NESCent. Designed with iBook Author for viewing on iPads, the book will be available in the iTunes Bookstore in 2015.
If you would like to be informed when the ebook is available for preorder and release, please email Lynn.