Slightly shaken – the Beehive


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Several readers have asked about The Beehive. It is the common name for the Executive Wing of New Zealand Parliament Buildings, located at the corner of Molesworth Street and Lambton Quay in Wellington. It has ten stories above ground and four stories below ground. My understanding is that the Prime Minister and her direct staff occupy the ninth floor as well as part of the eighth floor. The building was initially designed by the famed Scottish architect Sir Basil Urwin Spence, OM OBE RA (13 August 1907 – 19 November 1976) and built in the late 1970s using detailed architectural designs done by the New Zealand government architect Fergus George Frederick Sheppard (1908 – 1997).

Unshaken and hardly stirred


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Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand has been making exemplary
decisions for her country during the COVID-19 interlude.  She was being interviewed on
television when an earthquake struck. According to the USGS it was a  Richter 5.6,
although NZGS measured it as R 5.8. Both had the epicenter offshore up near Palmerston North (North Island; west shore). The interview was at the famed “Beehive” building, which would be where Parliament meets. The building is designed to absorb seismic forces by swaying slightly on its foundations.

Some quotes

“We’re just having a bit of an earthquake here, Ryan,” Prime Minister Ardern told Auckland-based AM Show presenter Ryan Bridge, briefly looking concerned as she scanned the room around her.
“Quite a decent shake here, if you see things moving behind me,” she said, smiling, as she quickly regained her poise and continued the interview. “The Beehive moves a little more than most.”
“It’s just stopped,” she said. “We’re fine, I’m not under any hanging lights, I look like I’m in a structurally sound place.”

“In my mind constantly, as the prime minister of the ‘Shaky Isles’, is — no matter what’s going on in our lives — we must always be prepared for that,” she told reporters.

However, besides the R 5.6 versus R 5.8 discrepancy (1.585 times stronger; 1.995 times as much energy) USGS reports two Richter 4 aftershocks: a R4.2 3 hours later and a R 4.1 about 10 hours later as well as a Richter 4.5 10 days ago. The latter (blue dot) was some 50 miles east – over a slight mountain range and along the eastern coast, so I am not convinced it was a true foreshock.


NZGS mentions 45 aftershocks – see the attached screenshot. I am a bit disturbed by the differences between US and NZ measures by the differences between US and NZ measures.



Comin’ into Los Angelees


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to rhyme with ‘keys’ as pronounced by Arlo Guthrie and many others.

On  March 16 San Francisco Bay Area counties mandated that all residents stay at home, but Los Angeles officials said it didn’t make sense because far fewer cases of the coronavirus had been detected there. L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer: “We don’t have the same trajectory that they have up north.”

Ten weeks Los Angeles now has the highest rate of deaths from COVID-19 in California, and the second highest infection rate. Granted, the slower start did not help. But Los Angeles has high-density neighborhoods (this virus loves overcrowding), as well as high rates of poverty, homelessness and smog.

County               Population                 Cases                  Deaths

Los Angeles      10,098,052                 44,121                  2,042

San Diego            3,302,833                   6,559                     222

Orange                 3,164,182                   5,336                        88

Riverside             2,282,296                   6,464                      270

San Bernardino  2,135,483                  4,315                       157

Santa Clara          1,922,200                  2,571                        139

Alameda               1,643,700                  2,847                          92

Sacramento          1,510,023                 1,289                          56

Contra Costa         1,133,247                 1,321                          33

Fresno                       978,130                 1,448                          17

Kern                           883,053                1,824                           25

San Francisco           870,044                2,367                           40

It appears that Los Angeles’ population is NOT older than the rest of the state – it might even be slightly younger. Los Angeles residents were NOT more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity compared with the rest of the state. It is tough from a model’s perspective to argue that 6 days of delay in locking down (= 1.5 virus generations) made a big difference. Stay tuned.

Nevada earthquake


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from some emails exchanged with George Pararas-Carayannis currently sequestered in Greece.

Currently, the USGS rates it as a Richter 6.5.
The epicenter was in Nevada and calculated to be 40 miles from Tonopah (population about 2500; the county seat of Nye County and about midway between Las Vegas and Reno), which makes it pretty remote. I am thankful it was not further west as it would have been on either side of the San Francisco Bay.
In the two weeks leading up to the event there were 5 scattered Richter 3s – under sufficient magnification there were actually three Richter 3s about 30 miles west (yellow circles). The Richter 6.5 itself was at 11:03 UTC, with no warning. It was followed by 37 aftershocks: remarkably, there was no immediate primary aftershock, but there was  Richter 5.1 about 23 minutes later three with Richter 3s and four Richter 4s in between. There have followed 24 Richter 3s and 5 Richter 4s (as of 14:00 UTC).
I noted in passing: “There continue to be remarkably few Richter 2 (less than Richter 2.99) earthquakes recently on and around Puerto Rico. And none in the rest of the Caribbean.”
Speaking of which, if there were a major earthquake (with or without tsunami) has any estimated what might happen to COVID-19? That’s really several questions:
1. Would there be an increase in new cases (how would testing be done)? One would expect a lot of airborne debris
2. Would first responders be more vulnerable?
3. If hospitals are already at capacity (or beyond) what could be done for the injured?
[would hospitals face the ugly choice of discharging COVID-19 patients to get space for trauma patients]?
4. there be a change in existing COVID-19 cases – either longer infections or more severe ones?
To readers:
For fans of the late Lowell George of Little Feat there is the song “Willin‘” on the albums Little Feat, Sailin’ Shoes, and Waiting for Columbus in which there are the lines 


And I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonopah.
I’ve driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made;
driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed.


Is this a reference to Tonopah, Arizona (a census-designated place, population 1,400) or Tonopah, Nevada or a deliberate ambiguity?

For the curious, if Arizona, the mythical truck driver would likely have been hauling supplies for the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.



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from an email sent to the esteemed George Pararas-Carayannis

I have attached a small spreadsheet of May data.
If the data is to be trusted, it has good news and some not so good news.
The good news:
1. So far, in May the number of confirmed cases has slowed dramatically –
    A. averaging almost 13 new cases per day
    B. only two days with 21
    C. four days with single digits
2. the number of confirmed deaths has also slowed dramatically
    A. averaging ONE death per day
    B. only one day with 3 deaths and 2 days with 2 deaths – five days with just one
    C. four days with zero deaths – I am hoping that is not some sort of statistical anomaly
3. the number of people in intensive care has remained less than 40 – it had been in the 90s in April. Of course, it is useful to ask if people left intensive care because they recovered fully; because they recovered enough to just be hospitalized; or because they died. I think ICU outcomes should be published.
The not so good news
4. the number of reported recoveries has stayed at 1374. That does not seem right.
5. the testing is too slow
6. cases should be tallied by strain. I would expect that Greek data will show domination by the D614G strain (see earlier blog entries) starting in March.
7. I have mixed feelings about testing for antibodies – I am not sure what tests would be available (I know of more than 10) in Greece nor how accurate they are. There is also the question of what do antibodies protect one from – and for how long
8. I did not see any data on hospitalizations
As you know (far better than I), Greece will be stating its relaxation. I would think it very important to have accurate data and to watch it very carefully. Of particular concern is tracking people who have gone negative positive (got COVID-19) negative (recovered) and then are positive again (relapse or reinfect).
The numbers are small enough that Greece could (and should) consider full contact-tracing. I appreciate Greece is made up of about 6,000 islands, although only 227 are

Recent COVID-19 Genetics


, , , , has a 33 page paper on some alarming findings regarding mutations in the COVID-19 virus.
Bette Korber, the study team lead, is a 30 year veteran from Los Alamos National Labs. Her PhD is from CalTech, and she has been mostly an AIDS specialist. Scientists from
Duke University and the University of Sheffield (England) also worked on the study.
Basically, the COVID-19 virus has two parts: about 30,000 base pairs of RNA (about the size of a single human DNA gene – one of our 24,000) and a protein wrapper known as
“the spike”. A mutation, currently known as D614G, makes the spikes more effective at punching a hole in human cells. This generally means more people will get sicker 
faster. So far, the strains with this mutation are able to out-compete the other 40-odd strains. Two implications are (1) current vaccine and cure candidates will have to be tested against D614G strains and (2) it may be possible to get COVID-19 more than once.  
I regret to report the paper was mostly focused on Washington and New York states – no (zero) California data yet. I would expect that the results here, particularly for Los Angeles, would be that strains with the D614G mutation have been the dominant infections since
something like April 20. 
Perhaps legislators would be interested in facilitating county level data that tracks the percentage of D614G mutations. Of particular interest is whether D614G infections cause higher hospitalization and death rates.

Looking backward


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One of the cool contributions of cosmology was to be able to construct mathematical simulations to in effect run the Universe backwards so as to arrive at the Big Bang.
Obviously, cosmologists did not need current measurements of star positions and velocities, or even measurements of galaxies.
On a more limited scale, and despite deplorable data, I have been trying to run the epidemiological equations backwards. What I get after a lot of simulations is very high likelihood that there were initially FIVE COVID-19 transmissions to the United States in middle to late OCTOBER
1. Vancouver/Seattle from China
2. Los Angeles from China
3. New York City from Europe
4. northern New Jersey from Europe
5. Florida from Europe
one common strain from China; two strains from Europe
The simulations also strongly suggest the first cases were in southern China in late June or early July and that the first cases in Europe were in September. If this is at all accurate it does not speak well of our diagnostic abilities or of our testing. However, to be fair to doctors and patients, the vast majority of cases could have been asymptomatic. A key problem is that it would normally take a scientist months and months to get a paper written, reviewed and published. Obviously, some far faster process is required to communicate.

The Bright Lights of the Big City Beckon


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  1. The various strains of the coronavirus going by the name COVID-19 attack humans without regard for race, religion, gender or age.
  2. As far as I am aware, no professional geneticist has published anything affirming or denying any human DNA assets or liabilities.
  3. That means a person’s ability to survive is powerfully influenced by access to hospitalization, intensive care, existing medical conditions and one’s individual immune system.
  4. Whether diet, air quality and water quality are significant factors remains to be seen. Food banks and similar organizations are trying to keep nutrition from becoming a determinant, but it is mostly too late to do anything about air and water, although those might improve slightly due less traffic and less industry.
  5. A vaccine would appear to be many months away, and finding a cure would be a miracle. Of concern is that COVID-19 has produced mutations at a brisk pace. As the number of humans infected increases so does the chance that COVID-19 will become more lethal.
  6. COVID-19 is a very relentless enemy – and it will not make any strategic blunders. COVID-19 is very simple: some RNA and a protein: that is not much of an attack surface, and there is no vector or reservoir required as there is with malaria and Ebola.
  7. One serious problem is that we are very social creatures and we like to live in urban environments. COVID-19 is driven by density so cities are juicy targets.
  8. The United States has a population about 330 million or about 4% of our Planet Earth’s current stock of humans. The United States has currently tested under 1% of its population – it is likely well over 2 million of those people will need re-tests. There have been about 640,000 positives and about 30,000 deaths – those would be early stage results. The state of Illinois has a population of just under 13 million. There have been 125,000 tests performed (still about 1%) with about 25,000 positives and about 1,000 deaths. The Chicago metropolitan area has a population of nearly 9.5 million or about 75% of the state population. Cook County has a population of about 2.7 million so about one Illinois resident in five lives in Cook County. About two thirds of the Illinois confirmed cases and deaths have been in Cook County. While we are strongly in favor of more detailed data, especially if the quality is much better than the current disappointments, our worry would be that 600 deaths are just a hint of the future. We would think mayor needs to at the very least be concerned about what is to be done if the deaths climb toward 100,000.

[As of May 24th the state of Illinois has over 110,000 confirmed cases and 5,000 deaths. Cook County has 72,000 confirmed cases and 3,500 deaths].

Tai Chi Chuan and lightbulbs


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Question: How many Tai Chi Chuan practitioners does it take to change a light bulb?
One answer is “10. One to change the light bulb and 9 to say, ‘Oh, we do it differently at our school'”
A more detailed answer is
Chen stylists have no need of light bulbs are they are naturally bright.
Sun stylists only use light bulbs at night. It is NOT true that Sun stylists sleep with night lights. Well, not all of them.
Practical Method followers use candles
Wu stylists use really small light bulbs such as those found on Christmas trees …
Sacred style Tai Chi practitioners (from a Taoist monastery in the Wudang Mountains) observe that a Taoist light bulb is always changing
In keeping with their emphasis on large circles Yang stylists only deal with fluorescent tubes
Zhaobao stylists paint half the light bulb black. No one is sure why.
No one knows of any Wu Hao stylists – let alone what they do with light bulbs
Bagua Zhang has uniquely shaped light bulbs that can absorb light and produce electricity
Xing Yi Chuan uses glass spearheads – when thrust through the air at high velocities the friction causes the glass to heat up and eventually glow.

New York City numbers


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from the famed Johns Hopkins map at 4:19 AM on 4/7 (map time)

  1. world – 1,360,039 cases and 75.973 deaths
  2. United States – 368,449 cases (27%) and 11,008 deaths
  3. New York State 131,830 cases and 4,758 deaths
  4. New York City 72,181 cases and 3,845 deaths

New York State Department of Health COVID-19 tracker

3. New York State 130,689 cases and 4,758 deaths

4. New York City – depends on whether one uses residence or place of fatality. The numbers are 3,485 and 3,575, respectively. The cases (the sum of the five boroughs) are 72,181.

New York City Department of Health (as of 4/6 5 PM)

4. 68,776 cases and 2,738 deaths

New York City Department of Health pdf (as of April 7 9:30 AM)

4. 72,324 cases and 3202 deaths