Unusual learning from lockdown

Till few months back, humankind believed that they were apex species to rule the world. They mold, tear, clawed and mauled the earth anyway they see fit for their survival. There were talks of sixth extinction but always as part of movie fantasy. It took 4-5 months for virus to bring all those fantasies crashing down to ground of reality and make people realize that they are much closer to the edge then anticipated. One little push and…….

Still life always goes on…..

In this grim period of lock-down, you might be doing all you can to survive as human; social distancing is one of them. And our evolutionary history says that once humans developed their keen sense of socializing, they went far ahead then their ape-competitors. Large groups leaving in harmony was acting agent to allow development of unique kind of weapon called brain. Once cognitive ability expanded like bamboo shoots*, one evolutionary advantage led to others. Take example of cooking. Theory is, once our ancestors who are more akin to apes then homo sapiens sapiens started cooking, they did not require large jawline to chew tough meat and roots. Hence size of the jaws reduced which in turn led to increased cranium that can house large brain; and much larger brainpower. Super fast forwarding to current time, novel corona virus has ironically pressed the ultimate pain point: social bondage. When corona forcing people worldwide to distance themselves from each other and countries worldwide enforcing lock-down and home quarantine, at some places it seems some people are reverting back to their ape-minded psychology, not following lock-down and all. It’s paradox. More we socialize, more human we are or is it the other way around ?

*Scientific fact: Some species of bamboo can grow 910 mm (36 inch) within 24 hours. 

Pondering alone during quarantine had brought some weird sparks for this off the track post. Below are few phenomenon that is scantly or closely related to current COVID-19 situation; somewhat weird, somewhat novel but mostly fun.

Power of exponential

This is for all those who could not comprehend what damage their “insignificant” roaming can cause to all others (especially ticking time bomb of a country in current situation called India)

Now hypothetical example: During quarantine situation, Mr A was in badly need of smoking. He had been careful enough to procure enough stock of his favorite brand of smokes that can last for month or two but forgot all about matchsticks. Mr. A knew that neighbor Mr. B had ample stock of matchboxes. He asked to pass on single matchstick to Mr. B. Given the exploitative circumstances, Mr. B asked 25$ for single matchstick. Mr. A infuriated but complied. While paying for single matchstick Mr. A came up with proposal that Mr. A shall give 25$ everyday to Mr. B as payment of matchstick but Mr. B should give double matchsticks then previous day till month lasts or pay equal amounts to matchsticks. Mr. B had 10$ matchbox having 100 matchstick. And he had many more such matchboxes. He quickly agreed considering simple math that he is getting 25$ for 0.1$ matchstick. What he didn’t know was the power of exponential. After 15 days of such arrangement, Mr A was happy smoker and Mr B was out of all his stock. And as per arrangement, paying price of matchstick to Mr. A that was much larger then he anticipated. You can see below table what went wrong in mere 15 days.

This is exponential growth. Think what could be the scenario at end of quarantined month. Mr. B had to sell his property to pay debt of matchstick. Now think that this is how infection spreads. What I showed is infection spread for single thread exponentially. Each new infected person also have his/her own exponent formula of spreading the infection. Even though some of the numbers died in between, what you deal with is staggering statistics after just 15 days.

So next time you think to wander off for no good reason, think twice of exponential formula.

Occam’s Razor

I believe conspiracy theorists are like those fresh science initiates who have just experienced microscope and observed their first single celled organism. Next, they want everything around them to be observed under microscopic lens. For fun, for fancy or just for curiosity, they keep introducing their microscopic analysis and ideas everywhere.

Is novel corona natural or lab-produced ? is this pandemic part of plan of economic dominance ? Is it to show off the superpower nation how much they are actually in control ? Let conspiracy theories fly. It’s always soothing to have such grand theories. Such theories give psychological “full-stop” to nagging stress inducing unanswered questions and hence our mind leaned towards accepting them.

Occam’s razor stats that if you are presented with multiple theories, weed out the extraneous possibilities using imaginary razor. What simplest solution left is mostly the correct one. This theory was proposed by scholastic philosopher William of Ockham. So think about Occam’s razor next time you press “forward” on online social groups about some crazy but “foolproof” conspiracy theory.

Birding

Technical term used to describe bird watching is called Birding. As a fun side note: male genders of the homo sapiens sapiens species are naturally proficient in birding. The fact is, here birds are classified as female gender of same species and not actual birds. They can accomplish this activity effortlessly ( and sometimes with considerable efforts) at malls, parks, library, colleges, beaches (most likely location of high frequency activity) and all places where opportunity arises. In this tough time of isolation, how the male community coping without “birding” is subject of whole new research and analysis. For time being , enjoy real bird watching instead.

Apart from mother nature, one other community that got unexpected advantage of corona virus was animals and birds. Once humans out of the picture, they got more fearless and roaming around in streets. Best time to do birding. There are two types of bird watching: 1. Just watch for fun 2. Watch and study. Later activity has heavy handed label called Ornithology. Lately, I am so much fascinated with the former that while everyone concerned about daily needs, I was calmly stocking up bird feeder grain sacks during my necessitated superstore visit. Luckily, I am situated at the corner of community where lake meets few trees. We have secured one bird feeder on the tree right across our living room window. And (more luckily) USA has not driven away it’s birds due to too much human intervention. As if mourning doves, finches, red winged black bird, Robins, starlings, cardinals, sparrows, chickadees and various other varieties feasting on bird feeder are not enough, since last few weeks, we saw majestic bald eagle swooping past close to lake for fresh catch right across our balcony. And sometimes we see egrets actively catching the fish or herons resting meditatively with all glamour of Himalayan yogi at edge of the lake. So next time, if environment permits, indulge at one of the soothing (and scientific) stress reducer activity before raising your anxiety watching the same news telecast.

Why birds were happy every time bond utters his signature introduction: " my name is Bond, James Bond." ?                                                   
Here's why: Fictional superspy James bond was created by WW2 naval intelligence officer Ian Fleming. He was fan of bird watching and he adopted name of famous American ornithologist for his main character; James Bond. 

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