The taboo of the exponential

For Carl Sagan, “if you understand exponentials, the key to many of the secrets of the universe is in your hand”. But not everyone seems ready to unlock the secrets of the universe. Thus, in mid-November 2021, more than 18 months after the beginning of the SARS-COVID 19 pandemic, the Minister of Health stated “the circulation of the virus has accelerated for a few weeks now, with an increase of 30% to 40% per week. We are not yet in a so-called exponential phase” (quoted in Ouest France (2021)). Since an increase at a constant rate is precisely the definition of “exponential growth”, one may wonder about this statement, which reveals either a lack of numeracy on the part of our leaders, or an element of language, with the word “exponential” becoming a taboo word that should not be mentioned?

(this is the English tranlation of a post published in January 2022)

Continue reading The taboo of the exponential

Modeling contagion

Two years after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we have all become (pseudo)-experts in contagion models. But beyond diseases, these models based on networks of interactions between people are also commonly used to describe the spread of a computer virus, of social norms, of an idea or a rumor in a society, or of an economic crisis, as Kucharski (2020) reminds us.

(this is the English tranlation of a post published in April 2022)

Continue reading Modeling contagion

Are there acceptable deaths? or how to end a pandemic

Zylberman (2021) noted that “this pandemic began with the first case, but it will not end with the last case (…) one cannot date the end of a pandemic and the beginning of an endemic. Yet, in mid-April, the French president slipped in an interview (Garnier (2022)) that “society [is] on its way out of COVID” implying that the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was over. At the same time, the virus was still killing more than 100 people a day, according to official statistics. While it is legitimate to question what exactly is a “COVID death“, it may seem surprising that 100 deaths per day (for more than three consecutive months) were met with such indifference, and that such a level was interpreted as the end of the pandemic.

(this is the English translation of a blog post published a few days ago)
Continue reading Are there acceptable deaths? or how to end a pandemic