Editorial By Russell Work
Special to the Chronicle
As you stay in self-isolation, you may wonder why and how your actions and inactions are significant in these times.
Think of the coronavirus as nuclear fuel. Uranium. When concentrated, uranium breaks down by a process called fission. The process is “exponential”, not “linear”.
This is linear: 1,3,5,7,9,11,13,15,17,19,21, etc.
This is exponential: 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256,512,1024 etc. 11 events and we have reached 1000+
See the difference? Coronavirus is spread exponentially. One carrier infects on average two to three people.
Unchecked it would spread until we establish what is called “herd immunity”, roughly 80 per cent plus of the total population. Untold deaths.
Think back to August 6, 1945. A uranium nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The fission process was initiated when two hemispheres of enriched uranium were brought together. The mass then became “critical” and in an instant, we saw the aftermath of that exponential growth on the human population. Without control, coronavirus will unleash even greater human devastation
However, the same fission process is used in nuclear power plants. Why is this different? Because in the core of the reactor there are control rods made of boron. They soak up the nuclear particles, neutrons, preventing the reaction from becoming exponential. They stop it from getting out of control.
In this pandemic, you are the control rods. You have the power to shut the reactor down. This is what they do in the power station. Drop all the control rods down and the reactor shuts down.
Well, they were supposed to be able to do that at Chernobyl, Ukraine. It didn’t happen. The reactor blew up. A catastrophe followed.
It is a very simple message. If we don’t self isolate, we will have either a Chernobyl situation or another Hiroshima. The choice is ours.
Stay in your bubble. Don’t pop your bubble. Change our state from exponential to linear and this will shut down the growth of coronavirus so that it can be managed.
This is not like incidents such as car crashes, deaths from cancer, broken legs, snake bites. As bad as they are, there is no multiplying factor here.
We are all in this together. This will take a collective effort by everyone. Keep the control rods in lockdown. The best outcome will be the development of a vaccine. Think twice about being an “anti-vaccer”, when this is available some months down the road.
The immediate prospects are tough, but the alternative will be apocalyptic.
A great instructive math lesson for grade 11 or 12 students or math geeks is this informative tutorial with great visuals about understanding the how of epidemics. Go to: