News from the world of maths: Pan(dem)ic?

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Just over two weeks after the outbreak of swine flu, sorry, H1N1, most of us have come round to the idea that a pandemic doesn't always necessitate panic. The infection is spreading steadily, but in most people it's relatively mild and only a very small number of people have died outside Mexico. So were initial media reports just hype?


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posted by Plus @ 3:25 PM


At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very good article which shows just how important fairly simple maths is in thinking rigorously about the world around us.

For example, I had heard of the idea of herd immunity before and had never really understood it - from a biological perspective I just thought tha if there were unvaccinated individuals around they would catch the disease so you'd have to immunise everybody. But once you introduce the idea of an reproduction rate, it's absolutely clear why that's not the case - because any geometric series with r<0 tends to 0.
Of course as the article goes on to make clear, it's more complicated than that as a geometric series is probably not the appropriate model, but that's what makes it so fascinating. Thanks Plus!

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