Updates From the Edge: March 16

The Science of Social Distancing

Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said gatherings of 50 or more people are strongly discouraged over the next eight weeks. This is to help contain the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Tons of other stuff is closed down, such as many schools, libraries, colleges, places of worship, etc.

All of this is to help create and enforce distance between humans, a proven way of slowing the progress of pandemics.

We have been hearing the term “social distancing” quite a bit lately. But why is it important? And what does it really mean?

Why Social Distancing Is Important

Even those who become only mildly ill, and those who never show any symptoms at all, can still carry the virus and be a big problem when it comes to the exponential increase in the virus in our population.

Even if you are young, healthy, and have no risk factors, you should still not be socializing. Certainly older people and those with other health conditions are most likely to catch the virus, but young people are not at all immune, and may even be carrying the virus without realizing it.

For example, actor Idris Elba recently said he tested positive for COVID-19, but he said he wasn’t feeling sick at all. This is a prime example of why experts urge everyone to practice social distancing, not just those considered at high risk or who are seriously ill.

What Does Social Distancing Really Mean?

At its most basic, social distancing is the concept of keeping a distance between you and other people. Right now experts suggest at least six feet.

In practical terms, it’s important to minimize contact with all people as much as you are able. So avoiding public transportation when you can, don’t travel, work from home if you can, and definitely and skip social gatherings—ideally even small ones like coffee visits.

Since people weren’t staying out of crowded bars and similar places, many governments have closed down restaurants (other than for takeout), bars, and clubs. And pretty much all sports are shut down at this point as well.

This distancing strategy saved thousands of lives both during the Spanish flu pandemic a little over 100 years ago, and much more recently in Mexico City during the 2009 flu pandemic.

Note that you may have to be physically distant, but be sure to check in with friends and family on the phone or online. People can get lonely out there!

So Can I Go Outside?

Yeah, you can totally go outside. Get some air, go for a walk alone or with your pooch, read on your patio or in your yard. All of that is great. Just don’t do it with a group of neighbors or friends. Do it by yourself.

And you can still get groceries and prescriptions and the like. Just minimize the number of trips you make. If it isn’t important, wait until you need a few more things and go shopping then.

If your grocery store offers disinfecting wipes for your grocery cart use them, and if not, feel free to bring your own.

Just keep practicing good hand-washing and disinfecting, and not touching your face, whenever you go out for any reason.

One expert noted that you should not use your cell phone when out shopping because you may transfer the virus to your phone if you touch it before you’ve washed your hands. You can mitigate this somewhat with hand sanitizer, however.

The Math of Infectious Disease

There is a COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planner created by the Georgia Tech quantitative biologist Joshua Weitz which you can check out here. In an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Weitz, along with co-authors Richard E. Lenski, Lauren A. Meyers, and Jonathan Dushoff, gave some real-world examples to help us understand.

They use the example of March Madness basketball games to illustrate the point. What are the odds that none of the 75,000 attendees are affected? They use statistics to determine that there is a 99% chance that one ore more attendees would have arrived infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

If you’re into mathematical models you can get the full story and all the math here.


What’s Happening at CAEZIK SF & Fantasy Publishing

The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes comes out in just over a week! It’s the previously unpublished work by Robert A. Heinlein that is a parallel to his 1980 novel, The Number of the Beast.

Check out this recent review here and if you think it’s for you, definitely reserve your copy right away.

Of course there’s also Robert J. Sawyer’s new novel, The Oppenheimer Alternative, which is being published by CAEZIK in paperback on June 2 in the United States. Read an advanced preview here (link opens a PDF) and be the first of your friends to have a peek inside Sawyer’s latest work.

Also, The Oppenheimer Alternative is now available for pre-order, so be sure to get on the list right away.

Follow news from CAEZIK and all of ARC Manor’s imprints on Facebook and Twitter.

Updates From the Edge: March 6

Perseverance: A New Mars Rover

NASA’s new rover, previously called Mars 2020, finally has a name: Perseverance. There was a huge contest that got about 28,000 entries and the winner was a middle school student named Alexander Mather.

In an example of why he won the contest, here’s a powerful line from his essay: “We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere.”

NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen added during the announcement ceremony, “Perseverance is a strong word: it’s about making progress despite obstacles.”

The rover is supposed to launch aboard an Atlas V rocket in July of this year and, if all goes according to plan, will arrive on Mars in February 2021. It will have with it an array of scientific instruments such as ground-penetrating radar, spectrometers to measure soil composition, as well as cameras for both close-up and panoramic views of the surface of the Red Planet.

There’s also going to be a tiny helicopter, which is going to be the first heavier-than-air aircraft on another planet. Finally, there will be an oxygen-producing device that will be able to work with the CO2 in the Martian atmosphere.

There are two main goals to the Perseverance mission. First, it is is to take scientific measurements that help us make sense of the Martian environment both past and current. Did it ever host life? The second mission is to collect samples that another rover, planned for 2026, will pick up and return to Earth.

The six-wheeler will land on Mars in the dry river delta in the Jezero Crater in February 2021.

Space Tourism, Coming Right Up

SpaceX plans to send three tourists up to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2021. They’re doing this along with a Texas start-up called Axiom Space.

This announcement came after NASA said last year it would open up the ISS to a bit more commercial activity.

Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini said in a press release, “This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space.”

There have been civilians on the ISS before, but they all went up on Russian Soyuz ships. This trip will be the first launch of private citizens on a private spacecraft, however. They plan to use a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and a Crew Dragon capsule.

How much will it set you back to go to the ISS? A pass for the 10-day trip reportedly runs about $55 million.

What’s Happening at CAEZIK SF & Fantasy Publishing

The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes hits the streets on March 24! It’s the previously unpublished work by Robert A. Heinlein that is a parallel to his 1980 novel, The Number of the Beast.

Check out this recent review here and if you think it’s for you, definitely reserve your copy right away.

Of course there’s also Robert J. Sawyer’s new novel, The Oppenheimer Alternative, which is being published by CAEZIK in paperback on June 2 in the United States. Read an advanced preview here (link opens a PDF) and be the first of your friends to have a peek inside Sawyer’s latest work.

Also, The Oppenheimer Alternative is now available for pre-order, so be sure to get on the list right away.

Follow news from CAEZIK and all of ARC Manor’s imprints on Facebook and Twitter.