Exponential Obscurity Rectified*

*Scruple dictates that I confess to having added to the fog of blather by blatantly erring in my attempt to run the numbers in the original post. A bright lad has shown me the light, and the revised numbers do indeed bear out Ms. Tufecki’s example of the imposing power of exponentiality.

Zeynep Tufecki’s NYTimes guest essay asserts the mathematical essence of the E-word being slung portentously by the credentialed Covid commentariat:

Increased transmissibility is an exponential threat. If a virus that could previously infect three people on average can now infect four, it looks like a small increase. Yet if you start with just two infected people in both scenarios, just 10 iterations later, the former will have caused about 40,000 cases while the latter will be more than 524,000, a nearly 13-fold difference.

(Zeynep Tufecki, “Covid’s Deadliest Phase May Be Here Soon,” NYTimes, 5-28-21)

Tufecki’s instantiation has a touch of the abstruse to it. Here’s how I run her numbers:

The “former” case:

(1) 2×1=2; (2) 2×3=6; (3) 6×3=18; (4) 18×3=54; (5) 54×3=162; (6) 162×3=486; (7) 486×3=1458; (8) 1458×3=4374; (9) 4374×3=13,122; (10) 13,122×3=39,366

The “latter” case:

(1) 2×1=2; (2) 2×4=8; (3) 8×4=32; (4) 32×4=128; (5) 128×4=512; (6) 512×4=2048; (7) 2048×4=8192; (8) 8192×4=32,768; (9) 32,768×4=131,072; (10) 131,072×4=524,288

I see startling difference, but how does Tufecki get her answers? What am I missing? “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

C’mon, experts! Bring it home. We’re swamped already by a fog of blather from pandemonic cacaphones. Infect us with some clarity.

(c) 2021 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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