Basic Math

by Robert Gore
Straight Line Logic

Mathematical grounds for optimism concerning the coronavirus, but not governments.

This is a companion article to “The Last Gasp.

One of the things this coronavirus outbreak has revealed is widespread mathematical illiteracy. Early on, the number of cases was said to be growing exponentially, which was true, but only for a short while. As an equation, exponential growth is of the form f(x)=ax (x is an exponent, I cannot type a superscript), where a and x are both greater than one. With exponential growth, assuming days are the time period, the daily change is greater each day, but the percentage change remains constant. The sequence 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 … is exponential, f(x)=a2 (the exponent is 2) where a at time 0 (I cannot type a subscript) = 1. The change between numbers grows, but the percentage change remains 100 percent. As a graph, exponential growth is a curve bending upwards. Viruses typically show exponential growth early on, but that cannot continue or eventually the virus would take over the entire planet and then the entire universe.

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