Venkatesh Rao Profile picture
18 Oct, 18 tweets, 4 min read
Trying to get some stuff straight.

- There are 200 types of common cold viruses.

- 10-40% colds are caused by rhinoviruses, 160 human types = mostly spring/summer colds

- 20% caused by 4 human types of coronaviruses, more winter colds

- 20% RSV (1 virus, hits kids more)
- There are 3 non-common-cold coronaviruses that cause more serious illness, making a total of 7. They are: SARS-CoV-1, MERS, and SARS-CoV-2

- The 4 regular coronaviruses are 229E (alpha coronavirus), NL63 (alpha coronavirus), OC43 (beta coronavirus), HKU1 (beta coronavirus)
- We don’t have a common cold vaccine because there’s too many

- We don’t even know the cause of ~20% but they are presumed viral

- Flu is more severe and has a vaccine because it’s only 3 virus families: A, B C.

- All flu pandemics are from the type A, with the HxNy typology
Most of the endemic ones are mild/non-fatal because they invaded humans several thousand years ago and did likely cause severe pandemics back then. The evolved to be less fatal and human immune systems also adapted and truly genetically vulnerable types got culled effectively.
Exactly what I’ve been wondering. What’s to stop corona from going rhino and evolving 160 subtypes and effectively DDoSing us with variety, BUT remaining more dangerous than both colds and flus? We’ve got 4 mild and 3 severe coronaviruses already.
Note: a new Influenza A is still the most likely pandemic. So Covid19 isn’t even the pandemic we were most expecting. 2018 study cited in Pale Rider says 20% chance of 4 pandemics in next century, with high likelihood of one being a flu. 19th and 20th each had 2-3 flu pandemics.
Thing I think I misunderstood before was you can’t assume sars-cov-2 will eventually evolve to be like one of 4 milder coronaviruses (via a less severe type providing immunity to the more severe type and out-evolving it). That’s like assuming lions will evolve to domestic cats.
Lions and domestic cats have a common ancestor but lions don’t devolve to mostly harmless. Immunity to domestic cats (we can just physically dominate them) doesn’t give us any immunity to lions. Lions aren’t a pandemic scourge for other reasons.
Interesting to consider the difference between a predator and a parasite. Small size and reproductive speed both matter. A lion is big enough that it can’t feed on you indefinitely keeping you alive. Let alone breed in you.
Hmm there are only 45 recognized species of coronavirus total, of which 7 infect humans. For rhino viruses, there are 160 for humans alone. Possibly because rhinoviruses are among the smallest RNA viruses and coronaviruses are among the largest? Makes them less stable maybe?
Sizes:

Rhinoviruses: 30nm

Flu viruses: 80-120nm

Coronaviruses: 120nm but can range from 50 to 200 at extremes

Smallpox: 300nm

Domestic cats, leopards, lions/tigers, cattle.

HIV is also 120nm range
Hmm large mammals are actually a bad comparison. Viruses are as much smaller than bacteria (up to 100x) as insects are smaller than us. So we should map bacteria to predatory mammals and viruses to insects to get a better sense of proportions.

Cholera = 2 μm = 2000nm
After all some viruses, bacteriophages, infect bacteria. Sometimes making them worse. Apparently the CTXφ bacteriophage makes cholera more severe

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CTXφ_bacteriophage
Lol, we’re just a sideshow in the viruses vs bacteria war for the planet .

“It is estimated there are more than 10^31 bacteriophages on the planet, more than every other organism on Earth, including bacteria, combined.”

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacteriop…
Wonder if there’s any home-grade experiments or observations you can do with harmless bacteria that don’t require an electron microscope and won’t bring the FBI down on you. Hobby virology should be a thing.
From first QT, sounds like most cold viruses don’t do enough damage to require adaptive immune response (specific antigens). I guess first response stuff like interferon works well enough?

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More from @vgr

20 Oct
Hmm. Can any long-arc extended universe type stuff be traced to the 1920s? Especially in genre fiction?

Considering a hypothesis that it was a slump decade for EUs.
There’s a weird period between 1890s-1910s when pulp fiction was enabled by cheap offset printing on cheap paper. You’ve got some EUs like Tarzan in the 1910s, but the big ones begin in the late 20s. Buck Rogers is 1928. Flash Gordon is 1934.
Poirot is one of the rare EUs I can think of that booted up in the 20s. And it’s a weaker EU than Sherlock Holmes a couple of decades earlier.
Read 19 tweets
20 Oct
Serious question

What’s the material difference between institutionalized forms of prayer vs magical incantations and occult rituals?

Beyond supplication vs command attitudes?

You’re still operating with a supernatural interventionist expectation right?
This isn’t snark. Most of my family believes in prayer. My father has said daily prayers all his life (though mostly the meditative rather than supplicatory type). Praying for vague or specific good fortune is routine in India. For grades, cures for disease, etc.
Hinduism is weird that way. There’s a range of prayers and hymns ranging from metaphysical contemplation and epic memory genres to very specific intentional wishing.
Read 6 tweets
19 Oct
I do have double standards, and it doesn’t bother me 🤔

One standard for people I think are acting in good faith, one for people I think are acting in bad faith.

I’m not a court of law, or otherwise formally behind a veil-of-ignorance. I don’t owe the world a single standard.
A single standard is a peculiar thing. It’s a feature of due processes that are purposely designed to be blind to context in specific ways for specific reasons.

Context is a huge bucket of illegible things when judging good/bad faith — identity, trust, intentions, circumstances.
If every situation is a 1000 variables, a reasonable standard can only account for a dozen perhaps. When you want to avoid worst-case outcomes like innocent people being punished, you design a single standard around a principle like reasonable doubt/presumption of innocence.
Read 16 tweets
19 Oct
Philosophical interestingness ranking of sci-fi universes (in terms of meaningfulness, complexity, intelligibility...):

12. Star Wars
11. MCU
10. Doctor Who
9. Dune
8. Star Trek
7. Foundation
6. Deepness in the Sky
5. Hainish
4. Schismatrix
3. Rick & Morty
2. HHG
1. Culture
I’ve only read 1 culture novel but it’s obviously the most philosophically interesting by a mile
Pity so many famous writers didn’t bother to build proper universes. As in literally spanning space. PKD, Heinlein etc are a bunch of killer apps with no platform underneath. Le Guin squeaks through with a vagueworld universe.
Read 11 tweets
18 Oct
critical thinking is so over-rated
via shitpost thinking, much more satisfying route to anything
the first step is to believe everything

the second step is to stop believing things the moment it feels like work

it’s okay to hold 2 contradictory beliefs so long as they wear masks and stay 6 feet apart
Read 14 tweets
17 Oct
I like the idea of a barbell for information consumption, but I've never liked the specific barbell that talebians seem to like -- ancient classics + contemporary fun/pulp trash. 🤔
I think my barbell is raw history plus present sensory data.

So book about 14th century: yes

Photo of a new kind of Starbucks coffee cup

Hubble image of a new deep sky object: yes

"Classics" or "must reads" from any era: probably not

E-channel celeb gossip or sports: No.
The sort of thing I have almost no patience for... concept-heavy philosophical or political writing, even if second-order evidence suggests I'd be simpatico.
Read 6 tweets

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