A virus is not an asteroid

On the perils of celebrating too early

Kaila Colbin

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The mission went horribly wrong.

First, a fire broke out while the team was refueling on the Russian space station.

Then, the hull of one of the two spacecrafts was punctured by debris as they approached the asteroid, killing most of the crew.

The other spacecraft landed safely but missed the target area, making the drilling more difficult.

One of the drills hit a pocket of methane gas and got itself blown to smithereens.

And the surviving crew was hit by a rock storm, killing one of them and destroying the remote trigger.

Our heroes could no longer detonate the nuclear bomb remotely, and they were out of time. It was up to Harry S. Stamper—a.k.a Bruce Willis — to fly the bomb directly into the heart of the asteroid, blowing it in two and successfully deflecting the halves away from Earth.

Thanks to Bruce and the boys, we never got hit by that giant asteroid. Credit: NGCHunter2, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The plot of the movie Armageddon is satisfying, if unrealistic. But, in the context of a pandemic — where the rallying cry is, “Bend the curve!”—it can give us a dangerous mental picture.

The mental picture is this: that, once the pandemic curve is bent, it will — much like an asteroid — continue to bend.

It will not.

An asteroid continues on its trajectory unless acted on by an outside force, at which point it will continue on its new trajectory. See Newton’s First Law.

A virus is not an asteroid.

A virus is more like an infestation of rats.

Did you know that in just three years, given unlimited resources, two rats can produce half a billion descendants?

If you’re trying to get rid of an infestation of rats, it’s not sufficient to reduce the rate at which your rat population is growing.

You can get it down to 100 rats, or 50, or 10. As soon as you let up your efforts, the population will explode again.

Right now, we appear to be successfully bending the curve in many places: in Italy, in Spain, here in New Zealand.

Let’s not let that lull us into a false sense of complacency.

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Kaila Colbin

Founder/CEO Boma. Dual citizen USA/NZ. Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator. Just wants the world to be a better place.