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Hank CampbellRSS Feed of this column.

I founded Science 2.0® in 2006 and since then it has become the world's largest independent science communications site, with over 300,000,000 direct readers and reach approaching one billion. Read More »

In 2021, it is vital that the public trusts epidemiologists when it comes to disease transmission. The cultural obstacle is that epidemiology is such a large field, much of it populated by woo. Osteopaths hurt their own reputations by not demanding that hucksters like Joe Mercola have his license revoked, while epidemiologists who want to be trusted guides now need to recognize they have to overcome suspect claims about some new fad food linked to increasing longevity, trace chemicals linked to changes in hormones, and that particulate matter so small it takes an electron microscope to see it is linked to early deaths.
Just a few weeks ago, Sri Lanka underwent a meltdown. The price of food had skyrocketed and it was all because instead of believing scientists they believed Russia or Pesticide Action Network or whoever claims the organic process "is ready" to feed everyone and switched. 

After a whole lot of people who have never farmed made the decision, its collapse was sudden. They switched to organic in May and by August exports were down because yields plummeted. People hoarded food because they knew what was happening and then the government had to create police units to raid homes and steal it so it would not be sold on the black markets that exploded in volume.
In the midst of wildfires that occur with more severity because environmentalists block responsible logging and tree management in California, environmentalists who have blocked water infrastructure now say we don't need the infrastructure voters passed into law...or it would already have been built.
It has become common for political activists to demand that social media engage in bans and content warnings, because the other side is too stupid to know false facts from the real kind. In reality, everyone who takes their politics too seriously is inclined to believe the worst when it comes to others, and calling for bans is more of a patronizing way to pretend they care about discourse when they most just want to control it.

This has led to companies like Facebook and Twitter either outright censoring some content or putting nonsensical fact checking warning labels on it. Here is a case in point from our own Facebook page:

Here is what it was ridiculing:
COVID-19 is certainly worse than the SARS and MERS pandemics that occurred a few years prior, and the reasons why SARS-CoV-2 is worse than those others is open for debate, but one thing is not; pandemics, even extreme ones, are not as rare as many believe.

The big difference between pandemics now and those of prior generations is the prevalence of real-time media and worldwide connections never available before. We have no real way to know how many people the Asian Flu of the 1950s killed because there was even less transparency in China then than there is now. Likewise, the Spanish Flu may have killed far more than we know, just as we don't know how many died in a country like Brazil or China.
Devices we watch and listen on are smaller than ever, which means speakers for sound are as well. In the past, it was difficult to get quality sound from small parts because sound is still analog when it gets to us, and that takes surface area. 

Like synthetic grape flavor, using one important part when it requires lots means a result is not quite right. Today's compact speakers are more like synthetic banana flavor; you are unlikely to know the difference, and that is due to mastering physics beyond the surface area - controlled destruction of sound waves.