‘I’ve got your number, Lilley!’
That was how my relationship with the geography teacher, started.
I didn’t know what he meant, so I asked Mum. Next thing, she was at the school, demanding to know why her number-one-son was being picked on. Nobody messed with The Duchess.
My relationship with the maths-master was entirely different. He welcomed inquiry, was creative, made numbers interesting and important.
Some numbers are really important.
Pi, is great number. The ratio of a circle’s circumference, to its diameter. It’s also an irrational number, meaning it can’t be written as a simple fraction. It’s celebrated with its own ‘day’, 14th March.
Better still is two Pi, called Tau. Roughly 6.28… don’t ask!
Take the P out of Pi and you’re left with ‘i’, which is the square root of -1 and a very naughty boy… you’re not supposed to take the square root of a negative number.
Euler’s number, ‘e’ is the foundation of exponential functions. Simply, if I start with two rabbits, after a month I’ll probably have four. After two months, eight and in three months, 16.
This is important to us today, right now, as it is at the heart of R. The extent to which one person might spread CV-19 to others and how many.
Unlike Pi, or E, elegant numbers with style and breeding, R is a ruffian. R is a mongrel number. If it had a name it would be Jack Dawkins, the artful dodger.
If it had a job, it would be a pickpocket. If it had a voice, it would be a busker.
R, the calculation for transmission of virus in a community, is a mere average. The lowliest of calculations and probably the most misleading.
For every average, there will be half above and half below.
Averages are relied upon by spiv-statisticians;
If three people have 50 and one has 15, the average is 41 and a bit. In no way representative.
If three people have 15 and one has 50, the average is nearly 24… useless.
Averages can be dressed up. The ‘mean’, is an average in drag. Geometric-mean and harmonic-mean are numbers living above their station and way beyond their means.
Numbers are disreputable, unreliable and at the same time precise and accurate. It depends who is using the calculator and what is their purpose.
R is a fraudster, a conman, a scammer.
R is supposed to tell us when it’s safe to go back to work, it does nothing of the sort. R is supposed to guide us in our most important decisions, it does nothing of the sort… because it is nothing other than a jumped up average.
R, to give it its full name, it’s the reproductive rate. The R rate for CV-19 is thought to be three. To be honest that is little more than an educated guess.
One person will infect three others and remembering Euler’s number, they, each, will infect three more and CV-19 will breed like rabbits.
If we stop going out, don’t meet people, the R number will drop.
The problem is, the R-rate will be higher in in a care home or a hospital, than in a garden centre or your place. By all accounts the national R is under one.
Actually, in the North West it is over one and in the south west, hovering around one.
In Blackpool, I hear R is 1.6 and in Newham in London, dunno, but it has the highest death-rate in England and the Mayor has refused to open the schools.
R, used as a national indicator, is a charlatan because it’s an average. It is not a canary in the mine. It’s a dead parrot.
However, R, telling us what the reproduction rate is, in a region, our postcode, our community, is entirely different. It morphs into a life saver. Tells us about hot-spots, what we can do safely and where we should throw the kitchen sink at testing and tracing.
The problem; HMG won’t use regional-R, or local-R, or community-R, thus, we’re all at risk… because they’re mesmerised by a mathematical mean, by that gangster, National R.
So, stay home, wash your hands, wear a mask, because I’ve got your number and you’re above the average…