Simulation for different immunity scenarios

As vaccinations roll out, we work towards herd immunity, there are various challenges to consider along the way. Thomas Wilburn and Richard Harris, reporting for NPR, used simulations to imagine three scenarios: a more infectious variant of the coronavirus, high initial immunity, and low initial immunity.

Since it’s a simulation it of course doesn’t consider every real-life detail of immunity and viral spread, but the animations and the hexagon grids provide a good overhead view.

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Simulation for different immunity scenarios

As vaccinations roll out, we work towards herd immunity, there are various challenges to consider along the way. Thomas Wilburn and Richard Harris, reporting for NPR, used simulations to imagine three scenarios: a more infectious variant of the coronavirus, high initial immunity, and low initial immunity.

Since it’s a simulation it of course doesn’t consider every real-life detail of immunity and viral spread, but the animations and the hexagon grids provide a good overhead view.

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Using the FiveThirtyEight model, see how the election odds shift with different scenarios

With each model update, FiveThirtyEight runs 40,000 simulations, or what-ifs, to calculate the odds for who will win the election. Their new interactive lets you experiment with all of the what-ifs to see how the odds shift when a candidate wins a state.

It answers the question, “If ______ wins in ______ and in ______, etc., what are the chances of him winning the whole thing?”

So if Trump wins a very red state or Biden wins a very blue state, the overall odds don’t change that much. But if a very red goes blue, or a very blue goes red, then the odds swing dramatically.

There’s a good lesson on conditional probability somewhere in there.

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How air spreads on a subway train

If someone sneezes in a closed space, you hope that the area has good ventilation, because those sneeze particles are going to spread. The New York Times explains in the context of a subway train.

Wear a mask.

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Visual explanation for how herd immunity works

Herd immunity works when you have enough people who are immune to a disease, maybe because they already got it or there’s a vaccine, so that the disease can’t spread anymore to those who don’t have a resistance. For The Washington Post, Harry Stevens is back with simulitis to demonstrate how this works in greater detail.

It starts at the individual level, generalizes to a larger group, and then zooms out to the more concrete state level. It ends with an interactive that lets you test the thresholds yourself.

Each step builds on the previous, which provides clarity to an otherwise abstract idea.

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Playable simulations to decide what happens next

The timelines keep shifting and people are getting antsy for many valid (and not-so-valid) reasons. When will this end? Will we ever get “normal” again? At this point, simulations are probably the closest we can get to seeing what might happen next. Marcel Salathé and Nicky Case peer into what happens next with these playable simulations.

Where many simulations have felt like distant, abstract ideas, Salathé and Case’s explanations and interactives are rooted in optimism and practical things that we can do now.

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Simulation of droplets while social distancing

Using 3-D simulation data from the Kyoto Institute of Technology, The New York Times shows how droplets from a sneeze or a cough can spread in a space. In a nutshell, six feet is the recommendation while in public areas, but the farther you away you can stay away the better. Go to the end, and there’s also an augmented reality segment that puts a six-foot range around you.

I may never set foot in a crowded place again.

See also: how different cough coverings can change the spread of droplets.

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Simulating an epidemic

3Blue1Brown goes into more of the math of SIR models — which drive many of the simulations you’ve seen so far — that assume people are susceptible, infectious, or recovered.

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