Bat-mask protocols

The difference between a million and a billion is not generally understood, except sometimes in Britain, where the arithmetically sophisticated may still say, “a thousand million.” But even they would lack the patience to count. Trillions sail over everyone’s head, like distant comets. I can myself barely distinguish between hundreds and thousands, and must be careful how many zeroes I put on my rent cheque. Let me not criticize those who get it wrong. Too, they should take care when voting. Never vote for a man who promises trillions, unless you are sure that he can afford it. He should own at least one international bank, and a few large trading companies. Maybe at least half of a big city. Otherwise, it is likely to be you, who will be left on the hook for his debts.

The same holds for the micro scale. Few, including scientists, or more commonly, scienticists, can conceive of something that is very, very small. He resorts to math. But the same trouble he might have with decimals, follows him over the decimal-place dot — especially if he is a public health expert. He can’t actually conceive of the numbers he is using. He might try an analogy. This can sometimes be useful, not only to explain a concept to others, but more urgently, to explain it to oneself.

Let us take a virus, for example. It is very small. Could it get through the mesh of a cloth face mask?

Suppose gentle reader is afflicted by mosquitoes at his cottage. Could he keep them out by putting a chain-link fence across the gate to his property? No? What if the chain-link fence is very tall? Still no? Could he even keep out his neighbour’s pet ferret? As ferret-owners among my readers will confirm, only while the animal is in one of his deep sleeps.

Make the mesh finer. Wakeful ferrets may still go under, over, or around. Make it as fine as chicken wire. The mosquitoes still pass right through. Will it stop even one? Guess the answer.

At her cottage, my little sister has something that looks like a badminton racket. It has a battery in the handle. If this is working, when the switch is turned on, one may wave it through a cloud of mosquitoes, in a most satisfying way. Snap snap snap! For it is death on mosquitoes. True, it is just a portable mesh, but the electricity makes all the difference.

Perhaps we should be wearing electrified face-masks against the (Red Chinese) Batflu, but I see another problem. Not everyone likes to have his face electrified. Indeed, it would be hard to design an effective mask. The space suit and the oxygen tanks are the expensive parts. But designing a cheap one out of cloth, that people can afford to buy, is a much simpler proposition.

I carry one around, in the back pocket of my trousers. It has served me for several weeks now. A kindly friend gave it to me. I take it out whenever I must enter a store, or other place that might have people in it. In obedience to the latest nanny-state law, I put it on. This is to keep everybody happy. I realize it is useless against a virus, but I’m trying to avoid getting beaten up. That, I think, is the only thing it’s good for.