Marathon of Delusions

A Lockdown Parabola

With thanks to:

Tim Harford, Ed Yong, James Hamblin, Katherine Wells, Christian Drosten, Sandra Ziesek, Korinna Hennig.

And Joseph Haydn.

No one even wondered whether Santiago Nasar had been warned,

because it seemed impossible to all that he hadn´t.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold

One gorgeous autumn day three friends meet for a race. The three runners favour three different running styles.

The first one - lovingly called „Marathon-Cantor“ by his friends, as he prefers asking questions to giving answers -

immediately hits his running speed and keeps it constant over the length of the track. He usually does long distance, mind you. Hence Marathon-Cantor, as you would have guessed.

The second runner is nicknamed „Laggy“, Lag being short for Lagrange, obviously. His style is notable for the continuous increase of running speed. 

The third in the trio was baptized just „Euler “. Actually, Euler´s friends do not quite understand his running style. They do understand one thing, however: Euler always wins.

But this time they have asked their discerning friend Thomas Bayes to clock their contest.

“On your marks!” – “Set!” - Bayes fires a random shot into the blue sky.

Two seconds into the race Cantor is looking back, musing:

„What are these boys doing? Has Euler even started yet?“ Laggy is not the looking-back sort of person. He´s smirking: „You just run and see, Cantor. I´ll catch up with you!“

Three seconds later Cantor again steals a glance:

„Dear me! What´s the matter with Euler? The poor lad will need another 9 seconds to reach the finish line if he continues like this! Laggy doesn´t look much better either, does he?“

Meanwhile, Bayes is shaking his head - and the stopwatch. “This must be a measurement error”, he mumbles. “Euler looks so far back..He is far back.”

Euler doesn´t notice any of that.

One thing you need to know:

Euler is blind.

The clock in Bayes´s hand passes 9 seconds. 

Just before reaching the finish line Cantor peers back one last time. „Well, well. Is that really Euler? That was quick. How´s he doing it? But I´ve got only 10 steps left I gather. Surely, Euler´s another 20 behind me. Won´t beat me today, will he?“

A second later the race is over.

The winner?

Euler, yet again.

Cantor is gawping at Bayes.

“How did it come to this?”

Bayes is staring at his stopwatch in disbelief.

Euler seizes the instrument.

“Thomas, Thomas…”, he smiles.

Then he turns to Laggy:

“Curious to hear your thoughts.”

Laggy obliges, ever the cryptic:

“Our underappreciation of your advance mimics the trajectory of my defeat rather closely.” 

Andante, Hob.I:94, „Surprise“

On the 12th of October the Austrian Health Secretary declared in an interview:

“We are miles away from a breakdown of our health care system.”

On the 31st of October the Austrian government imposed a second lockdown..albeit a light one.

Update 14.11.2020

On the 11th of October the Austrian Health Secretary said in another interview:

“A second lockdown? I cannot imagine that. Not at all.“

On the 14th of November the Austrian government sent the country into a 2nd lockdown..this time a hard one.

mischa lucyshyn, 

Wien. Halloween 2020


fo long evenings:

La Gaia Scienza

German Version