Space Eaters, Pandemics, Roman Roads and Air Conditioners
The only definitive protection against the Covid-19 coronavirus so far in this pandemic is space – at least six feet of it. Isn’t it interesting that space the infinite 3D realm in which all material objects are located and all events occur, is the solution to stopping a global pandemic? Space between people, in great abundance in Idaho, is in high demand and low supply in many heavily populated urban environments where the Covid-19 coronavirus is having the deadliest impact.
Krys Johnson, an epidemiologist at Temple University explains the origins of the six foot space for social distancing commonly referenced during the pandemic, “Six feet is the average distance that respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough travel before they settle and are no longer likely to be inhaled by other people.” Space offers protection and the more space, the more protection.
In Roman times, soldiers were expected to be able to march at the pace of 20 miles per day on carefully constructed roman roads. Roman Generals would use the rule of 20 miles/day to plan military campaign time schedules and resupply points. Opposing armies knew the 20-mile rule and recognized space equaled time. One hundred and twenty miles of space between armies equated to six days of time with which they could use to either retreat, or to prepare an attack. Space offered protection and the more space, the more protection.
The problem today is that space, once in abundance has been shrinking for many centuries as a result of speed. Speed eats up space, much as Marc Andreessen wrote, “Software eats the world”. As mentioned previously, each 20 miles of space between armies in the Roman era equated to about one day’s worth of time and protection. That equation however, changed when soldiers began riding horses, taking trains or flying in airplanes. Soon 20-miles/day became 20-miles/hour and then to 20-miles/minute. As a result, the protective value of space was deflated because of speed and it lost much of its strategic value in military terms, and not surprisingly in Covid-19 terms as well.
I recently came across the news headlines, “Air-conditioning spreads the coronavirus to 9 people sitting near an infected person in a restaurant.” In a restaurant in Guangzhou, China nine people became sick as a result of an added “speed” element from an air-conditioner. The air-conditioner’s fans carried the viral droplets farther and faster across the restaurant, thus the six-foot social distancing rule was “eaten by speed” and lost its value.