Why Mount Shasta is the new Roswell

UntitledImage’Mount Shasta in California has become a nexus of conspiracy theories and unusual events. The latest viral sensation from the area has been a UFO-shaped object that appeared in the skies above the potentially active volcano peak of 14,179 feet on the morning of February 12th.

Upon closer look, this was not an alien spaceship but a beautiful lenticular cloud, the kind that is often shaped like lentils or UFOs, depending on your perspective. It was so convincing, however, that the U.S. Forest Service had to deny its extraterrestrial origins in a statement.

Mount Shasta… has seen its share of lenticular cloud sightings, leading to its status as a new focal point for alien hunters much like Roswell, New Mexico. The latest UFO cloud quickly became a social media sensation, as you can see in these posts of the enigmatic formations:

Mount Shasta has also seen other unusual happenings, with a mysterious side hole that appeared over 10 years ago becoming the subject of a documentary. Its sudden emergence connected with local legends about a lost continent of Lemuria supposedly hidden under the mountain. This mythical kingdom would be there along with its capital city Telos.…’

Via Big Think

The Archaeobotanist Searching Art for Lost Fruit

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’…[I]t wasn’t until a few years ago that Dalla Ragione, an agronomist and Perugia native, realized that local works of art contained precious clues into Italy’s lost biodiversity. By combining clues from artwork, ancient manuscripts, and oral histories, she was able to identify hundreds of Renaissance-era fruits. She now grows many of them in a 20-acre farmstead as an outdoor museum of Italy’s past.…’

Via Gastro Obscura

The Cinema of Inadvertence, or Why I Like Bad Movies

UnknownPhil Christman: 

’We bad-movie watchers have our own anticriteria, the sorts of badness we prefer. Some of us use the term “bad movies” to mean, simply, films that emerge from a supposedly lowbrow genre, or films that are stylized in the manner we tend to label “camp.” (Road House from 1989 is this kind of bad movie, and is very good at being one.) Some of us prefer movies that are exploitative and tacky but, in a Nietzschean way, supposedly more alive than respectable ones. Renata Adler referred to the cult around such movies as “the angry trash claimers,”1 a term by which she probably intended to indict Pauline Kael, whose “Trash, Art, and the Movies” could serve as a manifesto for this sort of criticism.2 The rock critic Lester Bangs, in an endearing essay about Ray Dennis Steckler’s delirious 1963 horror film The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, practices Angry Trash Reclamation, arguing that the film’s apparent innocence of good taste gives it a kind of “lunar purity.”3…’

Via The Hedgehog Review

We’re Reading the Coronavirus Numbers Wrong

18paulos superJumboNew York Times opinion piece from a mathematician…

…points out that both the numerator and the denominator of the case fatality rate — the number of deaths and the total number of people infected — may be deceptive. Ascribing causes of death can be tricky, with both false positives and false negatives. And various factors make for inaccuracy in the total number of infected people. Some are treated without having been formally tested. Some may be infected but showing no symptoms, including those still in the lengthy incubation period of the virus.

Further distortions are created by the way these numbers are determined by medical officials and presented by the media. Definitions of infection have been changed on the fly, causing immediate and misleading statistical — but not real — shifts. Underreporting may be deliberate, for policy reasons, or more mundane, e.g. due to changes in the availability of test kits. A dramatic increase in daily deaths may seem ominous but, in context of an increase in the number of newly infected people over the same interval, may actually represent lower lethality than previously thought. 

These uncertainties point out the limitations of “constant on-the-nose” reporting of statistics, a “shortsighted approach that’s difficult to resist.” 

As of Tuesday, the case fatality rate of COVID-19 appeared to be about 2.5 percent. That’s in keeping with what it was, for example, from the beginning of the outbreak up to Jan. 28. By comparison, the case fatality rate for the seasonal flu in the United States ranges between 0.10 percent and 0.18 percent. For SARS, it’s about 10 percent and for MERS, about 35 percent. For Ebola, it has varied between 25 percent and 90 percent, depending on outbreaks, averaging approximately 50 percent.

And so based on what we know so far, COVID-19 seems to be much less fatal than other coronavirus infections and diseases that turned into major epidemics in recent decades. The operative words here are “based on what we know so far” — meaning, both no more and no less than that, and also that our take on the situation might need to change as more data come in.
Remember, too, that even if only a small percentage of the people infected with COVID-19 die in the end, the death toll in absolute numbers could still be dreadful if the total population of infected turns out to be very large.