On Masks, Parachutes And The Virus


I have just gone into a shop. I have worn a face mask. This is as a courtesy to those people serving there, who must interact with hundreds of people a day. They would prefer me to do so. If it makes them happier and feeling more secure, I will do so.
Let us look at the science, and parachutes. The only practical way of testing parachutes is to take, say, 500 people and equip them with parachutes. Take 500 more and do not. Throw them all out of a plane and see who survives.
If the ones with parachutes are still alive, then parachutes work. We know this.
We can’t do that experiment, never could, so we rely on the theoretical science. Air drag, and on the fact that the kinetic energy released on collision with the ground is a function of the velocity of the descending object, a human, and his or her mass. Cut the velocity by air drag and the kinetic energy released is insufficient to kill. Basic physics.
To prove that masks work and lessen the spread of the virus, we need to take a sample of, say, 20,000 people and equip them with masks, then take another 20,000 without masks. Leave them to do  what they will. Come back in two months and compare the relative infection rates between the two sample populations. This will tell you if masks work or not.
This study has never been done.
We therefore fall back again on the theoretical science. This tells you that if you strap a piece of Laura Ashley fabric to your face, the pores within the fabric are several orders of magnitude larger than the virus. You might as well strap a colander to your head.
Proper medical masks work fine but there are not enough to go around for the doctors and nurses who need them. You should not use one to go to your local Tesco.
Sorry, and I am not a mad anti masker on political grounds. Far from it. This is where the science, as I understand it, takes me.
“But if you wear  a mask it must do a bit of good.” Indeed: to pursue the analogy, if you wear a parachute a tenth of the size needed, it must do a bit of good. But not enough.
I will wear a mask where necessary, as a courtesy and to prevent social friction. But can some scientist explain why, if it was deemed essential to wear masks in shops, it took ten days for the Government  to implement this?

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