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general

Vatsap? 2020 Aug 09 Newsletter

2020 will be over in 5 more months. What a crazy year! This week I created a story structure breakdown video on a Bollywood film. If you have ever wondered how ‘stories’ work, you will like it. Even if you are a storyteller of some sort yourself, you may still enjoy my take. Should I do more of these?

My weekly update on Covid death projection is out too.

Death count (for India) as of Saturday 08 Aug 2020 stands at 42k+ and I expect it to cross 1 lakh anytime in September (as early as this month end). This week, on an avg ~860 people died per day (compared to 736 the week before).

I also read up a little on the science behind Ammonium Nitrate explosions. It was not easy. If you Google for Ammonium Nitrate, all you get are news links to the Beirut accident.

Anyway, so in a blog-post, I’ve tried explaining how even when AN is a tertiary explosive (meaning – way less sensitive than a primary explosive that can explode immediately), it still leads to such massive blasts once in a while. In short, the answer lies in the variation in acceleration of wave propagation from one explosive material to another.

Video discoveries this week

I discovered a bunch of African kids singing SRK songs – that’s just so sweet.

Anything that brings smile during such grim times, is a must watch. Play it, you will smile too – guaranteed. Even if you don’t like SRK.

And if you are by any chance into Hindi music, let me go ahead and share one more video. I found this performance mind blowing. It’s an Indian Ocean rendition of a Sneha Khanwalker song. It moved me to tears.

I have missed Sneha Khanwalker man! She is outright brilliant and I’m just so happy to see her back from her self imposed hibernation. The video above doesn’t have her performance but you can look around for that too. That’s good as well – but this Indian Ocean thing is uff – just terrific.

Books that I have been reading…

I am onto several books at the same time (some ongoing from past, others started this week itself).

Ongoing from the past:

  • The Lost Decade (TLD) by Puja Mehra – a concise summary of India’s macroeconomic policies from 2008 till 2018 (I keep jumping chapters because it’s a bit too much to read it chronologically)
  • Backstage by Montek Singh Ahluwalia – similar theme as that of TLD, just that it is from a single person’s POV which also makes it much easier to read (compared to TLD). But as one may expect, there definitely are many overlaps between insights from TLD and Backstage. This is fine with me though – I am anyway reading these two in parallel. But if you have already read TLD, then you may find Backstage a bit redundant (a lot actually – if economics is your focus area).
  • The Penguin History of Modern China by Jon Fenby – it’s just a never ending book. I’ve reached the beginning of 1900 now and Kindle tells me I’ve finished reading just 13% of the book so far. The history in the book begins from 1850. Long road ahead!

Sarted this week:

  • Overdraft by Urjit Patel – it’s a short but technical read. All it basically says is that Govt. banks suck and they should do a bunch of things (all starting with R) to become good. This week I will probably try summarizing the key learnings from the book – anybody excited about that?
  • My Country My Life by L. K. Advani – I have had this thick book since a long time. While ordering, I had not imagined it was going to be this thick! Anyway so I never read it. Till this week. With all the Ayodhya tamasha going on, I was like let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth. I don’t think I am going to read everything though. I will just read few things here and there. And then put it back in the shelf. Did you know that Advani would turn 100 in only 7 more years? Not kidding – Google kar lo.
  • Republic of Religion by Abhinav Chandrachud – it’s a short read – six crisp chapters. This one too had been lying around since quite some time. In the book, Abhinav explains how the secular nature of India was put in place by Britishers (much before the revolt of 1857) at a time when in Britain itself, the Govt. was not secular.

“For much of the 19th century, a person who merely denied the truth of Christianity in general or of the existence of God in England could find himself behind bars for committing blasphemy”.

Abhinav Chandrachud, Republic of Religion

I had ordered this book after randomly stumbling upon a Youtube video of Abhinav analyzing CAA.

Of the six chapters in Republic of Religion, one is dedicated to ‘Temple and State’ – that’s the one I am going to finish reading first.

By the way if learning more about Indian macroeconomics interests you, Puja Mehra (the author of TLD) has recently started an insightful series of podcasts.

The latest one has an interview with Rathin Roy who very nicely explains the brief history of Indian macro-economy (if you have 25 minutes and you aren’t already an expert, it’s a really useful / insightful listen).

The above video will directly play from the point where the interview begins (the part before that, where Puja gives her monologue is a bit dry; also if you are subscribed to The Economist, you already know what she is talking about in her intro).

That will be all for this week. Recommend me something to read if you want to? Have a great week. Stay safe. Create something new. And I will get back to you next Sunday. The link to subscribe to the newsletter is here, if you need it for some reason.

Cyao.

Categories
Covid-times

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 09 Aug update

Every week (since May this year), I look at the existing trend of a) growth in reported Covid deaths and b) growth in the positive cases for India. And then I run few scenarios to forecast when India will cross 1 lakh total reported Covid deaths. Total death toll as of yesterday (08 Aug 2020) stands at 42k+ (actual figure could easily be two times this value, for various reasons documented here).

On an average 858 people reportedly died per day this week (compared to 736 last week).

One could try forecasting the future cumulative deaths by simply using the existing growth rate trend for Covid deaths. There’s just one problem.

There is no existing growth rate trend for Covid deaths.

For example as you can see in the above chart, total weekly deaths this week (6000+) was a little over 15% higher than total weekly deaths the week prior to that (5100+). But the same thing last week was less than 5%!!

If one *must* project future Covid deaths just from the above chart, what growth-rate range would you consider? I would go by a range of anywhere from 5% to 15% week-on-week growth in total weekly deaths. If we do that, then below is how the projection for total cumulative deaths looks like.

So as per this simplistic projection, total death count will cross 1 lakh by anywhere between August-end to Sep-end (again, just to remind you, as of now the total Covid death toll for India stands at around 42k).

Alright, let’s now try a more nuanced (albeit indirect) approach to project cumulative deaths.

Let’s first look at the week-on-week growth rate of total weekly cases (instead of weekly deaths).

3.9 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is 9% higher than the total cases detected the week before (3.6 lakh).

Although for this week and the week before that, weekly total cases have grown by less than 20% week-on-week, in general this has hovered between 20 to 30% – as you can see in the chart above.

So based on the pattern so far, I expect the total weekly cases in the coming weeks to grow by anywhere between 20% to 30% (X). That’s my assumption #1.

Now in general, people who die of Covid in a given week, are either tested positive the same week, or the week before. Do we have some idea of what %age (Y) of such cases die? We do actually.

As you see above, death %age (Y) has been falling since its peak of 3.4% in the 07-13 June week.

6,000+ people died this week (02-08 Aug) which is 1.6% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week.

In other words, Y for this week is 1.6% (it was the same last week too).

Let’s assume that for the coming weeks, death %age (Y) could get as low as 1% and if something random happens, could say go up to a max of 2%. That’s my assumption #2.

Let’s forecast now…

Let me consider 3 scenarios (which are actually same as last week):

  • X=20%, Y=1.5% (baseline)
  • X=20%, Y=1% (optimistic: expecting even lesser %ge of deaths)
  • X=30%, Y-2% (worse: expecting faster growth in cases AND even higher percentage of deaths)

With the above assumptions, below is how the future cumulative death count looks like:

The projection is pretty much the same as the first direct method I used. We will easily cross 50k before Independence day and then…

India will cross 1 lakh total deaths by end of Aug to latest by end of September.

Now, 1 lakh total deaths for India is basically equivalent to 72 deaths per million of the total population (in comparison, the present death toll of 42k+ is equivalent to ~31 deaths per million).

To what extent would the death toll figures keep going up?

If we look at other countries, death toll for many started to flatten out only after anywhere between 400 to 600 per million of their population died!! Scary, I know!

Y axis = no. of days (all the countries are arranged in a way that starting point of 10 deaths per million is common to all)

If we assume that for India, the death toll flattens out even at say 200 deaths per million, that would be equivalent to ~3 lakh total deaths!

It’s difficult to imagine why India would see any less deaths than that. The only populous countries across the globe where death toll flattened at much lower levels (like say Japan and China) happened when they somehow didn’t let the total deaths cross even 5k (Japan for example didn’t even let it cross 1k). We clearly couldn’t control things to that extent in India (most countries haven’t). So now let’s just be hopeful that the total death cap estimate that I am guessing is on the conservative end – otherwise, we could lose even upto 5 lakh people (or 362 deaths per million)!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (16 Aug). Stay safe.

Categories
Gyaan

The science behind Ammonium Nitrate Explosion

I will be honest. I didn’t read up much about the tragic accident that took place in Beirut, when I first heard of it. But last night, I read briefly in The Economist that Ammonium Nitrate (AN) has been causing major such explosive accidents regularly since the beginning of the 20th century! And then today morning I read in the papers that ~700 tonnes of seized Ammonium Nitrate is stored in a Container Freight Station in Manali – not the hill station but an industrial region north of Chennai . And this bit of news is definitely scary. Could that explode too? What is the science behind the AN explosion anyway?

As a wedding photographer / film-maker, this clip hits me harder

As I am writing this blog, I’ve just discovered a new information:

18,000 tonnes? Wow! But the NewsMinute article above doesn’t mention if this AN is explosive grade or not. I hope not! Anyway, I just got interested in reading up a bit on the science behind this explosion – sharing it here.

Ammonium Nitrate (AN) is a fertilizer. Why does it explode?

In general, AN (or NH4NO3) is a stable compound and doesn’t explode. You may have read / heard that it also used as an explosive material in mines and landslide clearance – but that is not just AN. That explosive is a mixture of AN and FO (fuel oil, usually diesel) – in short ANFO. The typical ratio of AN and FO is 96:04

But there have been multiple instances of AN explosion too – starting from the beginning of the 20th century.

Wikipedia has a tabulated list of each major AN related disaster.

Anyway, so what causes AN explosion even without the FO? Typically fire. Overall, there are only so many ways to trigger any ‘explosive’ material:

  • heat (or sometimes just spark)
  • impact
  • friction
  • electromagnetic radiations

The quantum of the above parameters needed to make a chemical / compound explode tells us how ‘sensitive’ the material is (and different materials could be differently sensitive to different parameters).

One one of the most sensitive materials that exists is NI3 – Nitrogen Tri-iodide. See for yourself in the video below.

As you can see, NI3 is pretty extreme. But there are several other more usable highly sensitive chemicals like Mercury Fulminate or Lead Azide – they are called primary explosives. They explode by decomposition and it is easy to trigger them to explode.

Then we have the secondary explosives that require relatively more amount of energy to get triggered. Guess what, AN is not even that!

AN (and even ANFO) is a tertiary explosive.You simply cannot make it explode easily. In fact for ANFO, explosion occurs from ‘combination’ instead of ‘decomposition’.

But yes, beyond a certain temperature (or massive force of impact) AN does decompose and explosion can happen – the way it did in Beirut (and in all the other instances listed in The Economist’s chart shared above).

Once a temperature of 170 C is reached, ammonium nitrate starts breaking down, emitting nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas. Any sudden ignition causes ammonium nitrate to decompose directly into water, nitrogen and oxygen, which explains the enormous explosive power of the salt.

DW, 05 Aug 2020

What’s up with the terrifying white cloudy ‘shock-wave’ that that we see in the videos from Beirut?

To understand the answer to this question, you need to know the two phases of decomposition of an explosive material.

In the first phase, a “chemical reaction wave” travels through the material, slower than the speed of sound. The term for it is deflagration. In many explosive materials, the chemical reaction wave speed will never cross this limit (they are called low explosives – propane, gasoline, gunpowder etc.).

But AN is a high explosive (note: not highly). Here as the chemical reaction wave continues to travel, eventually its speed crosses that of sound (detonation), transforming the chemical reaction wave into what we call a “shock wave”.

Shock-waves are high pressure waves that travel through air (or water). The white misty wave thing that you see in the big explosion in the Beirut videos is basically water vapor condensing out of the air, because of really low pressure right behind the high-pressure shock wave. And then you see it disappear right away as the condensed mist evaporates back, once the pressure equalizes (to atmospheric pressure).

Anyway, so that’s the science behind the explosion. What happened really sucks. Other than the 130+ dead, a single explosion has rendered 3 lakh folks homeless (houses damaged or outright destroyed). 3 lakh! In just few seconds!

***

Research sources:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-could-the-beirut-explosion-happen-experts-explain/

Categories
Newsletter

Vatsap? 2020 Aug 02 Newsletter

Belated Eid mubarak to those who celebrate it. This week was interesting. Modiji made a claim – India is doing better than many other countries in managing this whole Covid situation. My instinctive reaction was – what is he smoking? But then I tried to analyze. You may be surprised by what I found. Check out this VATSANALYSIS video that I made.

If you don’t want to watch the video, you can also read the same analysis here. Verdict – India is doing average and when you are doing average, you can always claim that you are doing better than many!

By the way, if you are new to my VATSANALYSIS, here is the Youtube link to watch all the 8 episodes. First one came out in Oct 2018.

My weekly Covid death projection is out too. This week the total deaths grew by just a little over 1% by the way (from last week), while total new cases grew by 20%! I wonder if this reflects the reality or with time, the hospitals have just become better at hiding death numbers! The total death toll stands at 36k+ as of yesterday and as per my forecast we would cross 1 lakh deaths anytime in September.

If this whole Covid situation is making you a bit gloomy, here is a short news byte to cheer you up!

Book of the week

I received my copy of Overdraft this Saturday. The book was published last week. Here is an article on what to expect from this book. For those who may not know, Urjit Patel was the RBI Governor who succeeded Rajan but resigned before the end of his term.

Various innovative “smoke-and-mirrors” schemes had been hatched, Patel has said. In 2019, government-owned LIC and State Bank of India (SBI) were directed by the Finance Ministry to “pony up” Rs 15,000 crore for a fund to provide financing to already over-leveraged, problematic real estate projects that were ‘close to completion’.

The Indian Express, 25 Jul 2020 – on Urjit Patel’s Overdraft

Video of the week

Saw this super cool video.

I have no idea how music gets produced from the hair-dryer thing that they have (or is it some bar-code reader)? But whatever it is, it’s just so cool! If I were into EDM, I would have had an orgasm! If anyone has any fundays on how this works, do email me.

Talking about emails, I have this feeling you already saw the below exchange between Mark Zukerberg and his once CFO David Ebersman. But if not, then it’s umm – something!

The last email (in the above tweet snapshot) is just so funny – almost like an afterthought (possibly advised by some lawyer kind of guy). For those who have no context, this Verge article would be a good read. Or may be just check out the below video.

Heard of the Cargo cult?

This week, I discovered a new concept – the Cargo cult. Do read the linked blog-post if the term fascinates you; it’s a weird sad intriguing story that references to WWII and primitive islands. It’s just outright absurd.

Before I sign off, one last thing – it is only for storytelling nerds though. I discovered this one and a half hours long brilliant video on why some movies have amazing endings. The narrator is the writer of this super cute movie – little Miss Sunshine. If you haven’t seen it, do watch – it’s cute and funny (the movie I mean). Watching the ‘explanatory’ video has inspired me to look at some Bollywood movies from a new storytelling lens. I will probably make a video this week on how the ‘story-structure’ for some of these films works (have already taken notes for Gully Boy and 3 Idiots). Anyone looking forward to that?

If you want to ask some of your friends to subscribe to my newsletter, you can share this link with them.

Also, if you are into blogging yourself – do email me your blog-site and I will subscribe. I use Feedly.

That’s it. Bye for now. Will come back next Sunday. Have a great Sunday and then a great week and then a great Saturday. Stay safe.

Categories
Covid-times

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 02 Aug update

Every week (since May this year), I look at the existing trend of a) reported Covid deaths and b) the positive cases for India. And then I run few scenarios to forecast when India will cross 1 lakh total reported Covid deaths. Total death toll as of yesterday stands at 36k+ (actual figure could easily be two times this value, for various reasons documented here). On an average 736 people reportedly died per day this week (compared to 726 last week).

One could try forecasting the future cumulative deaths by using the existing growth rate of deaths. There’s just one problem.

There is no existing growth rate trend for death figures (see the red line below – it’s all over the place).

This week, total deaths figure grew by just a little over 1%, while last week it had grown by over 20%!

So how do we project the future deaths now?

Notice the blue line in the same chart above? Even when it fluctuates, it still has some pattern. This blue line is the trend for growth rate in positive cases (let’s call it X).

3.6 lakh total positive cases were detected this week, which is 20% higher than the total cases detected the week before (almost 3 lakh). In other words, X for this week (26Jul-01 Aug) is 20%

Based on the pattern so far, I expect the total cases in the coming weeks to grow by anywhere between 20% to 30% (X). That’s my assumption #1.

Now in general, people who die of Covid in a given week, are either tested positive the same week, or the week before. Do we have some idea of what %age (Y) of such cases die? We do actually.

As you see above, death %age (Y) has been falling since its peak of 3.4% in the 07-13 June week. 5100+ people died this week (26 Jul-01 Aug) which is 1.6% of half of total cases from this week + half of total cases from last week. In other words, Y for this week is 1.6%.

Let’s assume that for the coming weeks, death %age (Y) could get as low as 1% and if something random happens, could say go up to a max of 2%. That’s my assumption #2.

Let’s forecast now…

Let me consider 3 scenarios:

  1. X=20%, Y=1.5% (baseline)
  2. X=20%, Y=1% (optimistic: expecting even lesser %ge of deaths)
  3. X=30%, Y-2% (worse: expecting faster growth in cases AND even higher percentage of deaths)

With the above assumptions, below is how the future total death count looks like:

As you can see above, we will cross 1 lakh deaths sometime in September, whichever scenario we consider.

Now, 1 lakh total deaths for India is basically equivalent to 72 deaths per million of the total population (in comparison, the present death toll of 36k+ is equivalent to 25 deaths per million).

To what extent would the death toll figures keep going up?

If we look at other countries, death toll for many started to flatten out only after anywhere between 400 to 600 per million of their population died!! Scary, I know!

Y axis = no. of days (all the countries are arranged in a way that starting point of 10 deaths per million is common to all)

If we assume that for India, the death toll flattens out even at say 200 deaths per million, that would be equivalent to ~3 lakh total deaths!

It’s difficult to imagine why India would see any less deaths than that. The only populous countries across the globe where death toll flattened at much lower levels (like say Japan and China) happened when they somehow didn’t let the total deaths cross even 5k (Japan for example didn’t even let it cross 1k). We clearly couldn’t control things to that extent in India (most countries haven’t). So now let’s just be hopeful that the total death cap estimate that I am guessing is on the conservative end – otherwise, we could lose even upto 5 lakh people (or 362 deaths per million)!

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (09 Aug). Stay safe.

Categories
something new

Did you know about the cargo cult?

Was reading a BS editorial by Devanghsu Datta just now. He talks about “Cargo cult democracies”.

The cargo cult democracy is a political system that imitates the forms and rituals of democracies. There are elections; legislatures pass laws; judges give decrees. However, the foundation of democracy — that individuals have fundamental rights — are ignored.

Devanghsu Datta, BS – 01 Aug 2020

But more than Cargo cult democracy, the idea of “Cargo cults” itself is pretty fascinating to me – I wasn’t aware of it till now. Were you?

So basically during World War II, both US and Japan built military bases on many islands. The native islanders were hired as labours for jungle clearance / construction work. And with this, for the first time in their lives they got exposed to technologies like electricity, motorboats, radio, canned food and many other exciting things flown in by planes landing on airstrips they had built.

But then eventually the war ended. The military bases were abandoned. The islanders had no clue about what was really going on. In their head the “military rituals” that they had seen, were probably responsible for all the technological marvels. So when no planes came for a long time, what did they do? They built replica bamboo planes themselves!

They mimicked the soldiers, wearing cast-off uniforms, marching with wooden replica rifles and waving signal flags. They carved wooden earphones and muttered mumbo-jumbo.

By imitation of military ritual, the cultists hoped to attract new planes with cargo. Of course, as with all cults, the leading lights were scamsters, who made fortunes lying to followers.

Devanghsu Datta, BS – 01 Aug 2020

I found a Youtube video that shows one such group of island-dwellers. It’s just fascinating.

That’s all, I thought I’d share it here.

Of course Devanghsu Datta’s article is more about comparing some forms of democracies with the Cargo cult thing – how just having elections is not enough for a country to be ‘democratic’. The article may be behind paywall, but if it’s not, read it – his take makes sense. I also like how he never actually mentions the present Indian Govt. 🙂

Categories
VATSANALYSIS

India is in a much better position than other countries – is Modi right about this Covid-19 claim?

If you like watching video more than reading – I have video-fied this blog – so you can just watch me explain my analysis below.


And now the original blog…

PM Modi made some claims this week.

The above video should play from 7:22. You will hear Modi claim the following:

  • India’s recovery rate is better than other countries
  • The death rate (%age of total cases who died) is less compared to most other countries
  • Losing even one life is a loss – but overall many lives have been saved
  • The danger of the virus is not yet over – we need to continue being alert (masks / social distancing / hand-washing / hygiene)

All of the above is true.

I want to make something clear though – the first three bullet points are basically the same point – when you are infected and you don’t die, what happens? You ‘recover’! So it goes without saying that high ‘recovery rate’ = low death %age = many lives saved. They are not three different things. But then Modi has always been overboard on ‘marketing’! Which politician isn’t?

Below quote is from next day – 27 Jul 2020.

You can hear him say the above quoted lines in the below video (that will play from 3:20).

And if you watch the video further, you will notice that Modi is citing the same parameters he did the day before – lower death %age – higher recovery rate.

Many Modi haters / bashers and far-left folks got extremely agitated.

How can Modi say we are doing better than most other countries, when today we clearly have the third highest case count globally?

Yes, India is indeed in top three if one looks at cases.

As on 30 Jul 2020 – WHO

Even if you consider total death toll, we are in top ten (no.6).

As on 30 Jul 2020 – WHO

But here’s the thing – neither Modi is lying nor the doubters are wrong.

The question really is – what is the right way to look at how a country is managing its Covid situation?

Modi assumes it is by looking at death rates (not total infection or total death toll). The anti-Modi camp wants the ‘total’ cases to be considered.

My general views in life often align with the anti-Modi camp but this time, I would side with Modi. I think it’s silly to look at total cases. Death is what really matters. If you don’t die, you just recover and move on with life!

With that, let’s revisit the death growth rate.

If for all the countries, one compares growth in total Covid deaths from the time when they all saw their first few deaths – below is what that the graph looks like:

Source: FT

You can see above that there are 6 countries (grey lines) between US and India where deaths grew much faster than India.

Out of the six, for two of them the total death toll continues to grow rapidly – Brazil & Mexico.

For the remaining four grey lines between US and India, you can see the lines have tapered down (meaning growth in death tolls has slowed). In fact, two lines have been overtaken by India (meaning India has more people dead than them).

UK, Italy, France & Spain have tapered down. India has overtaken France & Spain in total deaths.

Then there are a bunch of other countries below India where growth has been much slower, and total deaths on an avg, seem to be hovering around 10k-20k mark (compared to 30k+ where India is today).

Now let me dissect the relative performance by breaking down comparison in three legs:

  • leg 1: first 100+ death (for each country) till India crossed 1k+ deaths
  • leg 2: first 1k+ death (for each country) till India crossed 10k + deaths
  • leg3: likewise, from 10k+ till present (when India’s death toll is over 30k)

To avoid, clutter, I will not compare all the countries. Firstly, let me take off US – the death growth rate and the total deaths for US are literally “off the charts”. Keeping US in the mix screws up the rest of the graph. We already know US is the worst by a big margin.

So let me pick Spain, UK, France, Italy, Brazil and Mexico to begin with. To this list, let me add few more countries from the lower growth rate cluster – which if you observe carefully, can be viewed in two categories:

  • cluster 1- Peru, Russia & Iran
  • cluster 2 – the bunch of grey lines further below Iran

From the bunch of grey lines further below Iran (cluster 2), let me randomly pick up few countries – say Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh & Philippines, to compare.

Before I proceed

I want to make it clear that at this point, I choose not to get into the data-authenticity debate (which is real). All countries probably cheat on data – some less, some more. Since we don’t have enough info on the scale of this cheating, let’s just assume that in relative comparison, the cheating-factor gets evened out.

And now to leg-wise comparison

Below is how the chart looks like for leg 1 (first 100 deaths for the select countries, to the time India crossed the 1,000 total deaths figure). Date for starting-point is obviously different for each country.

You can see here that in the 24 days it took for India’s total death toll to grow from 100+ to 1,000+, Spain, UK, France & Italy (let’s label them – SUFI) grew all the way to be in the 8,000-12,000 deaths range! So did we do better than some of these advanced countries? Yes.

Did we do better simply because there are more older people in SUFI? May be.

Graph generated from data compiled from indexmundi.com

Lesser no. of older people in India clearly seems to have played some role. But did the strict lock-down early on also matter?

May be it did? Did the fact that our PM advocated social distancing (and later masks) and has continued to do so (in contrast to say Brazil and US) have any impact on the death toll growth? Again, I would think yes.

Let’s see how the leg 1 growth chart looks like after we get rid of SUFI (that way we can focus more on the rest of the countries where the death-toll growth is somewhat comparable to what we see for India).

In the above chart, you can see for yourself that in leg 1, India is just an average performer.

In the no. of days that it took for India’s death toll to rise from 100+ to 1k+, countries like Brazil, Iran, Turkey, Mexico and Russia reached relatively higher death toll figures (all the way up to even 2500). And other countries did better than India.

Did the countries that did worse, do it simply because they all have way more older people compared to India? Not really.

Other than Russia, most other countries have similar percentage of older people as compared to India (10 to 18% range – India being somewhere in the middle).

India has clearly managed its Covid situation better than Mexico, Turkey & Iran. The old-age logic can’t be used here. Iran in fact has an even younger demographic than India and yet it reached 2500 deaths in the same number of days compared to 1,000 for India (starting at the same point of 100).

Let’s now look at leg 2 (starting-point for each country is its first 1k+ death, plotted till India crosses the 10k total death mark).

As you see above, it took India around 50 days to travel from 1k to 10k+ . But not only did the usual suspects (SUFI) do much worse (reaching 25k to 35k deaths in the same number of days), Brazil & Mexico too reached far higher death toll figures than India (25k+ and 15k+ respectively).

So even in this second leg of death toll journey, India doesn’t seem to have performed that bad; just average. Some countries have done worse and others seem to have managed their death growth much better (keeping it below 5k – Turkey, Egypt, Bangladesh, Indonesia).

On to leg 3 now!

Even in here, India still looks like an average performer, doesn’t it?

In the time that India journeyed from 10k+ to 33k+ deaths (present), Brazil, UK and Mexico did worse. Many other countries that did better than India (lesser deaths in the same no. of days) where not drastically different – Italy, France, Spain! But then Peru, Russia and Iran did much better (may be because their journey has started only recently and they are better prepared to treat patients?)

How does it look like when we observe leg 1 (100+ to 1k+ deaths) for India, Japan, China, & South Korea?

Not too bad right? By the way over 40% of Japan is more than 55 years of age. Japan is like the class topper. India is an average student. US will need to repeat the class.

What about leg 2 (1k+ to 10k+ journey) for the above countries? Only India and China remain to be compared, because neither Japan nor South Korea have a death toll crossing 1k till date.

Clearly something happened in China once it reached 3k death toll. Since then China’s total death toll figure refuses to cross even the 5k mark. Could India have even been able to pull this feat off? There is no way to tell. Does this make India one of the ‘worst’ performers? No.

If one had to look at just one graph, what would that be?

In conclusion I would say that the best way to really look at the relative performance of any country is to look at how the death per million figure grew, when compared from a common starting-point (say 3 deaths per million – which is exactly Financial Times lets you track). 

In the above chart, all the countries on the left of India (blue line), did worse than India.

For some of them (SUFI for example), old-age was a factor. For others, death toll grew faster because the pandemic started earlier (in Feb-March – when treatment strategies were not as well developed as they are today). Then for other countries like US and Brazil, bad leadership can clearly be linked to bad performance. And of course, a mix of all these factors apply on a country by country basis.

Modi’s messaging, from the very beginning, has focused on the right things (even when he has also continuously spoken about many other random things – from tali, thali to atmanirbhar catchphrase and what not). It is hard to deny that without his sustained focus on social distancing, wearing masks etc. – India would have done worse (just look at US & Brazil). And without an early lock-down, our death-toll would have grown faster in the leg 1 (difficult to say by how much though).

What about the migrant worker issue that the lockdown caused?

Yes, that sucks. The government simply didn’t anticipate the implication and messed up the entire situation leaving it to the civil society to plug in the gap. I did document that story myself, in case you have not yet seen it.

But I guess that’s the only major blunder. And in spite of the blunder, today India is not doing as bad as many would want you to believe! That’s all I’ve got to say really. I hope you gained some good insights from this analysis.

Categories
Newsletter

Vatsap? 2020 Jul 26 Newsletter

There is only one way to start this week’s newsletter – by telling you a joke.

Since May, I have been looking at Covid deaths data and doing some basic forecasting. As per my latest forecast, we will start seeing 1,000 avg daily (reported) deaths in a week or two (this week 720+ died on an avg per day, reportedly) and by early Sept, total reported death toll will cross 1 lakh (31k+ have died so far – again – reportedly).

Yesterday was my birthday by the way. You can still wish me! Belated than never as they say!

So this week, I finally finished editing a new 3MS. It’s on a day in the life of a DJ.

I had shot it last year. With this, now I have completed three stories in my Being an artist (BAA) series.

I am looking forward to documenting more artists – want BAA to represent as much variety as possible, in terms of art-form, gender, experience etc. The idea is to put together enough videos so that when a child, especially from class IXth to XIIths sees them, they realize that being an artist is not as far-fetched a life choice as their parents / teachers / acquaintances typically make it look like.

Most artists are freelancers and talking about that, my advice this week on surviving the pandemic as a freelancer, became my most liked or shared post on Instagram ever.

BREATHE. SURVIVE. CREATE.

I guess many freelancers could relate to what I had to say (some even pinged me to let me know my words helped them). The strategy that I’ve preached, has definitely worked for me.

One of my early admirers – who like literally found me via this blog over a decade ago – asked me if there was a way for him to contribute towards my existence as an artist. I pointed him to my Patreon page and with him joining the list, I now have 3 patreons who support me every month! Yay!

If you are new to the concept of Patreon: watch this short video made by its CEO.

In short, if you are someone who has a decent source of income, and there are certain artists whose work you admire, you can offer to pay them a fix amount of money every month (with the freedom to stop the payment whenever you feel like). This way your loved artists will not have to keep looking for ways to make money from their art (at least when enough number of patreons put together a decent monthly inflow for the artist).

It’s almost like subscribing to a paid magazine except here, the magazine is typically free for all. What I create is for everyone to consume. With three patreons, I make USD 36 every month now. At this rate, with just 300 patreons I would be able to make USD 3,600 per month (INR 2.7 lakh per month). What happens when I reach there? I can stop doing all commercial work and only create work that I feel the world needs. See the beauty?

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

I created my first podcast this week. In here, I explore what explains China’s behavior towards India lately (have also blogged about it). What does China have to gain from this? There are essentially three theories that exist:

  1. The theory of unity – by creating common enemies (India, US etc.) the Chinese Communist Part (CCP) can unite its citizens who otherwise are likely to start civil protests in the country (as the economy falters)
  2. The theory of message – China wants to give India a message that it is the big boss; it is agitated with the infra development along the border that India has been undertaking since some time.
  3. The Middle Kingdom theory – Xi Jinping probably believes that the time for China to become the global leader (akin to the days of Middle Kingdom) has now come and there is no point in pretending to be nice anymore.

A reader pinged to share few additional reasons that explain China’s behaviour.

If you read my blog, I have also linked few books on China that I’ve been reading off late.

Video of the week – Camera-vala beetle

And before I end, leaving you with some gems from the “I have a joke” series trending on twitter this week (no idea why)!

Ok enough I guess. That’s pretty much for this newsletter. If you would want to ask your friends to subscribe to me – you can send them this link.

Saw my DJ video-story? Like the BAA concept? Drop me a reply on email na. Just don’t tell me any more jokes! 🙂

-Amrit

Categories
general

India Covid deaths weekly projection – 26 Jul 2020 update

Every week (since May this year), I look at the existing trend of reported cases and deaths for India. Based on that, I run few scenarios to forecast two things:

  1. when will we start seeing avg 1,000 per day reported deaths and
  2. by when would we cross 1 lakh total reported Covid deaths

So what are the latest death figures that we have?

As you can note from above:

  1. this week (19-25 Jul) on an avg. 720+ people died per day
  2. as of yesterday, total death count is 31k+

The problem with projecting the future Avg. Daily Deaths based on just this information is that the weekly growth rate of Avg Daily Deaths is pretty erratic – as you can see below.

So to project deaths, I look at two things:

  • X% – at what rate does weekly total positive cases grow (it is not as erratic – you will see below)
  • Y% – what percentage of total avg weekly cases from past two weeks die in a given week

Alright, let’s look at X from past few weeks. As you see below, it has typically hovered between 20 to 30 percent (though this week – 19-25 Jul – it really shot up).

There were almost 3 lakh new cases reported this week (19-25 Jul) which is 37% higher than 2.1 lakh reported the week before (12-18 Jul).

For future projection, I expect X to be in the range of 20 to 30%.

Now let’s come to Y.

As you see above, death %age used to hover around 3% till mid June but has been more or less around 2% since many weeks now. It looks like it could drop even more.

For projections, I am going with a range of 1.7% to 2%

My three scenarios are:

  1. X=25%, Y=2% (baseline)
  2. X=20%, Y=1.7% (better – as in slower spread, lesser deaths)
  3. X=30%, Y-2% (worse – as in faster growth, more deaths)

In about a week or two, we will start seeing 1,000 avg daily deaths, which could touch 2,000 in Aug itself.

As a context, US already reached the 1,000 daily deaths figure this week (source).

Also, at this rate, we will have 1 lakh reported deaths by early September.

That’s it for this post. I’ll get back with updated projections next Sunday (02 Aug). Stay safe.

Categories
Gyaan VATSANALYSIS

The three theories that explain China’s border aggression with India.

You an also listen to this post below.

Has the below question crossed your mind too?

Of course, it is not just India that China has been messing up with. The list is long and growing – the Philippines, Australia, Europe, the US, and Canada.

The puzzle is why China is choosing aggression over magnanimity, or even over mere inaction. After all, China’s current leaders probably view America as a declining power that will soon organically vacate the hegemonic position that China seeks to occupy. If so, just as Deng Xiaoping, the father of China’s reforms 40 years ago, advised geopolitical patience until China became stronger, a Dengian strategy today would be to wait for the US to become weaker.

Arvind Subramanian, Business Standard 21 Jul 2020

Theory 1 – This shall unite the Chinese citizens.

One of the first few persons who I found had a theory to explain this behaviour by China, was Sonam Wangchuk.

Sonam theorizes that China is probably doing what it is doing to project the country in some kind of a big global fight with rest of the world. This perception of a common enemy (many common enemies rather) will unite all the Chinese and keep their support for CCP intact.

Why does CCP need to unite the Chinese? Are they not united already?

Sonam claims that there is a growing unrest within the Chinese populace. That may eventually lead to civil protests bigger than what China has seen in its recent history (unless of course CCP succeeds in its strategy). In the later part of his video, Sonam gets into the ‘what do we do about’ mode, which I’d like to avoid addressing.

By the way an astrologer (who did his B.Tech from IIT Madras long time ago) proclaims that China will soon get split into smaller countries (like what happened to USSR). Don’t ask me why I watch such astrology videos – let’s just call me super curious. 🙂 This same astrologer also predicts that Modi will come back to power for a third term, but will leave midway and take sanyas!

Coming back to China, one day I randomly stumbled upon a Youtuber (Winston aka serpentza) who’d published a video titled “Why I left China for Good”.

The above embedded video should play from 06:45 – where he basically says that from his personal experience of having lived in China (he is originally from South Africa), CCP does not let any criticism of the government come out in public. That to him was a very stifling environment to live in – so he decided to move out.

Most of you would instinctively agree with this claim. Me too. Of course one may say that the way a person from SA (or US, UK, even India) sees this situation – stifling – may be very different from how it is probably viewed by an average Chinese citizen. The Chinese citizens are – may be – used to such behavior from Govt. and don’t mind it as much.

Of course this view is debatable. In any case, it is something I will skip getting into, for now. All that even the internet offers on this, are just anecdotes – some Chinese tell you they don’t like their Govt., others say they are okay with it. How does one even find out what the “average” Chinese opinion is?

On a side-note, what definitely felt weird to me while watching the above video was this realization – that the very words this Youtuber chose to express his feelings for CCP, can as well be used to describe the present Indian Govt! Again, some of you may not agree with me, but let’s discuss that some other time!

Theory 2 – Message to India.

Shekhar Gupta (the below video should play from 09:41) talks about China’s need to give India a ‘message’ that it is the big boss (they apparently got triggered by major infra development by India along the border).

It sure is a theory, but a little too simple, isn’t it? A better, more plausible theory comes from Arvind Subramanian, who I quoted earlier.

Theory 3 – The time to rule the world has come.

Arvind sums it up nicely:

Perhaps China’s leaders once again see the world through a victim’s lens. As they perceive it, the powerful West had kept a weak China in check since the early 1800s. Now that the roles are reversed, the regime believes it is time to correct historical injustices. With Xi’s aggressive insecurity having replaced Deng’s calm confidence, China now places a premium on settling its borders and returning to the glory days of the Middle Kingdom.

Arvind Subramanian, Business Standard 21 Jul 2020

So yeah, these are the three theories that I have come to find so far. Do you have any other theory? Have you heard of anything else that explains why China is doing what it is doing with India? Do let me know.

If you want a quick refresher on the Indo-China border conflict, I created a 10-slider illustration some time back (mostly relying on a NY times summary article).

I had made the above deck when the Galwan valley thing had just started. As of now (24 Jul 2020), what we know is that in spite of all the talks about de-escalation and disengagement, things haven’t really cooled down.

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Anyway, other than getting inspired to draw informative illustrations and satirical cartoons, I also had the urge to read up more about China. So I got hold of few books.

I am reading the first one – by Job Fenby – on Kindle and listening to the second one on Audible (When China Rules the World by Martin Jacques). Both are insightful.

I’ll see if I ever get to the third book – ‘Has China Won’ – that I came to know about when I randomly stumbled upon the below video (where the author is interviewed). This is the second time I used the phrase “randomly stumbled upon”, didn’t I? But is anything ‘random’ on Youtube anymore? 🙂

This is not a contest between a democracy & a communist party system. It’s a contest between a plutocracy (US) and a meritocracy (CCP).

Kishore Mahbubani (in the video above)

Are you reading anything on China too? Do let me know. That will be all for this post.