09 March 2022
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The Covid Test Racket

What does Covid testing have in common with Chickenman?

It's everywhere! It's everywhere! I had occasion to walk the streets of the city today, specifically New York City. My mission was, in part, to replenish a diminishing supply of Linzer tortes, a scarce comestible in those there parts that I normally inhabit. They're becoming scarcer on the East Coast as well, with the demise of the Viking Bakery, my customary purveyor. Fortunately, the Budapest Cafe (on 2nd Avenue between 84th and 85th Streets) is not just my vendor of last resort, it's becoming my vendor of only resort thanks to the quality of their Linzers! I've given them a triple-five-star rating, and I ask only that you leave some* for me.

But I Pre-digress

To get to the Budapest Cafe requires a bit of ambulation, which I usually find invigorating and entertaining. Today my walk took me past Grand Army Plaza, where I snapped** this picture.

Shown are three Covid test stations. Each of these is dual-personed by a team whose job is to sign up customers, administer tests for Covid infection, perform the administrative tasks to get the results to the customers, and, presumably apply for reimbursement from that giant trough in the sky. Three test stations on one block! Surely there must be enormous demand for these tests, as we've been reading for over a year now. Although the photo above depicts an atypical congregation of test stations, my walk revealed many additional tents and vans scattered throughout the East Side. This purported enormous demand should be evidenced by long lines of test seekers in various stages of mental distress. Where are they?

The tests, clearly touted as being "free," are wasting human resources while restaurants and other businesses are having trouble getting staff. Presumably they are being paid for by someone! Who could it be?

One guess.

My Missing Neutrino

It has been an article of (probabilistic) faith for me that, in my current elderly state, I have by now stopped my once-in-a-lifetime neutrino. Because I read about this in the august Science Magazine, I assumed it was most likely true. To be sure, they claimed it typically happens once in a lifetime, but probability is the soul of particle physics. So, perhaps, some lives may encounter more than one and others, none at all. But after all these years of assuming I was average in my interaction probability***, I found another article on the subject, this time in the equally august Physics Today. It claimed:

"Odds are good that none of the atoms in your body will ever interact with a neutrino during your lifetime. How can such an aloof bunch of particles have anything to do with the existence of all the matter in the universe?"

I suppose, given how elusive neutrinos are, along with the usual quantum-mechanical paradoxes, that I have both stopped and not-stopped "my" neutrino, which neutrino may or may not be indistinguishable from all the others. And—wow!—there are a lot of them!


* Well, sometimes all for me. It's a small store and they typically only have a dozen or so.

** I wondered about the etymology of "snapped" with respect to photography. I assume it was a back-formation of "snapshot" which, having just researched the subject in the usual way, seems to have its origin in actual shooting with guns.

*** If I were a true scientist, I suspect I could qualify for Ig Nobel Prize consideration by researching the neutrino interaction cross-section for humans varying from neonates to persons of size at various stages of their lives. As we learn more (or possibly less) about neutrinos, a continuing grant could easily be written.

Richard Factor


"She's a Soldier Boy"

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Ham remains with us in spirit even after all these years.

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