A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



Australian Speakers Agency


The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX

The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper



Chinese company flew 80 tons of medical masks, suits, to China in Feb

Asleep at the wheel.

The Lucky Country wakes up to the cost of globalization. There are only 3,000 Covid cases here, we have barely begun, yet we’re already running out of protective gear. The lives of our doctors and nurses are at risk because bureaucrats were too slow to see the obvious, blindly unaware of foreign allegiances, and they kept using the old Influenza plan when this wasn’t influenza.

The media, led by the bloated ABC, reinforced all the incompetence, more worried that we might made bad jokes about shaking hands in hospital.

Meanwhile, below, China now has excess masks which it is donating to Belt and Road Slaves in Europe and to nations where it wants access to 5G network deals. Our masks, used as levers for China to gain power.

50 shades of incompetance

Chinese-backed company’s mission to send Australian medical supplies to China, by Kate McClymont.

According to a company newsletter, the Greenland Group sourced 3 million protective masks, 700,000 hazmat suits and 500,000 pairs of protective gloves from “Australia, Canada, Turkey and other countries.”

This is the free market at work — to some extent, those supplies were more needed in Wuhan in [...]

Masks do help, even (maybe) stopping 75% of influenza, and you can make them

In the West the public have been discouraged from wearing face masks, and told they aren’t much help. This is mostly because they are “much help” and the front line docs and nurses really need them but no one in charge ordered enough in advance, and none of them had the honesty to say so. The daft push-me-pull-you messaging of how the useless masks are needed on the front line will go down as a case study in how not to communicate (or build trust). The truth is we do want people to wear masks in the street, because it almost certainly does slow transmission. (These Lancet authors think so too).

In high density East Asian nations, face masks are common. (And viral growth curves are generally slower, though for lots of reasons.)  Possibly after Coronavirus has gone, masks in winter might be more common here too.

Things can change fast:

Kamil Chudačík, twitter:

In Czech Republic we went from: “Look at the idiot wearing a mask!” to “Look at the idiot not wearing a mask!” in 2 days. I can say the czechs are very conservative in terms of changes so I’m surprised by this behavior. The [...]

Young and fit brought down, means hard sharp quarantine coming everywhere

 Message to the young and immortal

A fully fit 28 year old who ran marathons tells what it was like for him to get Coronavirus. He ended up spending 13 days in ICU. His ongoing liver problems and weakness will take a month or two to get better.

His message to young people out at parties or on the beach: ” You might survive, but the old person that didn’t get that ventilator might not…”

But the spread of stories like this rule out some future paths.

Forget all the pussy-foot weak quarantines

This shows that the “Let it RIP” approach and the “Herd Immunity” approach were never even worth discussing. The community would not tolerate the risk or inhumanity of either. But this also shows that the Slow Bleed approach of weak Social Distancing for six months will be dumped like a hot rock asap (it’ll be rebadged and quietly wrapped in stronger stuff). As Italy found (and now Spain) weak quarantine doesn’t work very well. Only serious quarantine can solve this.

Speaking of solving this: Good to hear that cases are possibly slowing in Italy. Looks promising. What did Italy do 12 days ago — On March 12th, [...]

Doc talks about his “Holy S***” moment — horrible lung failure even in young patients

For most people Coronavirus is like the flu or even a cold, but for 20% it’s something awful. Even in younger patients — a few seemingly fit and healthy 40 and 50 year olds are gasping for air as their lungs fill with blood and fluid and it’s “like a near death drowning” or “inhaling caustic gas”. Forgive the language in the headline — those were this docs exact words. He’s working at a New Orleans hospital and his whole attitude to the virus has changed dramatically.

h/t Analitik

A Medical Worker Describes Terrifying Lung Failure From COVID-19 — Even in His Young Patients

by Lixzzie Presser, ProPublica

“It first struck me how different it was when I saw my first coronavirus patient go bad. I was like, Holy shit, this is not the flu. Watching this relatively young guy, gasping for air, pink frothy secretions coming out of his tube and out of his mouth. The ventilator should have been doing the work of breathing but he was still gasping for air, moving his mouth, moving his body, struggling. We had to restrain him. With all the coronavirus patients, we’ve had to restrain them. They [...]

Every day matters. See which day each US state loses the chance to protect thousands

Look at State by State outcomes: visit Covid Act Now

Its an excellent display of modeled outcomes across the US*. Click on each state in the US to find out predicted death tolls and the day hospitals will be overwhelmed with too little action.

Dear readers, get out of the way of this virus. My advice is to stay home. Order online. Wear masks if you have to venture out. Keep kids home from school. Don’t visit anyone or allow visitors in to your home who have not strictly quarantined for the last two weeks. We started this last week.

h/t Bill in Oz.

Eg It’s too late now for  New York State to avoid losing control of hospitals

But they could still Crush the Curve and save a lot of people, but even that action now will have far higher death tolls that it would if it had been started last week.

New York State has a population of 20 million. So the figures in the table below are directly comparable to Australian outcomes with a population of 25m (with the hope that lower population density, warmer weather, and two weeks warning could be an [...]

50 Specialist Doctors send dire warning hospitals will be swamped 3 x capacity

The wave coming is not just a “bit bigger” than hospitals can handle

Western Australian specialists estimate that at present rate, in 45 days Coronavirus cases will fill up their entire state hospital system. Two weeks later Covid patients will also fill all the beds in the extra two copies of their entire state hospital network that haven’t been built yet.

Hospitals will need 20 times as many ventilators as they have.

“Peak need for ventilators will be over four thousands in a system where we have less than two hundred. Again, most of those needing a ventilator will die. “

Perhaps we are overreacting?

Western Australia is an example of what the rest of the West faces. There are 2.5m people here, but only 120 confirmed cases. In a state which took six years to build one hospital all we need to do is triple our hospital capacity in 6 weeks. Laughing…

The Doctors call for the immediate closure of borders. Which was impossible a few days ago, in a state that only has two sealed roads out, but is now happening on Tuesday “at 1:30pm”. (Presumably the new border guards have to drive out from [...]

Crush the Curve: Italian town with first death in Italy stopped the virus

The first epicentre in Italy was Vò, a little town of 3,000. It was shut down, fully tested and twice and nine days apart. By testing, isolating, and tracking, they reduced the spread to almost nothing, and this is despite the extraordinary discovery that when the first death happened, already 3% of the town had the disease.

At that point surely the Italian government should have immediately closed everything?

Italian village reports no new infections for days after blanket testing

Zoe Tidman, Independent

Mr Zaia, Veneto’s governor, said the trial was “criticised by most sides” but that isolating numbers of undetected positive cases has resulted in Vo Euganeo being today “the safest place in Italy”.

h/t Bill H

In one Italian town, we showed mass testing could eradicate the coronavirus

Andrea Crisanti and Antonio Cassone, The Guardian, March 20.

Our experiment came to be by chance. The Italian authorities had a strong emotional reaction to news of the country’s first death – which was in Vò. The whole town was put into quarantine and every inhabitant was tested.

In the first round of testing, 89 people tested positive. In the second round, the number had [...]

Doctors on front line see disaster coming and feel abandoned

Australian Medical Association WA President Andrew Miller said Western Australia was headed for a situation like Italy and are 8 – 10 days behind Sydney. Read his scathing comments below.

The tally in Australia is now about 900, the same as Italy had on Feb 28th, just three weeks ago. Now Italy has 41,000 cases and 3,405 people have died. Their population is three times larger than Australia and slightly older, it’s colder and packed in closer.  At a guess, with the present SlowMo/SlowState response, maybe only 10-20,000 Australians will catch this in the next three weeks? “Great”.

UPDATE: Hospitals in Italy are no longer intubating anyone over 60 years old.  h/t nezy

Italian politicians could have been better prepared, but there’s no excuse for the rest of the world now.

Coronavirus crisis: Australian Medical Association WA President Andrew Miller slams WA Government response to COVID-19 pandemic

John Flint The West Australian

[Miller said:] …“And we’re not doing any of the things that the countries that are being successful are doing like Hong Kong.

“They are using fever monitoring in public, they lock people down away from their families if they’re positive, whereas here we send [...]

Delay = death. Countries that act slowly increase the fatality rate by 10x

Dithering politicians push the fatality from 0.5% toward 5%

A gritty analysis by Tomas Pueyo shows how leaders inertia is killing people every day. Some of the victims of tomorrows Virus Get-Togethers won’t die for a few weeks, but the next batch starts tomorrow (and every day until the nation self-isolates, stops the pox-parties, the cough-shopping, and pneumonia-planes. ). And each day there are more than the day before. Sounds macabre, but at this point in an exponential epidemic, it’s just how it is. Since we didn’t stop the Airbussed virus, we’re going to have to shut everything down anyhow, the later we do it, the larger the cost, and the longer it takes. We have to get ahead of this virus.

Meanwhile in Australia, the average punter seems to realize this and the mood is hitting feverish notes with tramplings in supermarkets — The government is calling for calm, but doctors are calling for borders to close, and schools to go online, they’re standing outside schools with signs telling parents not to send their children to school. Doctors are warning that we are the next “Italy” if we don’t get our act together. But the government says it’s too [...]

Doctors in West Australia call for closure of state borders

I seem to have the uncanny ability to predict what frontline experts will recommend days in advance. It’s not genius. Just medical training and that the solution to this is so Bleeding Obvious, and politicians are still 2 to 3 weeks behind an exploding epidemic of an inanimate nucleic acid code.

WA hospitals call for state border closures to deal with coronavirus fears (COVID-19)

Top doctors across WA’s biggest hospitals are sensationally calling for the state to effectively close its borders to protect West Australians from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a remarkable letter obtained by The West Live to be discussed exclusively on this morning’s show, it can be revealed the Combined Medical Leads Advisory Group has raised concerns about the “extremely limited” availability of testing infrastructure and supplies in WA.

The group, which includes senior medicos from FSH, RPH and SCGH, also warns there is “limited evidence of effective anti-viral treatment”, “no effective vaccine” and that rationing is already in place at hospitals.

It recommends that to “flatten the curve” that attention should be paid to “extending isolation restrictions to all personal interstate travel”.

Just to spell this out, all states [...]

More proof that viruses don’t have wings — UPDATE: SlowMo moves!

BREAKING NEWS: Since writing this Scott Morrison has finally moved to quarantine all arrivals including planes and ships. He’s still two weeks behind the virus, and playing catch up with Jacinda Ardern, the real leader. But finally the bleeding obvious has dawned.

He won’t close schools, and perhaps, suddenly that will now be a viable option, though Sydney still needs short sharp major action to save lives. Could they bear doing no sport or social events for two weeks?

The big risk to most states are now flights from Sydney. Will NSW aim for the “slow bleed” eking out infections over months, hoping none accidentally go wild, or will it aim to wipe this out in three weeks so life gets back to normal, and Australia can play sport again against New Zealand, asap?

With this news, just in the nick of time, the future is now looking better. My prediction: Watch as leaders all round the world pick this up. This is a good boost for nation states and sovereign borders. All eyes are on the EU now where the open border policy has been disastrous — Spain (6,300), Germany (4500) [...]

Strap Yourself in: just three weeks from 3 patients to a hospital system on brink of collapse. 12% need intensive care.

Get out of the way of this virus.

Could Italy be suffering from a different and nastier strain?

Figures from South Korea and the Diamond Princess may not be a good guide to what’s happening in Italy and Iran. There something seriously different going on there. Death rates are much higher than expected. Three weeks ago, Italy officially had three cases, now a thousand people are dead and 12,000 have the virus. The hospital system is already at the point of being overwhelmed. Reports say that even stroke patients are now missing out on help, the ICU wards are overflowing, and the staff are prioritizing younger people because they have a better chance of survival.

Perhaps Italians hug more and spread more, perhaps it’s worse because they have an older demographic. But perhaps this is a deadlier strain than the one Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea appear to be containing. The Italian strain, whatever it is, is from the Iranian strain. Every country that has imported infected passengers from Iran will likely also have the Iranian strain.

Do we really want to follow Iran and Italy?

It’s not impossible — Just stop feeding the virus fresh bodies [...]

Did I say disruption was coming?

And so it begins.

Suddenly there are no more weddings for a quarter of all of Italy. No more movies, pubs, dance halls or trains to some parts of the country either. Italy is about to overtake South Korea for the number two spot on the list no country wants to lead, unless Iran beats Italy to it (which it almost certainly has already). Today 16 million Italians are not free to go about their business, or go to school.

On Feb 21st, Italy had three cases, now 366 people are dead, and 7353 are infected (at least). How life has changed in two weeks and three days. Suddenly France and Germany are about to reach the 1,000 mark. This is what exponential curves feel like.

“We are facing an emergency, a national emergency,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in announcing the government decree in a news conference after 2 a.m. — NY Times

The Frankfurt and London exchanges dropped by 8 percent in early Monday trading, while in Paris stocks were trading 4 percent lower. An index of Europe’s 50 biggest companies was down nearly 6 percent.

Oil prices lost nearly a quarter [...]

Good sign: South Korea may be getting control of Coronavirus — is this the middle scenario future?

Watching South Korea — it appears to have stopped the exponential spread of Coronavirus

Heartening. At its peaks last Saturday and Tuesday, South Korea acquired 800 new infections per day. Since then, whatever it is doing, South Korea has managed to keep the new daily cases between 300-800. That may not sound like much, but in exponential terms it could have been a lot worse. Is this the future for us in the West? Perhaps with aggressive action, and local or statewide lockdowns, wealthy western nations may get outbreaks under control. Will we spend the next year with periodic major lockdowns as outbreaks occur, but manage to keep the virus from en masse spread without hospitals being overwhelmed? But can poor countries achieve this? If not, we will have to close flights to stop repeated debilitating and deadly outbreaks, while doing our best to help them. The world will become divided into nations which have this controlled, and those who don’t. This is still the pandemonium I’ve been talking about for six weeks; we could have avoided it, but it’s better than other scenarios. It’s a middle-run scenario.

We are fortunate that this is not as airborne and infectious as [...]

The story of the 25 year old British man who had Coronavirus last November in Wuhan


This 25 year old British man caught the virus in Wuhan on November 25. He must have been one of the earliest cases, and it was only recognised belatedly that he had Coronavirus. Twice, he thought he was well, only to relapse. But he does recover. I suspect this is the rarer “severe” type case in an otherwise healthy young man. Theoretically 80% of people get the easier five day version and recover. Notably, for him it’s 24 days before he feels well properly. Can this disease affect pets, which is very ususual? If so, can it affect other mammals, like livestock?

What it’s REALLY like to catch coronavirus: First British victim, 25, describes how ‘worst disease he ever had’ left him sweating, shivering, and struggling to breathe as his eyes burned and bones ached

Day 5: I’m over my cold. It really wasn’t anything.

Day 7: I spoke too soon. I feel dreadful. This is no longer just a cold. I ache all over, my head is thumping, my eyes are burning, my throat is constricted. The cold has travelled down to my chest and I have a hacking cough.