Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit (banazir) wrote,
Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit

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The Pauling Ethic and proof by inoculation

When I was a young teen (I think it was 1988 or 1989), I read that Linus Pauling [1], who was still living at the time, had written that people infected with contagious airborne diseases such as the common cold and influenza had a social obligation to self-isolate. I termed this the Pauling Ethic (of communicable disease) and mentioned it to everyone I knew... to no avail.

When I became an undergraduate at Hopkins and later a graduate student at UIUC, I discovered that people in academically stwessful situations tend to follow the opposite of this ethic:

if (self.sick())
  go_to_campus();                 // Eru forfend you should lose your advantage
  inoculate_everyone_in_sight();  // better yet, give misery her company!

And perish the thought that instructors might not require a note from the doctor to grant a 24-hour or 48-hour extension on a machine problem or problem set!

Dr. Hsu, I need an extension... *koff koff* I'm siiiiiick...

Hurgh. Everyone, why don't we listen to the words of the gifted man himelf?

People have no "right" to spread their viruses and infect others, so long as they themselves are able to stagger about.... A person with a cold or the flu should feel that he or she should go into isolation in order not to spread the virus to other people... and social pressure should operate to help him or her to act in such a way as to not harm others.
       - Dr. Linus Pauling

[1] Two-time Nobel laureate (Chemistry 1954, Peace 1962) whose name I keep tyoping as "Linux Pauling". Let me see waht happens when I thry to tyope "Linux Torvalds". Hrm. I feared it was so.


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