I would be as competent to advise about treatment for clotting as doctors are to advise about masks.

Abaluck is out of field and doesn't even know it.

Extra credit: Which discipline is in field to discuss droplets and masks?

If people could figure out who is in field, this mask nonsense would evaporate.

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"here's a flawed study proving what I want proven. it wasn't paid for by any nefarious funders. follow the sickness, uhh I mean science."

Welcome to the dark ages, we've got fun and games. We've got everything you'd want, NPCs know the name. In the dark ages, welcome to the dark ages, na na na na na-----

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Perhaps I'm stupid, but isn't the issue settled by measuring the diameter of the 'holes' in the mask (of whatever type) and comparing it to the diameter of the aerosols emanating from a diseased patient? If the disease particles are smaller than the holes in the fabric of the mask, then the mask is useless. This is beside the obvious fact that any mask has little to no efficacy if the mask is not sealed around the nose, mouth and chin!

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I thought he made good points and although there seemed to be flaws I came away from the interview feeling satisfied that James was trying to make science better but that Abaluck had in fact found that surgical masks can reduce transmission. I think he should have been more clear around how little cloth masks can reduce transmission in high exposure settings, but he argued well and changed my mind on masking from "Masks don't work" to "Masks are useful in certain high risk settings".

I am a big fan of James but the interview style felt a little 'nit-picky' at times.

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Well that escalated quickly.

It appears, he's way too thin-skinned. I got the sense he doesn't want to be challenged period. 'I'm done with you' and 'I have no time' are marks of immaturity and lack of humility. Again, just my impression and maybe I'm being too harsh.

We all appreciated and got the gist of his position and then he goes off on an ad hominem rant about this and that. Disappointing.

And here's the thing - and this isn't a criticism - he's not a PPE/mask expert. Industrial hygienists are. People who design masks are. PPE experts are experts.

It's time to start giving more attention to industrial hygienists who have written an open letter to the CDC.

I'm a little tired of scientists (epidemiologists, paediatricians and infectious disease doctors especially) who so want to believe in masks not standing by the results with a 'Doesn't mean the masks aren't useful!' sort of sophistry.

I may have misheard but he also alleged masks worked for influenza. If correct, that belies the MASSIVE body of evidence that shows otherwise.

I read Kellogg's study from 1920 (? - I forget the exact date) for masks during the Spanish flu outbreak. He was a believer in masks and set out to conduct the first study (there may have been one before him - again my fish oil hasn't kicked in to refresh my memory) to prove it. It didn't. And to his credit he accepted the results.

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Lol, Abaluck's an economist????

Kirsch is trained in engineering. He should know to get a physicist involved.

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Everybody, go read:

"Droplet evaporation on porous fabric materials"


Droplet evaporation on porous materials is a complex dynamic that occurs with spontaneous liquid imbibition through pores by capillary action. Here, we explore water dynamics on a porous fabric substrate with in-situ observations of X-ray and optical imaging techniques. We show how spreading and wicking lead to water imbibition through a porous substrate, enhancing the wetted surface area and consequently promoting evaporation. These sequential dynamics offer a framework to understand the alterations in the evaporation due to porosity for the particular case of fabric materials and a clue of how face masks interact with respiratory droplets.


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Maybe Dr Abaluck can answer this question. Do "masks" limit spreading of the shedding spike proteins from the injected to the pure?

I have not watched the entire interview because clearly this study was designed from the outset, by his direction or at least approval, to come to the broad based nebulous conclusion that "masks work". How could it be anything other than politicized and propagandized science in light of all other empirical, experiential and anecdotal data. I stopped watching by 7:00 due to his non committal wishy-washy mmmmyeaaaaah about cloth masks (how do you plot that?). Plus right off the bat he equivocates wearing a mask as a function of current CFR or perhaps more accurately stated "the amount of deaths" that are happening in an area. Was this a criteria of the study? When did all cause mortality actually spike? For all ages? Oh after the "vaccines". Right. Before that, even with the wildly broad death catergorization and misattribution of C19 to death, the deaths were very largely stratified to over 65. And true all cause mortality was not statistically significant. Not until, that is, widespread mRNA injection uptake.

I would like to add that I commend Dr Abaluck for engaging at all. My perspective is he thought, perhaps arrogantly, that he would be able to withstand any questioning of doubts about his study. Further, he likely believes he did.

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This is perhaps the best info on the mask debate that I have seen during the past 2 years. Other than any Fauci videos laughing off wearing superstitious masks.


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I guess your article shows that when it comes to science, "definitive" proof is never definitive, unless you are a shareholder in the company in question.

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Apr 6, 2022·edited Apr 6, 2022Liked by James Lyons-Weiler

One thing that occurred to me listening to your discussion was the question around reporting symptoms vs. an antibody test. Symptom reports are highly subjective and easily confounded by wanting to please the researcher, etc. Dr. Abaluck seemed to imply that symptom reports were just as good and this was no big deal.

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I didn't understand his objection to Steve's analysis. As I understood it, Steve just made a comparison of the purple masks subgroup and the red masks subgroup, and found they differed by as much as the claimed significance of the result. This doesn't disprove mask effectiveness but would seem to demonstrate that the claimed result also failed to prove effectiveness?

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I've found myself investigating scientific literature for a startup the past few years, and what I find concerns me. If Science is supposed to be a means of inquiry where we explore the unknown universe, and discover a set of true facts that build upon each other, then the scientist's journey to explore into the known and unknown, and be wrong a lot of the time, that has all gone out of the window into a sort of weird corporate-like mindset to be successful, right as often as possible, have the most amazing studies published (and cited by millions), and to be respected by your peers. This respect can translate into nice grants, department chairs, or a secure position in a well funded university that will basically shield you from the realities of our world, maybe even with free housing on top of that.

The idea of being wrong, of falsifying things, of wrongness furthering humanity's search for truth - none of that reconciles with the above. For many people it seems their goal is to never have their ideas challenged - only lauded and praised. Anything that detracts from that is contradictory. So while falsifying a hypothesis helps people in general, it means they personally get discredited.

Strangely enough for all the rigor of the scientific community in collecting the data (and performing arcane analysis methods) this seems to ultimately just raise the barrier very high to collecting, reading, understanding, and interpreting what is happening. When you get past all of that, you realize that many people are simply performing the steps they were taught to do as an undergrad / grad student, with no real thought going into it. Getting a study published with some data that looks impressive is sort of the "home run" kinda like getting your startup funded by a big VC on generous terms. The last thing they want to do is be told that something about their steps are invalid, meaning their conclusion is invalid, meaning the shower of praise / fame is about to stop.

Finally, defending or debating an existing belief or published paper can only end in a negative - for them personally, for their career. If they don't engage with critics they can't be wrong, if they dismiss every argument or find reasons that it's in bad faith they don't have to engage in the critique process, they can stop short of it. By raising the barrier of collecting and discussing this data high, there's very few that can challenge them. And unless you are someone prominet in their field that they can't ignore, they will ignore you. And finally, if you were someone prominent in their field, you would have self serving reasons for not going after them (it isn't worth your time, why start an interdisciplinary squabble, do you really care about these things)

In short (heh) it seems that many Scientists don't want their ideas challenged, don't have any framework of accountability where they have to address criticisms, and don't have a set of tools to engage in that discourse constructively, so they tend to engage in it dismissively. When it comes to arcane fields that are benign or esoteric I think this is fine. When it comes to "what should we do during a pandmic" this is ridiculous. The scientific community is implying a sort of rigor that doesn't exist - it has front loaded the difficulty of collection and publication and considers that to be sufficient rigor. But the process is rigid, not rigorous.

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Apr 6, 2022·edited Apr 6, 2022

Bless your soul and your knowledge base for being able to dissect and hypothesize. Clearly you have chosen the correct path in life ☺️

Love this!

"To statisticians, the mass of "Jupiter/Pluto" is 99.9999% gas... yet we know Pluto is not gas, just like all of medicine and engineering that bothers to be involved knows that cloth masks do not prevent transmission."

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I read the study when it came out. Problems with the study: many potential confounding variables, not easily reproducible and not enough of a treatment effect found to be confident in the conclusion that masking works. The primary endpoint was "effectiveness of masking," with "effectiveness of cloth and surgical masks" being secondary endpoints. Isn't the effectiveness of particular masks relevant to masking policy?

Do mask mandates effect the trajectory of covid 19 outbreaks prior to and after the arrival of the Omicron variants? I began looking at this issue early in the pandemic and haven't seen differences that look very significant. I saw very close to 100% compliance with mask mandates in setting where one could opt out for health reasons, such as some large chain grocery stores. When mandates ended, compliance with masking recommendations varied but was initially very high in some locations and low in others, eg 70% versus 20%, with compliance declining over time. Universal masking with cloth and surgical masks and rarely N95s does not appear to reduce community transmission rates compared to locales where masking is not mandated. If masking has the desired treatment effect , it is a very weak effect.

Then there is the question of the filtration capabilities of various masks. How much air goes through and how much goes around the mask? Both for source control and personal protection, a standard surgical mask doesn't filter out enough fine aerosols to have much effect on the rate of transmission and the number of people who are likely to get infected during the course of an outbreak.

The seasonality of covid 19 outbreaks, especially prior to Omicron, strongly suggests that the virus is mainly transmitted via fine aerosols, which stay aloft much longer when the relative humidity of the air is low. The ability of a mask to filter out fine aerosols is crucial when considering whether it is effective in reducing transmission of a respiratory virus. Mask effectiveness is predicated on the claim that the virus is not airborne, i.e., that the virus is carried mainly by gross aerosols and larger droplets.

Another thing to weigh in on when considering the benefits versus harms of masking is mask tolerance related to the physiological effects, eg cardiopulmonary stress. Not everyone can tolerate the cloth nor surgical masks, and the greater the filtration power, the fewer the number of people can tolerate masking. There is also the effect on communication, making it harder to hear what someone says and eliminating the possibility of lip-reading and non-verbal cues. Universal masking promotes greater social isolation in crowds. It is doubtful that the benefit of reduced viral transmission on public health is greater than the harms, even during an outbreak.

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