A lesson from my father sixty years ago explains how this damned virus is spreading so quickly

`Crowds…and the virus multiplies over and over again


How does this damned virus spread so quickly?

I was listening to experts explaining how easy it is for the Coronavirus to spread through communities.

They were saying things like: “If one person who has the virus meets three people and infects them and they each meet three people and infect them well, that’s nine more and if they each meet three people…” And so on.

An image of my late father came to mind.

When I was a child he told a story about a man who went to a blacksmith to have his horse shod.

(I have changed only the currency from pounds, shillings and pence to euro!)

“Well,” the blacksmith said, “you have six nails in each shoe and four shoes and I charge €20 per nail so that’s €480.”
“WHAT?” said the horse owner. “That’s ridiculous!”
“Well,” the blacksmith said, “we can do it another way. I’ll charge you 1 cent for the first nail, 2 cent for the second, 4 cent for the third, 8 cent for the fourth and so on.”
“Ha,” said the horse owner. “Sure there’s no contest. I’ll do it that way!”

So he left his horse and went off sniggering.

“What an eejit that blacksmith is,” he muttered to himself.

Until he went back.

“Your horse is ready,” said the blacksmith.

“How much do I owe you?” asked the horse owner, smiling.

“That’ll be €163,082.13” said the blacksmith.

The horse owner stood there, the smile disappearing off his face.

“You see,” the blacksmith said, “your first nail was 1cent, but your last nail was €83,886.08. Do the math.”

And that’s what happens when things double and double and double and double.

Of course, the point of the exercise was for me to go off and do the maths – which I did.

And It’s still hard to believe.

Back then, almost sixty years ago, my father taught me a lesson in maths.

Now that same lesson is teaching me how quickly and easily this virus can spread and is spreading.

And it’s teaching me to stay home, stay safe and to keep everyone else safe too.

 (Check the figures by the way. Despite my daddy’s efforts I was never good at maths!!!)


1 thought on “A lesson from my father sixty years ago explains how this damned virus is spreading so quickly

  1. I learnt a similar compound thing when I was bet I couldn’t keep folding a napkin in half more than about 5 times. That’s why start saving early with compound interest you could get to be a millionaire, well once upon a time.
    I hope you’re managing to stay safe over on the Green Isle, and sane, and happy. Thanks for your wise blogging x

    Liked by 1 person

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