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Ep. 131 Brett Venoitte on the Prussian Roots of US Education and Assessing Experts on the Coronavirus

Brett Venoitte is host of the School Sucks podcast. After explaining his background in education, Brett explains how Horace Mann drew from authoritarian Prussian in designing public education in the US. He and Bob then discuss the competing experts in the debate over the coronavirus.

Mentioned in the Episode and Other Links of Interest:

The audio production for this episode was provided by Podsworth Media.

About the author, Robert

Christian and economist, Chief Economist at infineo, and Senior Fellow with the Mises Institute.


  1. The NAPster on 07/23/2020 at 11:10 AM

    Bob, I was interested in your comment about masks, where you noted that a CO2 particle is smaller than a virus particle, so that if one claims that mask density allows the virus to pass through (which does seem to be a fact), then it would be inconsistent to also claim that a CO2 particle could not pass through.

    However, my personal experience is that masks do make it seem like it is more difficult to breathe and I do get lightheaded, and I know that others have had similar experiences. I am trying to figure out why that would be so. Perhaps what’s important is the rate of transfer? In other words, could it be that mask density slows down how quickly O2 can come in and CO2 can leave relative to not wearing a mask, meaning that your body has to work harder to try to achieve the no-mask transfer rates?

    • LP on 07/29/2020 at 5:54 AM

      I love the “fact free” (as Woods would say) claims about depressed O2 levels (on both sides). On the one side, you have people who say they are seeing decreased O2 levels, so the masks must be making you re-breathe the same air. On the other side, you have people who say that if the masks trap CO2, then they *must* trap viruses. You also see nurses wear various types of masks for a minute or so, while not sweating, or doing much of anything really, and showing that their O2 levels remain normal. Each of these cases is nonsense. As is usually the case, reality is… complicated.

      There have been several studies looking at the effects of masks on “O2 sat”, mostly in clinical settings. You can find them easily, but understanding them is not quite so easy. I’m a chemist by training, and do computational fluid dynamics professionally, and it took me several hours to get a decent picture of what’s going on. First here’s a dump of relevant information; I’ll try to summarise it into something useful at the end.

      The rough time wearing a mask to see reduced O2 levels is about 40 minutes.
      Most of the studies do not speculate on the reason for the decreased levels, let alone try to isolate the causes.
      One study did speculate on the cause, but testing the hypothesised factors would be challenging.
      First, in a clinical setting, wearing a surgical mask goes hand in hand with stressful activity (surgery), which can lead to supressed O2 levels.
      Second, there is an inhibition effect, where people slow down their rate of breathing against resistance. This makes sense, because (especially on inhalation) the greater the pressure gradient across the mask, the more the pores of the mask close up, so you have to work exponentially harder to draw air through faster.
      Third, many masks are rated to 30 minutes of use. Beyond this time, they often pick up enough moisture that the fibers swell, making it harder to draw air (which amplifies point 2).
      In the studies in clinical settings, the O2 drop is statistically significant, but harmless.
      The participants in the studies were all reasonably healthy (practicing health care providers).
      The studies were conducted in (presumably) climate controlled facilities.
      The participants were not engaging in strenuous physical activity.

      Now, what can we determine from the above? Healthy people wearing masks like used in these studies while not engaging in strenuous activity, and in a cool, inhumid environment are unlikely to have an issue with O2 saturation dropping. As surgeons sometimes go for up to 20 hours, masked, and don’t pass out, the risk to these healthy people would seem to be insignificant. Of course, the efficacy of the mask past the half hour mark is another matter entirely (once it’s sufficiently soaked, air will go *around* the mask, even if it fit decently initially).

      If we change one of those invariants of the studies, put someone in a humid environment, or consider someone who is not perfectly healthy, or engaging in strenuous activity, especially if the mask fits poorly and the person feels claustrophobic, and I’d be surprised if you *didn’t* see decreased O2 saturation. How much will depend on the person, and how much suppression is needed to cause problems *also* is person dependent (there are opportunistic pathogens which can respond to lowered O2 levels, which some people have and others don’t).

      Anyway, all that ignores the efficacy of the masks (which I’ve also examined, and can summarize if there’s interest). It’s another case of both sides yelling past each other with nonsense of their own.

  2. dshazarddingo on 07/27/2020 at 11:15 PM

    This is regarding ninnie masks, not n95 masks like you, and others with genuine health concerns are wearing.

    I could link decades worth of research showing cloth masks offer negligible protection, if any, but I assume you have read them.

    Instead.. a 20s video is worth a thousand words.

    Vape moisture droplets are much larger than SARS-Cov-2 particles. It’s just covid is invisible.. but be assured if a cootie positive person breathes out.. they are swirling around.

    Just as you’re not anti-Trump but instead anti-anti-Trump, many of us are not anti-mask, we are anti-anti-mask;)

    If I’m politely asked I’ll wear a ninny mask. It does nothing but w/e. I have not given ANY business to any place with a mandatory mask sign though. Say “please” on your sign. It’s the civilized thing to do.

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