This Is Not COVID

“The spherical extracellular viral particles contain cross-sections through the viral genome, seen as black dots.”

The above image and caption is from the CDC site.

I could not emphasize enough that not one of you, nor I, can explain that caption.

If I break it down grammatically, like 8th grade sentence-diagramming, it says, “The particles contain cross-sections.”

What does that mean? Is there a problem when particles contain cross-sections?

Beyond this, “spherical extracellular viral”, and “through the viral genome”, and “seen as black dots” are also utterly unintelligible to me. To be clear, I’m saying that even after reading “seen as black dots,” it would be silly for me to say, “Oh, I see what you mean,” given that the entire image is black dots against a white backdrop.

COVID is black dots? Stop the press!! It’s all over my phone screen!

All this is on my mind partly because of that line I included in my recent “stupid” post about the stupidity of COVID illustrations, and partly because I’ve been listening to a podcast called “Closer To Truth” which is some sort of fun “X-Files”-feeling, state-of-physics-today (in layman’s terms) show. It generally accomplishes its purpose, but the other day one of the interviewees referred to an illustration to make his point about multiverses and the size of everything. This use of illustration to explain truth, then, triggered me again.

The simple fact is using illustrations to convey truth bothers me.

A little backstory: Before modern script writing, like alphabets and even syllabaries before them, man often used something like emoji’s to communicate across great distance, time or space. We might call them pictograms or hieroglyphs. And when it came to numbers, some cultures used certain animals to express differences between say hundreds, thousands, and whatever they thought (but couldn’t utter) was bigger than thousands. A cow might mean hundreds, a frog, thousands, and an infamous one to express the largest amount was a stick figure of a man apparently examining the grandness of the starry night with open arms. To our eyes and ears and minds, this fact—this use of pictograms by our ancestors—is intriguing at best, and downright embarrassing at worst. But here we are again, using artist’s renditions to explain “truth”.

So what should happen instead? Here’s an example. If you’re tempted to ask, “Is there a multiverse?” The person you’re asking should say, “That’s the wrong question.” (The physicists would admit that.) The right question is, “Will our children think the idea of a universe is a quaint, but obsolete understanding of things, in the category of earth-as-center?”

And my point here is not physics, but reasoning, dignity in fact, so I need to say that if my children are going to think in terms of multiverse, they’d be fools for doing so because of illustrations. This is no different than how I believe you’re foolish if any part of your atheism or belief in evolution comes from the illustrated sequence of a monkey gradually standing upright.

Same goes for COVID. Is there a new virus or illness or health issue on Earth? Whatever our opinion, we’d be foolish if we based it on an illustration.

Another example of getting at truth properly: I knew I could be a pilot because I saw planes fly.

And another (negatively): Not one writer of the Bible uses an illustration—whether clay, or ink, or tapestry—to persuade either their contemporary audience or us.

I must insist on decrying the use of illustration when it comes to truth because, interestingly enough, the experts keep using it. At its root, an illustration can only ever be truth in the sense that the illustration commissioner, upon reviewing the piece, says, “That’s exactly what’s in my mind.” That the illustration matches his imagination can be true, but that does not move the argument along. The further—and necessary—step of “…and what’s in my mind is truth,” is not contained in or advanced by the truth that the illustration matches the mind. The man behind the imagination still has work to do. The truth debate is between individuals. Talk to me. Use your words. I’ll listen.

Don’t be fooled, folks. If someone pulls out an illustration to answer your truth question, still or motion, assert your manhood or womanhood; give yourself dignity and ask them to use their words.


  1. noelleg44

    Actually, Pete, the description reads perfectly fine to someone who is familiar with electron micrographs. That’s the problem, not everyone is. You can see the cell in the lower left quadrant defined by its cell membrane which is seen pretty clearly in most spots (it looks like a double layer here and there). The viral particles are the round circles outside the cell. To me, they look like slices of an eggplant with the seeds inside. The dark spots are where the diamond knife used to cut thin slices cut through the viral DNA (genome). That DNA is a three-dimensional twist and would be coming out of the plane at you and thus you would see only the cut ends – the dark spots. You can see where the cell has engulfed a viral particle at 9 o’clock.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s