I shouldn’t have to say it. But I do.
Nuclear reactors can use “control rods” to control the reaction. Push them in all the way, they’ll slow the reaction so much it will quickly die out. Pull them all the way out, the reaction grows so fast it goes critical — but before it can “go nuke” it melts. Still a disaster.
The “basic” epidemiological model (the SIR model) makes some very basic assumptions, and treats the spread of a disease like COVID-19 in a straightforward manner. It gives rise to the “bell-shaped” curve (the one everyone wants to flatten) we’ve seen in so many news stories.
Of course it’s not “right” — there are too many unaccounted-for factors to believe that. But they also encompass certain purely logical ideas which are known to be correct. Added bonus: the equations are not unlike what you see when you study how neutrons keep the reaction going in a nuclear reactor. The reactor equations are likewise imperfect, but they too encompass some undeniable logical ideas. The most impressive thing they have in common: experience has shown that they both work.
And now to the real point of this post. Pay attention, because this is the real message and it’s worth it. Here it is: