# "The Stand" questions take two

This question has bugged me since the first time I read it.

So, the Captain Trips part of the story takes place over about a three week period, June something to about July 16th. Is this mathematically possible? What are there, 300 million people in this country, and it spread fast enough to kill all but around 2 million in only 3 weeks?

Mathematicians (or Stand fans) among you, please 'splain how this could be possible?

If memory serves, the runner gave to the gas jockey, the gas jockey gave it to the highway patrolman, the highway patrolman gave it to dozens of people heading to all points of the country.

To really made the story, it would have to be highly contagious, newly infected would have to become rapidly contagious, not kill you too fast and not kill you too slow. Quite a list, not sure if it’s even possible. No idea on how to begin to do the math.

You remember right, but it sounds as if people who caught it could last anywhere from a four or five days to around a week and a half before they succumbed. Curiosity is killing me.

Haven’t read the book, so I’m working off of a half-remembered watching of the early 90s miniseries. Assuming that the virus had some of the properties that the series showed (a high likelihood of contagion and a quick incubation), the mathematics works out fairly well.

This is actually a very highly studied branch of mathematics. (This link is good for a laugh, even if you don’t understand the math.) A good first order (although highly flawed) approximation is exponential growth. Assume, for the purposes of argument, that each person contracts the disease on one day, infects two people the next, then dies. On day one, 1 person will contract the disease. On day two, there will be 2 newly infected. On day three, 22 = 4. On day four, 42 = 8. On day n, there will be 2^(n-1) new cases. That means the total number of infected on day n will be 1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + … + 2^(n-1) = 2^n - 1 total cases. Since 2^28 is approximately 270 million, it would take less than a month to infect the entire country under the stated hypotheses. If each new person infected three more, it would actually reduce the time to about 2 1/2 weeks.

The flaws come from that the further we are into an epidemic, the tougher it is to find unexposed victims. The hypotheses become unsustainable. Under the original assumptions, it took about 28 days to infect almost everyone in the US. Another 12 days would put the total number of infected up to 1 trillion (which is obviously absurd). A logistic model is likely to fit better.

That said, my memory of the spread in the series would indicate that, at least initially, the assumption of each person infecting two (or three) more victims is a substantial underestimate. I would expect that the biology shows much less likelihood than the math.

It was ridiculously, essentially magically, contagious. One scene underscored that when scientists in those bio-hazard suits in a perfect lab environment even caught the disease. Basically it left the infected ambulatory long enough to travel. Really, as soon as an infected person steps into an airport, the whole world is screwed. (I’ve never bought the argument that the events in The Stand were exclusive to the US simply because the story didn’t address them. Nevertheless, their exclusion convinced some people that the disease magically honored national borders.)

In reality, the 1918 pandemic managed to kill Eskimos in Alaska. It only took til fall to get there. Imagine how much our travel infrastructure has grown.

One aspect I enjoyed about the book was it emphasized how impulsive a sick and panicked population can be. The highways were choked with cars. People were trying to get to the families and loved ones, quarantine be damned. That rings true to me.

Did they catch it from the lab? Or did they catch it outside the lab and bring it to work with them? They couldn’t have been wearing those haz-mat suits 24/7.

I loved the opening of that miniseries, with everyone in the lab dead right where they were, and the gate guard running in terror from the contagion (while that Blue Oyster Cult song is playing over the credits). The way I interpreted the immediate deaths of everyone in that lab (as compared to the slower deaths later) was that it was especially deadly when concentrated in the lab. (Or perhaps the contagion mutated quickly into something less deadly.)

I haven’t read it in 18 years, so I can’t be sure. I remember that the implication was that it somehow got through the suits - which is much more terrifying than simply bringing it from home of course.

I’ve only seen maybe 45 minutes of the TV show. So I don’t know about that.

It’s been a while since I read it too, but I seem to remember that the source of the lab infection was a nurse that ignored the posted warnings about reporting any cold/flu symptoms, no matter how minor. She actually had Captain Trips and not the minor cold she thought she had, and wound up infecting most of her co-workers. I think. I may have some details wrong in there.

Not quite. In the complete and uncut version, there’s a passage (on page 219 of my copy) where the PotUS is talking, and he says, “we have reports tonight of outbreaks in a score of other countries, including Russia and Red China.”

I suppose that could just be propaganda to make it sound like the US government didn’t have anything to do with the outbreak, but I think it mentions in other places where other nations are having the same problems (I think this is in the Project Blue sections).

Starkey mentions (page 166) that they have confirmed cases in Mexico and Chile.

I don’t know of anyone who has made that argument. The book specifically mentions the disease is world wide. In fact there is a scene in one of the military bases that reveals that the US Government purposely sent infected people abroad to make sure the US was not the only country affected once it was clear the disease was not contained.

On the other countries issue, not only did it spread to other countries, but the Project Blue people made sure it did, at least in the extended edition. Can’t give page numbers since this is off my Kindle (but it is 15% in):

I read it when I was 12, and I was discussing it with other 12 year olds. My school had a particular brand of stubborn and ignorant.

It was magic. The Devil himself was involved.

I don’t have the book handy (it’s one of those loaned-but-never-returned books I should be starting a list about…) and I can’t remember whether it is a book-only, or a mini-series-only, or both thing, but there was mention of rumours of a stronghold of survivors in Brazil; which implies that the outbreak was indeed world-wide, and as deadly everywhere else as it was at source.

The “some people” were 12 years old? Somehow, that should’ve been mentioned.

According to the book, communicability is 99.4%.

I hope you’re all reading the newer, uncut version of the book.

I just finished this book and am loving this thread. Regarding the distribution of the outbreak, I always assumed it was worldwide. I actually thought it was kind of strange that what we were supposed to think of as a major post-apocalyptic struggle between good and evil played out in entirely in the U.S. I mean, couldn’t they have the “good” people assemble in Vancouver instead of Boulder or something?

Maybe there were similar conflicts and similar Mother Abigails and Walking Dudes on every continent. But when people made it from freaking Maine to Boulder, I’m surprised that no one made it from, say, Mexico to either camp.

Naw, the edited version is fine. I loved the uncut version but I’m a King fanboy. A lot of the full version isn’t really necessary especially the 50 or so pages about when the Kid and Trashcan man were together.

Did you read the uncut version? Because at the end Flagg wakes up on some Polynesian island and it’s implied that the battle between good and evil would start again. The battle between Flagg and Mother Abigail took place in the US, but previous (and future) battles would take place elsewhere.