1161: Hand Sanitizer

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Hand Sanitizer
Hipster CDC Reports Flu Epidemic Peaked Years Ago
Title text: Hipster CDC Reports Flu Epidemic Peaked Years Ago


In this comic, Cueball is looking at a poster telling him about the number of germs in a sneeze droplet. He then looks at the label on his hand sanitizer, and goes "Ew.", thinking about how many germs he would still have on his hands even after applying hand sanitizer to his hands.

The number of germs that would be left after using the hand sanitizer is 200 million times 0.01%. 0.01% is equivalent to 0.0001 in decimal, so the multiplication is 200 000 000 × 0.0001. That is 20 thousand germs, which is still a surprisingly large number of germs. Recently, scientists have shown that it only takes 20 virus particles to infect someone (with analyzed virus; not all germs are equally effective). However, they have also previously noted that the effectiveness of hand sanitizer is actually higher than 99.99%, but it's a bit awkward to print a more precise decimal in an advertising slogan. (Several brands actually kill near 100%, but don't want to risk going to court for false advertising because a few germs got past.)

"Hipster CDC" is a combination of the acronym for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an organization dedicated to studying infectious diseases and limiting their spread, with the label hipster. Hipsters form a cultural group associated with a distaste for popular culture; they stereotypically talk about how bands, authors, etc. were better before they "went mainstream" and proclaim that they liked a certain thing "before it was cool."

The title text extends this sensibility to the flu, which in fact did peak years ago, such as in 1918, when a world-wide flu epidemic killed tens of millions. The humor lies in the notion that the "Hipster CDC" apparently approves of the time when the flu was more widespread and fatal, while most people consider the diminishment of the flu is a good thing. This could be a jab at hipsters' common insistence on liking things before they "go mainstream": many things, before they go mainstream, just aren't very good, and therefore hipsters' taste in things is highly questionable.


[Cueball looks at a poster while holding a bottle.]
Poster: An invisible sneeze droplet can contain 200 million germs!
[Same scene, except Cueball is looking at the bottle.]
Product label: Our hand sanitizer kills 99.99% of germs!
[Cueball types on a calculator while still holding the product.]
Cueball (typing on calculator): 200 000 000 × 0.01% =
[Cueball holds down his calculator.]
Cueball: Ew.

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Does anyone think the "peak" referred to in the title text could be the 1918 flu pandemic? Or even the bird flu outbreak?Chexwarrior (talk) 10:31, 16 January 2013 (UTC)

I'm thinking the "hipster" comment is a reference to how hipsters always think stuff was better (or it peaked) in the past so it must be on the downslide.--Joehammer79 (talk) 14:47, 16 January 2013 (UTC)

That 99.99% number on the hand sanitizer is probably made up anyway. Any actual scientific measure of effectivity would need to take into account different resistance of different types of germs. So, question is, is the sanitizer more or less effective? -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:35, 16 January 2013 (UTC)

I actually had in the back of my mind that the 99.99% figure wasn't a "dead germ count," but the number of strains of germs the sanitizer has the ability to kill. i.e. there are some strains which it doesn't kill. — 12:59, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
Actually 99.99% isn't made up, its actually derived from how accurate the lab tests are. Most antibacterials, even plain 15% alcohol, will kill ALL infectious bacteria and viruses but you cannot confirm this because there are errors inherent in the tests such as contamination from the environment or more often that the samples have to grow (in the case of bacteria) or infect (in the case of viruses) to give a measurable result since you cannot tell by normal observation which are dead and which are live. With the tiny numbers that may survive the likelihood of infection or growth is low, resulting in errors with even the strongest chemical agents. -- 18:56, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
15% alcohol is hardly effective (please state source), most effective is 70%, which means anything lower doesn't kill all bacteria. Alcohol is also only partially effective against viruses. It needs other agents to boost its effectivity. 09:27, 17 January 2013 (UTC)

Shouldn't 200 million times .01% actually be equivalent to 200 million times .0001, which equals 20 000 germs? 13:16, 16 January 2013 (UTC)

The error depends on the calculator, I think. In my calculator 200000000 ✕ 0.01% = 20000 - Arifsaha (talk) 17:38, 17 January 2013 (UTC)

Yes, it should. I wonder if he will change it when he notices? 13:37, 16 January 2013 (UTC)

Yes, 2 000 000 * .01% = 20 000 is correct

... Except that the calculation should be 0.01% of 200`000`000 - Arifsaha (talk) 17:38, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
It is perfectly fine to write 200000000*0.01%. "%" is simply shorthand for 1/100. 09:30, 6 November 2015 (UTC)

Quite aside from the arithmetic, right now the US has two epidemics: influenza and norovirus, which is often known by the misnomer of "stomach flu." According to infectious disease experts, while alcohol is likely pretty effective against bacteria and SOME viruses including influenza, alcohol is probably NOT very effective against norovirus. The best way to stop the spread of norovirus: frequent hand washing with soap and water. 13:47, 16 January 2013 (UTC)

I'm sure that it will not stop people from trying to use alcohol to get rid of norovirus infection. :-) -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:05, 7 March 2014 (UTC)

"The humor (if a worldwide disaster can be said to be humorous)" I found this funnier than the comic, really. 04:17, 21 January 2013 (UTC)

I'm surprised no-one had commented in 2020 :P Wow, I just had a weird thought; I wonder how many of the earlier commenters on here are still alive? Statistically... -- The Cat Lady (talk) 18:40, 22 September 2021 (UTC)