A month or two ago, we focused on Tork, prehistoric engineer. This week, we will look in on descendant, Torkus, who lived around the turn of the first millennium.

Before the plague devastated Europe, there were still a lot of diseases, generally called by the catch-all phrase of pestilence. Torkus, being an engineer and therefore wanting to served society, decided to take on this problem. He derived a formula for the probability that someone would get sick with pestilence.

p = d * s * t


p = the probability of getting sick with pestilence

d = the distance from a sick person

s = severity of that person’s sickness

t = time of being in the sick person’s presence

Torkus theorized that there was some mechanism, an invisible wave, or a force of some sort that made all this make sense, and since these seem to be understandable (at least to a 1000 AD engineer), then an algorithm or equation would be a simple way to explain this and serve society by improving our quality of life.

Torkus was wrong. Pestilence was caused by germs, sometimes from eating bad food, sometimes from drinking tainted water, sometimes by being bitten by rats.  Life in 1000 AD was not always that fun.

But, here is what is important to remember. Even though Torkus was wrong, and many of his friends and family still died from pestilence, he was thinking like an engineer. Was it his fault the doctors and biologists were behind in their understanding of their fields. No. Torkus was still doing what engineers have done for over a thousand years since – understanding the world through equations and serving society by solving, or at least trying to solve, the problems we all face.

I’m just glad the pestilence thing is understood better now.