Re: Son of Star Wars

Robert J. Bradbury (
Sun, 3 Oct 1999 23:35:29 -0700 (PDT)

On Mon, 4 Oct 1999, John Clark wrote:

> Star Wars wouldn't make me sleep better, I don't worry about rockets,
> I worry about nuclear bombs.

A good point. You can worry about fertilizer as well.

> If we can't stop drugs from entering the
> country I don't see how we could stop somebody from smuggling in a bomb.

We probably can't. All we can do is try to control the distribution of uranium/plutonium and the technology to refine these materials as best we can until we can put radioactivity detectors on everything coming into the country that can carry a bomb. While we can't stop the drugs, we have fairly effectively controlled plane hijackings (with some loss in ease of travel).

In the meantime, it would appear the best we can do is try to identify those individuals crazy enough to try to smuggle in a bomb and issue preemptive strikes (while risking the wrath of other nations).

> Ebola Zaire kills (quite horribly) 90% of those infected, there is
> no treatment and none is likely anytime soon.

I would have to disagree. GENBANK shows that there are gene sequences for proteins from various strains of Ebola, especially the nucleocapsid protein and the complete genome for the Mayinga strain (added 2/28/99).

Given these things it is relatively easy to develop vaccines for Ebola. If you lookup Ebola & vaccine in PubMed you get back 22 articles including efforts by the Army to engineer vaccines, antibodies that can neutralize the virus and DNA vaccines that protect mice from a lethal challenge.

I would have to say you personally are probably at greater risk from Staphylococcus of the flesh eating variety, E Coli:H312 or drug-resistant tuberculosis (which was in the news tonight) than you are from Ebola.

[You've been reading too much "sensationalized" fiction/non-fiction, I fear John...]

> I'll bet it would be easy for genetic engineers to
> combine the best properties of both strains, easier than making a smarter
> mouse anyway. To quote Doctor Strangelove, "all it takes for realization
> is the will to do so".

Well, it isn't as easy as you might think, first you have to have the required labs & containment facilities, then you have to have people trained to do the work, then you have to produce quantities of the virus and test it (any volunteers!?!), etc. For something as deadly as Ebola you would be lucky to get the carrier into the country before he died. Then you have the same problem you have with the rocket. You can back track this work to its source. What labs have P4 containment facilities, what foreigners were trained in these methods, who are the viral experts in countries that could fund this type of effort, etc.

Re: The Hot Zone quote...

You should consider befriending a emergency room room physician or nurse. I'm sure they can tell you stories that make that quote mild by comparison. I believe we have TV programs (as sick entertainment) now routinely showing people setting themselves on fire, falling off of 4th-5th story rescue ladders, being shot at by disgruntled postal workers, being crushed by run-a-way freighters, etc.

Death (or severe injury) often doesn't come with a pretty ribbon wrapped around it.