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Thursday, October 07, 2004

"M-O-O-N, that spells 'dumb, dumb scientists'!"

Come on baby... Don't fear the Reaper
Baby take my hand... Don't fear the Reaper
We'll be able to fly... Don't fear the Reaper
Baby I'm your man...

Geez, has it really been over ten years since ABC first broadcast The Stand?

I first read the novel during spring break of my senior year of high school back in 1992, and to date it's the only Stephen King novel that I've read (apart from maybe 1/3rd of Dreamcatcher). The book is widely considered to be King's finest novel ever, and the t.v. movie was a ratings smash when it premiered in May of 1994. But in case you've never seen or read either, The Stand is about what happens after a strain of the influenza virus that was created for biowarfare by the U.S. military gets loose. During the first 300 pages or so of nearly 1200 from the uncut edition the virus (nicknamed "Captain Tripps") wipes out 99.9% of humanity... leaving the survivors to face the really bad stuff.

That was the fiction about thirty years ago. Now check out what some guys who obviously never read The Stand have done in reality (full article at BBC)...

Killer flu recreated in the lab

Scientists have shown that tiny changes to modern flu viruses could render them as deadly as the 1918 strain which killed millions.

A US team added two genes from a sample of the 1918 virus to a modern strain known to have no effect on mice.

Animals exposed to this composite were dying within days of symptoms similar to those found in human victims of the 1918 pandemic.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

On the plus side, messin' around with flu like this could yield better vaccinations, especially when the next pandemic hits. But the bad thing is the flu virus mutates slightly - but just enough for any current vaccinations and antibodies to be useless - every few years... and anyone who's helping the virus shift its antigens like that wouldn't be doing us any favors if this bug got loose. But, just in case security around it does break down and you're one of a handful of people out of billions that might find this blog, here's some advice...
If you start dreaming about this guy...

Run!! He promises wild times in Las Vegas but mostly attracts losers calling themselves "Trashcan Man" before getting crucified or incinerated. Don't be fooled by that smiley-face button he wears on his jacket either. Instead, look for this lady (if you're lucky enough to dream about her)...

Mother Abigail is her name. She's a hundred and eight years old and still makes her own biscuits. Look for her in Hemingford Home, Nebraska. She's usually playing her guitar on the porch of her old house in the middle of a cornfield. You come see her... you and all your friends.

(Images from The Stand from Melnik's The Stand site.)