Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Superbug...FROM SPAAAAACE!

Ever read/seen The Andromeda Strain?  Well in an extension of yesterday's meme, I looked into one other feasible source for a pandemic: a virus or microbe from space.
It's not nearly as far fetched as you might think.  In fact, it is logical.  If we go from the assumption that intelligent life is plentiful in the universe and most scientist think this so, then by extension microscopic life must be doubly widespread.  Although it is debated, alien microbes have already been found on a meteorite fragment that originated on Mars. There is an entire scientific movement called panspermia, which holds that the necessary building blocks for DNA and therefore life itself came riding in on meteors in the Earth's very early years.  If that can happen, how can we rule out a virus arriving from space?
This scenario may have already happened to us.  Two scientists have made the claim that the massive influenza outbreak of 1918 was the result of an alien virus.  They point to the fact that the first cases of that certain flu arose in Boston and in India on the same day.  Yet the outbreak took three weeks to get from Boston to New York City.  In an age without jet travel, the only logical explanation for the timing is the virus arriving on meteors that hit disparate ends of the Earth.  Or so they say.  There are astronomers who contend that no living organism could survive  the vacuum of space or the heat of re-entry.  That is true, but what of the rocky interior of the meteorite?  If the virus were housed there?  Peru saw hundreds of people fall ill in 2007 after a meteorite crashed into the ground near a remote village.  The ensuing impact crater was said to emit noxious gases that caused vomiting, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms.
If it seems that new contagions just sort of pop up out of nowhere from time to time, maybe that's because they are...or rather they are plopping down.  After all, what is SARS?  When did we hear about it prior to 2002-2003?  Again the paranoia creeps up and out of me.  I envision the news of a nation's entire populace wiped out within days of a meteor strike.  In one week's time it should reach the United States.  Martial law is declared.  People scramble to find what safety they can find.  I send my family to the isolation of my Grandmother's farm in Ohio while I remain in Chicago to blog updates from the streets.  My friends and I, we build a fort out of old pressboard furniture and barricade ourselves inside, subsisting on canned foods and old episodes of Star Trek.  We'll keep sending information while we can (I can hear those guys now: "what's this we stuff, Jon?")
So maybe that's more of a zombie apocalypse story, but you get the idea.  I think that human beings always like to strut themselves around as the top of the food chain.  We can adapt and survive anything or so we like to think.  
But there doesn't seem like much adaptation you can do around an alien virus that turns your organs to drippy pus.

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