Unfortunately things are changing a little faster than I expected geologically around our planet. More than a few blog entries back I had stated that as the ice melts, it redistributes itself around the worlds oceans, and not always in a nice-even pattern, mind you. One important factor to consider is that the ice melt of concern is LAND MASS ice, which is predominately Greenland/Iceland/Antartica. Here's a good summary on Antartica: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146322/antarctica-melts-under-its-hottest-days-on-record
When then occurs, the tectonic plates experience additional pressure upon them. Some would say this to be negligible. Now we are not discussing minor melting here. This involves ice melts in the rate of gigatons per year. That's a bit hard to get one's mind around when the numbers get that high.
So let's continue down the action/reaction logic here. If this redistribution of weight is causing geological instability, then we should see this in the form of an increase in earthquake and volcano activity. Some would like to argue that we see the planet move through peaks and valleys in activity throughout the decade, that one year can be quite active and another, well, not so much. My argument to this is we have a "root cause" that does not "go away". This means such events start small and continue to grow in intensity.
So what's going on now? In the last few months earthquakes are up in frequency, and so are volcano eruptions. We have 52 active volcano events going on this morning. What's the average per year? It's around 60-70, so well within range... But as we are in march, maybe something's up... take a boo at the 2020 numbers here: https://volcano.si.edu/faq/index.cfm?question=eruptionsbyyear Something to be concerned about, weeeellll, let's consider trends back to awhile. Here's a good set of data from the Smithsonian: https://volcano.si.edu/faq/index.cfm?question=historicalactivity The problem here is that we are INDEED on a rise of activity (or maybe that's just reflective of our ability to track such activity across the globe with greater accuracy now than before... Great, just more confusion.... not so much. We've been witness some pretty significant melting since the 1980's on, so if I'm right about a correlation, we should be seeing a spike, however small, but a spike nonetheless. Just take another look at that graph...
What about earthquakes? I found this data to be a bit challenging. Lots of detailed info for current and last year or so, but trending in total numbers over a given magnitude - little more tricky. This was a good site: https://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/hazel/view/hazards/earthquake/event-data?maxYear=2021&minYear=1980&minEqMagnitude=6 - so not as definitive as volcanoes per se. Do we have a problem or not?
In my opinion, this ball is rolling, geological instability has already started. It's pretty evident in the numbers, and no one is reporting this (of course not). IF I am correct, this activity will continue to increase until melting stops, and mother nature is satisfied with it's new balance. As far as I'm concerned, the writing is on the wall.
Can't do anything about it anyway - which is true - but if you are in a possible risk area (for either) I'd suggest getting your disaster planning sorted and get prepared. Don't live in fear, just be wary for signs, and be ready.
Here's a nice summation of today's activity on youtube... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClSCOxhRXd4 Keep an eye out on the ones in Antarctica as they can cause significant havoc. Note the HIGHER the sulfur-dioxide the more substantial the cooling effect - fairly quickly. So we "should" see another cold spell set in before it warms up in the northern hemisphere.
So, I originally laid out the challenges we have with power production - and listed out the possible solutions currently in progress... and now, inevitably, it's time to revise. Yes, it's time that I was a little bit behind on the facts...
So let's talk power...
Fusion - we are much CLOSER than I anticipated given the advent of superconductors and improvements of the magnetic confinement field capability. The MIT SpARC project is the primary example here. Lots of good work done here on the practicalities of implementing a simpler, supportable approach. A commercial long-term, continuously running, long-term supportable unit is what we need. Good news here!
Geothermal - I kind of glazed over this, based on the cost assumptions, however, reusing existing drilled wells introduces an advantage. We have considerable work to do to raise the efficiency of low-temp power extraction systems, but this technology should be given a bigger thumbs up. I do still expect this to be a "large commercial" solution. Understanding scale of implementation is always a challenge.
Zero-point energy - reality or myth? This goes back to the suppression of knowledge by certain immoral and unethical organizations. Do you automatically go to conspiracy and fake mythology on this? In my opinion, I think the best response to that is to the think very critically on such information and really understand how things actually work in this world. When men like Paul Hellyer point out the unbelievable as mundane, it's very concerning that solutions to so many of our problems COULD BE within reach, yet we are denied.
As we (very) slowly ease out the highly infection phase of the Covid pandemic, I decided to take a moment to reflect on this mess. The “writing was on the wall” when it came this event, we had warning shots over the bow (SARs being quite recent), yet still, the handling of this situation was purely abysmal by most countries in the world (which included my country, Canada). We could dig into the why, but let’s just boil it down to the basics: no one wanted to spend the money to prepare. One often justifies inaction via the risk – weighing against the probability. With the world economy practically stalled, and hundreds or possibly millions of (small) business on the brink, it would be an interesting question to pose the bodies in power – Do ya think you made the right call now? Ok, hindsight is great, and saying “I told you so” leaves little satisfaction, and for the most part, it's pointless. So how do we stop this from happening again? I'm sure we are going to hear from many experts on this - and I do expect parties in power to implement changes. We can all hold them accountable for that. That motto "learn by your mistakes" come to mind.
BUT, let’s take a good look at other things where the wall has been plastered with warning signs – and MAYBE we should be pressing the our political representatives to take action.
I decided to make a first (simplified) look at this, applying some basic logic. Please note I do not wish to come out of this with a negative slant of things. I'll be the first to admit I'm not always right, some of these things may not occur, and we may be able to stop some of this before it reaches a critical point.
So in MY OPINION let’s examine some of what I think is obvious “writing on the wall”:
I expect this to be our next major issue as a fallout from the pandemic, (and possibly on par with its impact), the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’d love to hear our political leaders defining their strategies on how they are going to manage this NOW versus acting like a victim later. Countries are printing money, over leveraged, and have incurred “extreme” amount of debt (ie: interest costs on this debt are skyrocketing)
It's highly probable to expect market adjustments and some “big changes” across the globe
Lots of negative talk on the internet – worldwide depression, and all that. In my opinion the world is abundant with investment opportunities – it’s the market levels/valuations that are out of whack.
Governments need to have the ability to control their own capital. The bank cartels hold countries under their thumb and constrain governments from acting to the benefit of its citizens. Most debt is primarily owed to the multinational banking cartel. Financial independence of our countries is absolutely essential to implementing meaningful change.
These cartels can’t control encrypted currencies and that in turn drives its global appeal. I expect more developments in this area – specifically in regards to block-chain account management – which provides the owner with a single vector of managing their funds.
Watching the stock markets, its clear that Tech companies are carrying as large portion of the investment growth load, and sure many are delivering.
The “fake value” companies are fads – and I don’t expect them to last, but I do expect then to cycle from one to the next.
The true tech companies – the problem solvers – the service providers – they will continue to forge ahead. These are the movers and the shakers right now (SpaceX Starlink, Amazon, etc)
Municipalities are under tremendous stress to repair and modernize their failing support infrastructures. Some of these problems can be solved be new methods, technologies, ideas and unfortunately, higher taxes. The insane real-estate market is driving up mill-rates, and therefore municipality income – but if history serves, we’ll see aggressive waste. If and when a depression arrives, and the market crashes, we’ll see pressure for a reset on these mill rates – and my guess it will take citizens taking matters in their own hands to "sue" the municipality before this corrects.
This next part is what one may consider "conspiracy thinking" until one starts to dig deeper and actually find these openly published stories and videos. This is troubling to say the least. I'll call this group "The money spinners", members of the IMF and WTO, the other cartels (often call the Cabal), are systematically dismantling the middle class, and essentially driving whole countries into imposed feudal systems – where citizens will "own nothing and be happy". Perhaps more accurately live as indentured slaves to the ‘system’ and never aspire to more. Exposure of this agenda, I dare say, that requires involvement of the people. If you are unsure what I am referring to – google it – educate yourself and make a difference. This is the natural order of things – rich get richer, poor become poorer. It's my belief the average citizen is losing ground.
Power (and the Production of)
Coal and Oil: How long can oil last? Well there is shale extraction – and that lengthens the curve on productivity by many, many years. As the northern and southern hemisphere ice melts away, many new future oil fields may be discovered. And as for coal, for every plant shut down in the west, we see how many more sprout up in the east? Its seems this is an unwinnable battle with our own planet at stake.
What will it take to abandon this archaic technologies? A shift in the financiers is the clincher here, and I don’t see they have the will or desire to do it.
The impact – read the environment notations below.
The trend so far – NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE (well, actually consumption is just getting worse) . So why think it’s going to change in the future?
Electricity: Let’s first start with the single, most important consumption challenge - electric vehicles. We all think they can, and should, continue to grow in demand and supply, but the holy grail of adoption of private to commercial cars and trucks is the long duration, short (high capacity) charge, battery. We aren’t there yet but we are getting closer. Ongoing investment by environmental consciences parties are needed to make this real. But this also requires our governments to step in to help develop the underlying infrastructure where the conflict-of-interest oil companies are hampering development. A single billionaire can beat the system, but he can’t keep the momentum up alone.
So the next problem – increasing supply, modernizing distribution. This means the collective WE must step back into the nuclear age, or we build some amazing solar generating centers covering thousands of square miles – considering we can figure how to build these panels without rare materials.
Nuclear Fission: There are new designs that are amazingly safe – they would fail to a low-energy state. These new reactors can actually be fed waste from the old breeder style reactors. Every existing breeder reactor today is a possible nuclear disaster. It’s time to shut them down, move away from 1960’s technology, and embrace the future. I don’t see this happening with some serious public education and buy-in from the public and political parties – but we have the answer here, just not the political will.
Nuclear Fusion: Is the “safer” version, but to date the power to run the system is "almost" equivalent to the power generated ("almost" means yes we’ve seen improvements here). Will we ever get the math to work? – maybe, possibly, sure. The first one out of the gate wins, so the race is still on.
Wind and Geothermal power: Why lump these two together? Because the commercial units are high-cost and have limited lifetimes. The current commercial windmill fleets are financial disasters waiting to happen. With unit lifetimes rated between 20-25 years, the math doesn’t work unless there are fundamental changes in approach. Only large commercial operations can make these numbers work, considering the scale of costs.
Solar: I do think we can grow this technology, but the need for rare materials is the clincher. The cost of production is still quite high, relatively. We should all be able to source power into the distribution grid, and in turn provide a distributed power production that is much more stable than limited large sources. I do think we are going to see more improvements in this area.
Other: Maybe Tesla was on to something with his “Wardenclyffe Tower” (although that was distribution vs generation). I guess we’ll never know as his materials/plans were seized by the government at the time. That would be interesting to know though, wouldn’t it? There are other possibilities for independent power generation solutions, I am sure.
Our Planet, our Home
Call me a tree-hugger if you want. Say I’m scare-mongering about this information below. It's up to each and every one of us to be comfortable with our choices. We are the ones that must be able to answer if it’s all going to be OK for our children, and our children's children.
To summarize: We dump CO2 into the atmosphere at the rate of billions of tons a year (or maybe its trillions, doesn't matter). In early 2019 we reached the critical 400 ppm and then surpassed it. We have collected and observed direct evidence the climate is warming, the ocean is warming, the ice is melting. We witness evidence of methane bursting out of permafrost and from the ocean floor, and we watch year after year as temperature records are subsequently broken, each year successively climbing higher and higher. This is the runaway greenhouse effect.
Who or what is producing all this CO2? The big sources include coal plants churning out our endless need for electricity, machines of every shape and size using the internal combustion engine, and furnaces and heaters burning natural gases. Yes, even we and other mammals breathe out carbon dioxide. We'll omit natural sources like volcanoes as they are fringe sources, although they can play a part.
Despite arguments to the contrary (from certain non-believers) the evidence continues to pile up that global warming/climate change is REAL. The question for many is is this going to affect me at all? If you live in a coastal city, or on an island, maybe you'll see changes in a very direct way within the next 10 to 20 years. The link below really doesn't sound that bad by its projections, but experts have been wrong so many times in the past, I know I can only wonder. An example story on projections are here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200917122838.htm and here https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/ice-melt-1.5886228 Consider that we are seeing 10,000 year old ice is melting at the poles.
I do worry about the "indirect" things though, and that includes problems that we cannot and have not anticipated. Perhaps some think-tank out there has all these risks identified by now - I'd like to see that list. Maybe we can do things to get ahead of this, to prepare.
Modern civilization rides along performing this tenuous balancing act of supply and demand, distributing electricity, natural gas, fuel, food, and emergency, health and law-enforcement services. But we've seen what happens when this balance is damaged.
Where’s this all going? It’s really quite simple, we all lose.
The amazon rain forest has been stated to be the “lungs of the planet” but we are destroying it in millions of acres per year. Is this a concern? Well, never mind us wiping out the undiscovered cure for cancer (we’ve already done a movie on that one) how about low oxygen levels? O2 levels have been on a constant decline, accelerating since the 1900s. We are at 20.9% mixture in the atmosphere, when we get below 19.5% human beings are in serious trouble. Current prediction models based on consumption need to be updated to reflect reduction of production capability. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S209592731830375X#f0025
Let me throw a curve your way. Gigatons (yes that’s what I said) Gigatons of ice are melting every year into the oceans. Glacial melting and satellite imagery is there if you wish to look for it. This "extra weight" imposed upon the tectonic plates of concern, is not uniformly spread across all the oceans. Such forces (which are titanic in magnitude) introduce a strong potential of increasing geological instability, which in turn results in increasing earthquake and volcano activity.
Please allow me to leave you with a perspective if you will. Many people spend their lives trying to answer the question: Why am I here? Or What’s my purpose in life? Maybe we can all start with just a few small things: 1) Let’s be responsible stewards of our home, and of our planet. Do what we can, where we can. 2) Let’s reach out and help others in need. 3) Let’s get involved. When we encounter things that are just plain wrong - let's not ignore it.
The above is an incomplete set of concerns, and there are other areas and specific items that should also be included, but I'll leave that for another date...
Firstly, to my readers, I do hope you truly enjoyed your holidays, and managed to being in the new year well.
Personally, I am not sorry to see 2020 go, and I remain much more optimistic about 2021. So keeping up with this optimism, I'd like to think we are approaching our last (worldwide) peak of covid infections. Indeed, this is a very tenuous time for many of our medical support systems - or more correctly - the people that provide these services. They have given so much during this very long year, and experienced suffering few may understand. If you get a chance to find a way to thank them, please take advantage and do so. It matters...
What's worked for me during this trying time is to re-frame my thinking, my perspective if you will, to being grateful. Every day run through that mental list for what I have, who I have, where I am, what I can do. Simple things, really. Try it. Add an item to that list every day, go deeper in meaning, and you may find something that is not attainable to everyone - an encompassing and compelling feeling of peace. Notably, this is something that you can control.
Beware the fear-mongers and the sensationalists (ie: the news). Things always seem worse in the middle of the night than when you awake the next day - and "our" new morning is approaching ;) .
2021 will bring with it many wonderful things, and we can all be part of this grand story.
As always, my interests like where science-fiction evolves to science-fact. We are inching our way closer to colonizing the moon, mars and in the process building a support network to achieve this. These projects are catalysts to shaping our futures. Consider we do not need war to drive innovation, nor need we rely on the restrictions of profit-driven justification. These are the challenges that drive true, positive, and meaningful change.
As an update from me, my apologies as I am behind on my latest novel. It's in progress, but I'll refrain from guessing completion until I get closer. Fingers-crossed.
Some of us need to feel superior over others. We fuel that process daily with a righteous self-talk that drives down the view of the "other", whether that other is Black, Asian, Indian, or White. That "other" is a target, and made to suffer, as the "other" is seen as less, not deserving, a diminished human. Ironically this behaviour compensates for some internal need - usually one that artificially props one up above another. This is all a mental game. This is not reality. There is no "other", there is no "them", but there is an "us". We are all just human beings trying to make our way through life.
Well, I do write science fiction, so allow me to open up an alternative view for consideration. Perhaps a view from the outside in:
Currently, we are a race that manages on whole to hate one another very efficiently, often achieving deplorable violence. The evidence is clear and undeniable.
Unknown to us we have witnesses. Our observers are not the typical stereotyped little green men, no, they are a people that have evolved over millennia, have learned the nature of the universe, and have discovered the glorious mysteries of biological machines of life.
They study us. Why? We are something rare. We are sentient.
But the events they observe is often disturbing to them. It is WE that are the true aliens. Mind you though, they are not ignorant of understanding true violence. They've witnessed black holes tear planets to rubble that had previously been teeming with life. They've watched supernovae corona expand and blast through adjoining systems, bathing planets in unrelenting swaths of gamma radiation, and burning whole civilizations to dust.
They have decided to observe us, and if needed, to protect us, for as I described prior, the nature of the universe is truly violent.
But will they stay resolute in their commitment? Do they see promise in us? What do they see in our nature, projected far into the future?
Perhaps what they see translates into an obvious danger to them. After all, despite our ignorant proclamations, we are far from civilized now. The truth, distilled, is that we are yet unable to care for one another, much less develop a relationship with another race.
Inevitably our family may be much larger than we know. Our family extends to all sentient life.
If we are unable to evolve, unable to ascend to the next state of a true civilization, unable to truly care for all others, remain committed to our poisoned thoughts aligned to insanity, we may remain alone.
And I say again: the universe has a violent, dangerous nature.
There will come a time. We will need their help.
Enjoy this thought exercise? Could this be reality or is this just an insane yarn?
Other life? Do the math.
Evidence of other advanced life here, on Earth, already? Consider if they want to stay hidden, they will. Yes, we have some interesting pics, some interesting stories. It is relevant to understand that the act of effective observation requires one NOT to affect the observed.
Unknown interstellar dangers to us? Unfortunately just a matter of time. The past is exposed in our geological record, and the past is a very strong indicator of the future.
This pandemic wasn't a surprise. It was predicted. We were warned - many times with close-calls. The scientific community along with other prominent theorists (ie: good'ol Bill Gates for instance) all sent off the warning shots for a decade prior.
The Avian Flu didn't do it. SARs didn't do it. MERs didn't do it. Ebola didn't do it. Nothing woke us up enough to be really prepared for this. Sure we had some plans. We had some supplies set aside, some procedures drafted, but NO ONE had the magic checklist ready to say "WHOA this one is outta control and it's coming!"
So will we learn from our mistakes?
I will state we are probably at the next most dangerous state in this pandemic. We are jaded with this isolation - we don't want it anymore - we have many under financial duress - we have to "get back to normal as soon as possible". Our desires will be our downfall. Let's all go to Vegas! We need to be very careful here or all this time investment, all this suffering, is for nought.
In my opinion, I expect another wave soon. We have at least 3 major strains of this virus out there now. We are seeing outbreaks in China yet again, and they (the CCP) are lying to us (no surprise again) on the real facts.
What we need to do is simple, and there is no magic involved here, just hard work: A. Rapidly construct a testing infrastructure to test the WHOLE population (not just the hospitalized): 1) Be able to test everyone to see if they have this virus (and quickly). We need to identify asymptomatic carriers and control local breakouts. 2) Test everyone to see if they are immune (ie: those that have resolved knowingly or unknowingly, with antibodies). B. Expedite the creation/testing/distribution of vaccine and ensure the most susceptible of our populate receive this vaccine first.
I can tell you one thing - the public (and the politicians) may just be open for a smallest of a wee-bit time to listen to our NEXT set of (expected) challenges and maybe - just maybe - support the investment to prepare for them.
No I'm not talking about the end of the world, and certainly not a zombie attack (lol). No I'm not talking about an asteroid hitting us. No I'm not talking about some generic climate change event.
I am talking about our next wave of human suffering, barring more pandemics...
I am talking about a rapid rise in sea level. In my opinion this will happen in our generation - and it WILL happen sooner than everyone even can dream of it occurring. No I'm not crazy - but I am confident in what I am stating. It is a fact that public support enables governments to act, and yes we have to fix some pandemic-related things once we get through this, but we ain't done yet...
I suggest reading this particular article. It's an impressive piece of work put together by Jeff Goodell for Rolling Stone Magazine and it spells it out pretty well: https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-doomsday-glacier?utm_source=pocket-newtab
Not sold yet? No worries. The coronavirus did not care about our opinions either. Neither will this melting ice. And please, don't be stating this next disaster is an Act of God. He had nothing to do with it. We're the ones that are to blame here.
The real question to ask yourself: You want to be a victim (yet again) or not?
PS: For those who are enjoying the clear skies - this is what it would be like if we were all driving electric vehicles. Not bad, eh?
Came across some interesting research I'd like to share...
As the world slowly goes into lock-down and people huddle indoors to avoid contact with each other, the reliance on tools such as the internet climbs. Nowadays we are lucky. We surf, binge watch TV, read a myriad of books - and we educate ourselves on what to do with this risk. Compare this to the old days: no mass communications, no understanding of how viruses work, lack of clean water much less soap, and for the sick - no antibiotics, no ventilators, no knowledge (but don't forget the leeches). No wonder the black plague killed 200 million.
Ah, but enough reflection, let's get to the interesting stuff! The following link is hard science, and basically states that viruses are swept up into, and suspended in the upper atmosphere until they eventually settle back down onto the surface - usually another continent no less. Check it out at ScienceDaily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180206090650.htm Another good link is here: http://www.virology.ws/2018/04/19/viruses-are-falling-from-the-skies/ What does this mean? One could postulate that COVID19 could travel by the same means - although it most likely would not remain viable, BUT and I will say BUT, one never really knows. Things do have a way of surprising us...
While I was at ScienceDaily (as it is a great site), I came across a Mar 17th posting of the investigation into the roots of COVID19/Coronavrus. According to them, it's considered to be of natural origin. I remember reading some theories that this was a manufactured virus that managed to escape. The information seemed to have some credible/reasonable assumptions around it, scattered with a few facts, but I think this post truly sets the record straight. Their leading theory: it crossed over from bats. Read for yourself here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200317175442.htm
In closing, the big question on everyone's mind is: When does it end? Good question - and anyone that claims they have a date is either a psychic or in a delusional state. I did find this article on Wired. It was an interview with a true expert in this field, and I think he did answer the question with his phrase of "herd immunity" and a pretty accurate description of when we know we are climbing out of it. So, yes there is an end to this. :) By the way, the expert's name, no pun intended, is Larry Brilliant. Certain government leaders can learn a considerable amount from this man. You can read his about his interview here: https://www.wired.com/story/coronavirus-interview-larry-brilliant-smallpox-epidemiologist/
COVID-19: It's by the definition a pandemic. It's loss of containment, loss of control, and it's spreading.
What I find strange in the news flowing through the mulitple channels is the variance of the mortality rate being reported on this virus. It makes one think there is more than one strain (mutation) at work here.
Case and point - acknowledging China's 3% published mortality rates, we are now seeing reports of up to 9% in certain regions within Italy. Is this due to a specific population? Are these souls lost because they fall within some high risk group or is it because of a change in the veracity of this contagion? I really hope my theory of multiple strains is way off base here...
Regardless, considering the nature of this virus I know there are far worse possibilities out there. I truly hope we all learn from this.
What I find most difficult here is the ethical tug-of-war we have to contend with in such situations. For example the following is a hypothetical that I'm sure is already playing out across the world at this very moment: 1). Your extended family, say your elderly parents, fall ill - expressing the symptoms of the virus - but the health teams are unable to test and confirm it is truly that virus because the testing capability is simply unavailable. 2). Do you step in to help (assuming of course you even have a choice), and possibly risk your immediate family, including your newly born son or daughter? Or do you remain at a distance and hope your loved ones fare through this on their own.
It's a vexatious dilemma, one in particular, that if you compared it to some other situation, you would consider the virus to be evil in nature. But nature is not evil is it? It just is.
Add to the scenario above, another situation, where you are the health care provider with limited resources (such as isolation rooms, ventilator equipment, and medicines (ie: diuretics to reduce fluid buildup in the lungs)). Due to the pandemic you simply do not have enough resources to contend with all the cases coming into the treatment center. You start making judgement calls - the younger are preferred treatment - the older are simply made as comfortable as possible. The problem is, as time passes, the sick keep coming, and it is up to you to perform more (and more) difficult decisions.
Mankind has contended with these situations throughout history, but this does not mean that you have direct experience with this. This leaves little comfort at best.
It's at times such as this that science and technology provide us little support, and we turn to our religions to help us.
In such times of suffering, when we are truly stripped down to our very essence, tested and stressed beyond limits that we could never have imagined, perhaps we are at our weakest. But I would propose at the same time we have also, desperately and determinedly, been able to find that internal well of strength - and we are also at our strongest.
So stay strong, keep a level head and do not lose it to fear, and when it begins to look futile do not lose hope.
Above all, cherish your humanity and help others where you can.
Seems like almost every year we are encountering some sort of serious outbreak in a given region of our world, whether it be a variant of the coronavirus, ebola, the avian flu, or even the black plague (yes it is still lurking out there). In fact, I've read a number accounts of concerns being raised regarding the re-emerging of smallpox. To top all this off we've recently discovered dormant viruses buried in glaciers dating back thousands of years.
WHO (Worldwide Health Organization) has stated many times we are on the verge of a worldwide pandemic. The coronavirus is not, as yet considered one.
Viruses. Why do they even exist other than to cause ongoing suffering? Strangely enough their goal is simple - to multiply at the expense of their host. Not much different then a parasite in a sense.
What makes a really dangerous virus? We'll start with a couple basic terms: Incubation Period - the time one is infected before exhibiting symptoms. Contagious/Infectious Period - the time one is shedding the virus and could infect others.
These periods may overlap. One may be contagious and NOT show any symptoms (for a time). This is different for each virus of course, but viruses that exhibit this ability are not uncommon: measles, chickenpox, rubella, and on and on...
Consider a virus with an extended incubation period, where the host experiences no symptoms, and is unknowingly quite contagious to others.
Next point is in regard to mode of transmission, accompanied with the ability of a virus to survive without a host, and lastly, its preferred attack vector - or way of infecting the host.
Blood-born viruses such as dengue-fever, malaria, and many STDs are good examples of diseases that are transmitted through the exchange of blood and/or bodily fluids. You would think these viruses would have a hard time surviving, yet they manage quite successfully year after year.
Raise the danger level up a notch, however, and you now have the common flu/cold, and variants such as H1N1 (swine flu) or H5N1 (avian flu), H1N1 (spanish flu), and of course let's not forget the Covid-19 (coronavirus) with all its similar sub-types (MERS,SARS). These particular nasties attack the body either through breathing it in, or landing near facial entry area including the surface of one's eyes. Their primary method of transmission is traveling through the air in suspended droplets ejected from an infected coughing host. In addition, they are hardy enough to withstand a range of temperature fluctuations, and can remain dormant but alive on surfaces for many hours.
Again this demonstrates the need to wash your hands many times during the day. You pick up a nasty on the escalator rail, then touch your face - too late.
There's a term for "rate of infection" they call r-naught (R0). The higher the number, the worse the infection propagates through a population. Measles is 12-18 (essentially the highest we know of for now). In comparison, the 1918 flu that literally killed millions was only around 2.4 on this index. Note: If you get under 1.0, the infection will usually fizzle out. The R0 for coronavirus Covid-19 is ranging from 2.2 and 3.1 depending on the sources. This essentially means a person who contracts the virus is highly probable to further infect 2-3 others.
Now if a virus was particularly ruthless, and tended to kill its host, the R0 would likely drop, as its infectious period would be shortened. To be truly successful, a virus must be devious, take its time to incubate and infect the host's systems to the point that host is contagious. Upon onset of symptoms the virus will then proceed to make the host truly miserable for an extended period of time (short of not killing the host), and throughout this time actively shed itself, ensuring the host is highly contagious throughout, effectively managing to replicate itself over many, many hosts.
Anyone familiar with this sort of behaviour? Alas, it is the common cold and the dreaded flu.
As eluded to above, many viruses are not benign, and they have an established mortality rate - usually expressed as a percentage. One must consider the population affected to understand this number. If a particular population has little to no previous exposure to a similar virus family, then the rate goes up. If the population is aged, or possibly very young, and their immunity systems are weak, the rate may go up. How healthy and adaptable the population is plays a factor here.
Let's revisit the yearly flu. It usually averages between 1.5 - 1.8%. In contrast, the 1918 flu was estimated to be in a range from 10-20% (although the upper range representing the extreme, and we can't know for sure, as this outbreak was worldwide and not properly documented). The 2019 flu season numbers are still in progress - but we are in the range of multi-millions infected and tens of thousands have died. This is a bad flu season in comparison, regardless of the shadow cast by the coronavirus.
Depending on your information source, the current coronavirus outbreak is ranging from 2.5% to as high as 11%. So why doesn't this outbreak seem as deadly as the 1918 spanish flu outbreak? I have my theories, but it is very important to understand what often accompanies these lousy infections: Pneumonia (viral or bacterial, doesn't matter much). Once the virus is done with us, we are ripe targets. In fact. organizations such as CDC/WHO often amalgamate the two when they present mortality/morbidity rates for flu strains.
Some good news: we have some things they didn't have back in 1918 - antibiotics and vaccines. Add this to our repertoire of medical practices, plus the general understanding by the average person to avoid exposure in the first place - and things are much better.
Now that we've touched on the basics, and in the process avoided explaining how our immune system actually defeats a viral attack, maybe we should touch on that too.
Our immune system is a collection of different "fighting" cells that are dispersed throughout our body. They use the bloodstream and lymphatic systems as highways to move throughout our body. Most of these cells originate from within our bone marrow starting as stem cells and morphing into T or B (lymphocyte) cells, and many other types as well. The key thing here (and yes I am simplifying) is that the our immune system creates "antibodies" which are soldiers built specifically to defeat a given virus. As each virus is unique in its overall shape/configuration - not all our soldiers can reach the heart of the virus successfully - to infiltrate and kill it. So we have all these very unique antibodies standing ready to be replicated and sent onto the frontline. This is why vaccines work to ready our bodies for a given virus. We inject pieces of the virus (dead, or DNA/RNA strings - let's call them antigens) into our bodies, which then allows our immunity cells to learn and adapt, effectively readying our new soldiers.
And all of this works great as long as the immune system recognizes this antigen as a foreign invader...
Last but not least, as I've saved the best for last (of course)...
There is something they refer to as mutation - meaning that the virus modifies itself during its generation process, and changes itself sufficiently to stop our antibody soldiers in their tracks. We still don't fully understand this mechanism, although we have discovered many viruses are actually internally programmed to mutate. Adding insult to injury - the more successful the virus is in infiltrating many hosts, the greater the odds we will see a mutation occur. When a mutation occurs all bets are off - the virus can adapt new and even more dangerous abilities. Mutation is why we have a new flu season almost every year. Mutation is how a serious outbreak turns into a pandemic.
So to wrap up (since I am a sci-fi writer). Maybe the real danger in us finding our precious "sister world" to Earth will not be competing sentient aliens. Maybe the danger will be the foreign nasties operating at the cellular level. Our act of colonization will result in us fighting a different kind of war.
I think I need to educate myself more on biology...
If you'd like to understand the immune system and how it works in more depth, try this youtube series link, fascinating stuff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jBpv9fYSU4
It's 2020 and best wishes to everyone - hope all of you have a memorable year.
Personally, I've been stalled on my most latest project (The 4 Seasons of Man), not due to any lack of ideas - but more of time and priority, and for me, family always takes priority.
In the meantime, I've submitted my application for consideration of "A Bellicose Dance" to a fine organization called the Aurora Awards. If you've not heard of them, or you are interested in any of the 2019 submissions (organized by multiple literature categories), feel free to surf to here to the Canadian_Aurora_Awards.