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"contagious -- and also likely to be resistant to the most common antibiotics "
You might want to check this statement in relation to viruses. I think that all viruses are unaffected by antibiotics. There are some anti-viral medicines out there, but I am not aware of any that work on generic flu viruses. (Disclaimer:I am not a biologist so I could be wrong.)

You're absolutely right... I briefly forgot I was talking about viruses and vaccines, not bacteria and antibiotics.

Late Night Blogging -- do so at your own risk!

All these flu and transmittable diseases could easily be wiped out! They all have reservoirs in different kinds of animal and birds: flu in birds, tuberculosis in cattle, rabies in foxes, etc.

Just get rid of all the animals which are germ laiden, and diseases will be eradicated!

Disease-carrying mosquitoes are a special example. The standard response in Africa and elsewhere is crazy: they try to stop mosquitoes breeding, but having guys go around with tanks of oil on their backs after it rains, trying to put a film of oil on every puddle.

If you think about it, the way to exterminate the mosquito is simple: starve it!

The little vampires live on blood. All you need to do is turn off the blood supply! Make sure there are no animals or humans with exposed skin, and the problem is sorted!

BTW, I'm not suggesting that all the wildlife be exterminated, just that if people really try hard these problems will be sorted.

Animals could be preserved in labs and bred for several generations in sterile conditions, to get rid of disease, before being reintroduced to the wild! I don't think that exterminating diseases and mosquitoes will cause an ecological damage ;-)

Is it me, or do they always use the cute furry creatures to do experiments on? =(

Uh, nc, dude, I hope you're pulling a Jonathan Swift there with that ridiculous comment. Either that or you're looking into going into Clothing for Critters. (Hot investment tip here, folks: don't buy in!) Exterminating the wild reservoirs of any contagion is impossible, which is why malaria is still around. Vaccinating the little buggers out of existence is just about your only hope, as it was with smallpox, and that's not really possible with many disease-causing organisms because they either mutate too quickly (like the viruses that cause colds), are of too many different kinds (again like colds, which are caused by about 200 different kinds of viruses) for an effective vaccine, or are caused by parasites, like malaria, which, being highly complex living organisms themselves, can't be vaccinated against. Not to mention that we don't know where most infectious disease reservoirs are (aside from your local hospital; I've been watching too much "House" lately), or which already existing diseases will move from being strictly animal contagions as bird flu or HIV previously were, to being dangerous human contagions. Even when we think we've just about eradicated a disease, like polio, cultural factors can crop up to make it reappear again (in this case, the ugly rumor that the vaccine is actually a way of sterilizing Muslims). Then there are the other stressors that weaken human (and animal) immune systems: dought, famine, typhooon, war, crowded conditions, poverty, lack of basic safe waste disposal and fresh water. Not to mention that many contagions can lie dormant and undetected who knows where for decades. So far, smallpox seems to be the only thing we've had any luck with eradicating. But don't blame it all on the animal vectors.

And just to push your notion to its logical conclusion, once the animal vectors are gone, even if they were gone in an instant, what's left to infect but us? And all it takes is one healthy virus or bacterium, or one fertilized parasite. Imagine yourself not just teaming with the "healthy" bacteria already in your body, and the contagions we're constantly fighting off, but descended upon by every single hungry "bug" looking for a nice warm bloodstream to culture itself in. Good luck sucka.

Dear Lee Kottner,

Yes, you are right, I am "pulling a Jonathan Swift" in a sense, but not quite the sense perhaps you have in mind. Swift did go insane in the end, but his greatest works are not entirely satirical or fictional. There is a great Penguin paperbacks edition of Swift with a foreword by a former British socialist politician (Michael Foot, who like Swift is becoming crazy in old age) which compares all of Swift's attacks on crackpot physics in his book to REAL RESEARCH being done in Britian's Royal Society at that time. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulliver's_Travels#Part_III:_A_Voyage_to_Laputa.2C_Balnibarbi.2C_Glubbdubdrib.2C_and_Luggnagg

"Part III: A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdrib, and Luggnagg
Gulliver's ship is attacked by pirates and he is abandoned on a desolate rocky island. Fortunately he is rescued by the flying island of Laputa, a kingdom devoted to the arts of music and mathematics but utterly unable to use these for practical ends. The device described simply as The Engine is possibly the first literary description of something resembling a computer in history. Laputa's method of throwing rocks at rebellious surface cities also seems the first time that aerial bombardment was conceived as a method of warfare. He is then taken to Balnibarbi to await a Dutch trader who can take him on to Japan and thence to England. While there, he tours the country as the guest of a low-ranking courtier and sees the ruin brought about by blind pursuit of science without practical results in a satire on the Royal Society and its experiments."

Scientists must keep up the good work of appearing crazy.

nc

I should add that Swift's attack on useless "science" (then called natural philosophy) in Part III, dates to 1726 or so, when Kepler's idea that the planets are kept in orbit around the sun by magnetism (not gravity) had not been completely dislodged (Newton's Principia had been published in 1687 of course, but it was published in Latin and wasn't really widely comprehended from day one. So Swift's "flying Island of Laputa" which is held up by a giant magnetic rock, is more or less mainstream Keplerian antigravity of Swift's day. This was long before Maxwell's equations and the proper investigation of magnetism for levitation. Swift lampoons wise men who spend their lives in speculation and are incapable of dealing with simple practical problems, professors who try to extract the energy of sunlight stored in cucumbers (which was a real research project funded by the Royal Society of London), etc.

A most Swiftian exchange we've had here! Clearly, in his first comment, NC sought to kindle the memory of "A Modest Proposal," with similar misunderstanding. :) Tone is the key to Swiftian satire, and it's notoriously difficult to strike exactly the right note. Loved the ensuing analysis of "GUlliver's Travels." I studied it as an undergrad English major, but we focused less on his send-up of silly science and more on other more literary aspects at the time.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
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      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
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      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
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      151 proof rum
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      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
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      3/4 oz Rum
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      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
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      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
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