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Author Topic: What has happened to us?  (Read 10976 times)

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Offline Torch

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Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #150 on: October 13, 2011, 08:33:20 AM »
Yes - and the symptoms of a benign flu aren't really that different from the symptoms of a 'killer' flu during those early stages.  We actually did have a bit of a panic a while back with Ebola - there was a research facility in Reston, VA where the transmission route not only went from 'contact with body fluids' to 'airborne', and it jumped the species gap.  Thankfully, that particular strain was only lethal in monkeys, and didn't produce symptoms in humans.


Offline Oniya

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Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #151 on: October 13, 2011, 09:27:27 AM »
Yup.  Said to be one of the more terrifying books out there.  I actually worked in the Reston area a bit after the monkey house incident, and when we were moving the call center from Vienna, there were jokes that they were going to put us there.  (Techies can have some morbid senses of humor.)  That was sort of when I started getting interested in pathogens - my next job was at an HIV lab (Tech support.  Some scientists suffer from serious PEBCAK.), and then after the little Oni came around, I ended up working in my current job, which still involves things that make people sick, just at a few more arms' lengths distance.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #152 on: October 13, 2011, 10:19:31 AM »
3% is a low-end estimate for Spanish flu. And look at how little the modern person even thinks of it. It's pretty impressive the level of death that can be swept under the rug of history. Accounts from the day report that there was a strange sort of refusal to accept Spanish flu at the time (probably helped by the vast conspiracy of silence due to political manipulation of the press during WWI), and as soon as ten years later people had basically put it out of mind.

As for populations reaching a limit, the curve you are looking for goes a bit a like this (presumably eventually leveling off the match the logarithmic population curve of a population living efficiently within its capacity):

The reason that current population growth does not already look like that is due to continued scientific advancement (most notably advancements in nitrogen fixation developed during WWI).

Are we heading for a dieback? Almost certainly yes. But it is by no means guaranteed. We adapt to our situations quite well through technology, we always have. And even if we don't, while the moral tragedy of the loss of that many individual human lives is staggering, we will adapt to the situation the old fashioned way through selection. Regardless, the species is not at great risk and I wonder if there would even be a great or sustained reaction to such an event.

Emerging infectious diseases are a greater concern, but the worst case scenario is 97% mortality (a figure derived from the failed extermination attempt of Australian rabbits). Again, enough to destroy all of society as we know it, but humanity itself may yet prevail.

Offline LustfulLord2011

Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #153 on: October 13, 2011, 07:05:44 PM »
Actually, in many ways I think that such a tremendous culling could actually do our species more good than it would harm... so long as there were enough survivors with actual survival skills to ensure our species didn't die out entirely. We've kind of made the world dependent on us, it's primary detractors, in a weird way, though. Were that many people to die in any appropriately short timespan, a lot of things we have built that need us to regulate them (for example, power plants) are going to break down in rather nasty ways, making the areas around them unsuitable for human life (and probably most other kinds, as well).

Offline Oniya

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Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #154 on: October 13, 2011, 08:33:07 PM »
You might want to check out the show 'Life After People' (or maybe it's 'Life After Humans').  It actually goes into all of these things - I've seen pictures from a town a few miles from Chernobyl, and you can see that the plant-life is very present 25 years later, which suggests that animal life (at least pollinators) ventures into the area.  Hiroshima's population had returned to pre-war levels by 1955, after all.

Offline LustfulLord2011

Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #155 on: October 13, 2011, 08:41:00 PM »
I will check it out, Oniya; thanks a lot for the recommendation.

Offline Caehlim

Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #156 on: October 14, 2011, 06:46:59 AM »
a lot of things we have built that need us to regulate them (for example, power plants) are going to break down in rather nasty ways, making the areas around them unsuitable for human life (and probably most other kinds, as well).

Actually the vast majority of modern power plants, especially nuclear ones are designed to shut themselves down automatically without human intervention.

Chernobyl should never have happened, it was one of those freak combinations of unlikely events. If political considerations hadn't trumped the safety concerns, the reactor hadn't been left running at minimal power for several days, there hadn't been a design flaw in the RKMB reactor's control rods or if the firefighters had been allowed more information on what they were dealing with... well, history would be different.

The Fukishima reactor was another example. It was an exceptionally well designed system and could stand up to just about any natural disaster. Then it got hit by the most powerful earthquake ever to hit japan (one of the fifth most powerful in scientific history). We are talking an earthquake so severe that the entire planet literally moved off its axis (by 10cm but still).

Most plants around the world would be reasonably safe.

Offline LustfulLord2011

Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #157 on: October 14, 2011, 07:40:01 AM »
It's not the modern ones that worry me, so much as the old ones that are long overdue for being shut down or at least having their equipment and operational systems upgraded. Like the one near my town, LOL. Then again, in the case of a genuine lethal pandemic, the odds are way better than even that I would be taking off for other places (if, in fact, I survived), so it wouldn't directly effect me anyway.

Offline Oniya

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Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #158 on: October 14, 2011, 07:43:03 AM »
The reason I brought up Chernobyl was actually because it was a fairly 'worst-case scenario', and I was reasonably certain I'd seen information about it being an 'extreme touristing' destination.  Not my idea of a fun time, but *shrug* eh.   :D

Offline LustfulLord2011

Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #159 on: October 14, 2011, 08:44:16 AM »
Chernobyl has actually, in recent times, become a rather lush environment, and due to the lack of people living there, it's becoming sort of a modern day primeval forest. I've seen some pictures; it's actually beautiful there now, though evidence of the disaster still lingers heavily in some places.

Offline Oniya

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Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #160 on: October 19, 2011, 03:09:10 AM »
Just caught an ad on PBS for an upcoming show about wolves that are living in the Chernobyl area.  As an alpha predator, that means there's got to be a decent amount of animals further down the food chain.  Check your local affiliate for 'Radioactive Wolves'.

Online gaggedLouise

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Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #161 on: October 19, 2011, 07:39:03 AM »
Pictures and videos from the Chernobyl abandoned zone, and from the plant itself, can be seen here: http://elenafilatova.com. Great pictures, very unnerving some of them.

The film Stalker (1979), by Andrey Tarkovsky, where three men are journeying into a mysterious barred-off zone, created by some kind of mishap or a UFO landing, has sometimes been read as a nod to an earlier Soviet nuke accident - at a reactor in the Ural mountains region. It had happened in the late fifties, and it was known in an underground way, in very limited circles, but completely hushed up by the authorities. IMO Stalker wasn't really inspired by that, but there were lots of rumours around things in the Soviet era, it was a whisper culture, so the idea of a secret zone fit into the atmosphere. That film is a fave of mine, not much happens outwardly during the middle section of the reel but what does happen never ceases to amaze you, not least visually.

Stalker with the dog

The Ukrainian video game STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl and its follow-up games were inspired both by Tarkovsky's film and by the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown and the rumours of strange muitant creatures in the zone though. It's one I'd really like to try, though I'm not much of a video gamer; too bad my present PC wouldn't near handle it.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2011, 07:55:05 AM by gaggedLouise »

Online gaggedLouise

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Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #162 on: October 19, 2011, 10:53:18 AM »
Speaking of alpha predators, I see you've had Tigers and Lions and Bears on the loose in Ohio. Most of them killed or pacified by now though.

Offline Oniya

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Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #163 on: October 19, 2011, 11:02:48 AM »
They actually took some alive?  That would make me very happy.  Word on the local news station's Facebook page is that the owner was solely responsible for the whole incident.  He probably could have called the Columbus Zoo instead of flinging the cages open and they wouldn't have had to kill any.

Online gaggedLouise

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Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #164 on: October 19, 2011, 11:11:47 AM »
Well, I heard on the news that the animals they encountered during the night had mostly been killed - in the dark it was too risky to try to sedate them - but those that are yet unacounted for are "supposed to have stuck themselves in hiding" wherever that is, probably dark places as big cats are night animals, and if they are found during the day and aren't very violent it just might be possible to tranquilize them.

Offline Oniya

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Re: What has happened to us?
« Reply #165 on: October 19, 2011, 11:59:52 AM »
There are only three animals currently unaccounted for:  a mountain lion (cougar, puma, same thing), a grizzly bear, and some kind of monkey.   The cougar is likely to find some local venison on the hoof - it's a 'normal food' for it, and deer are abundant in the area right now.  The monkey is probably one of the smaller varieties, and not too terribly dangerous to the public (assuming the cougar didn't get it).  If it doesn't get found, though, it's not likely to last the winter.  The bear is the one I'd be concerned about, since it's a little on the late side for getting ready for hibernation.  It's going to look for 'easy food', which could include local garbage cans.