September 30, 2014

Ebola Arrives

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Indeed, this is unlikely to be the only case like this we see. 

Ebola is a spectacularly nasty disease and causes much alarm. Given the spread in Africa it is certainly cause for concern. However, it is not terribly contagious. This isn't even a remarkable situation as other, similar diseases like Lassa Fever and Marburg have entered the US recently with little fanfare and no apocalypses. 

This situation is not to be taken lightly, but the greatest danger with this particular bug is panic. In the areas of Africa where panic has taken hold the outlook is quite grim . However, despite (and in some ways because of) its horrifying mortality rate, this disease can be brought under control much easier than, say, the flu. Indeed, the outbreaks in Senegal and Nigeria seem to have been brought under control even as the situation deteriorates elsewhere. 

Be aware. Don't be stupid. Above all don't panic.

Also: A sense of humor can help.

Ebola Tan by 地下室: Gallows humor that threatens to....go viral. 

As terrible as this disease can be if it gets out of control, I'm actually more concerned with a couple of other pathogens that are already becoming well established here. 

UPDATE
On the other hand there is this ray of sunshine:
 A former Food and Drug Administration chief scientist and top infectious disease specialist said that several people were exposed to the Ebola virus by the unidentified patient in Dallas, America’s first case, and it’s likely that many more will be infected. 

There is also this Politico piece, which is very detailed and paints a particularly grim picture of the situation in West Africa. 

Nevertheless, the best advice remains as follows...




...but stay informed

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September 28, 2014

The Limits of Knowledge

Don has some rather scary footage taken by via a cellphone on Mount Ontake when it suddenly erupted. As many as 30 other hikers may be dead. I gather that there was some festival going on and there were a great many hikers on the summit. Japan monitors their fire mountains quite closely for obvious reasons, and yet this mountain had not given sufficient warning to close it to the public.


I suspect that there will be some recriminations over this. Seismometer readings, temperature sensor records and the recordings of instruments monitoring gas discharges will be examined and someone will be found to have dropped the ball and not detected that which will be determined to be obvious with 20/20 hindsight. 

Decisions, however, are not made in hindsight. Nature is unpredictable and vulcanism in particular is a chaotic process that experts are constantly making discoveries about. It is highly likely that this was one of those discoveries. 

The unexpected can befall us at any time, and it is good to be prepared, but all the preparation in the world will do little good if the earth suddenly explodes under one's feet. 

As to how one might prepare for this...If there is any "lesson" to be learned here I think it would be to carry a few dust masks when climbing a volcano. They won't protect one from lava, asphyxiation or a pyroclasm, but the ash itself is quite deadly. 

A life worth living carries a certain amount of risk. It is, therefore good to live it well while one has the chance. 

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September 24, 2014

Do Want!




Of course this is likely to be rather more my realistic. 

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September 09, 2014

Tuesday 'Splody



One of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of SCIENCE! Babes sends us this video from her research into the effects of comparatively small volcanic eruptions upon merchant shipping.


The Hephestian hoopla was caused by Mount Tavurvur in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea on the 29th of last month. 

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