Nathan Wolfe, "Hunting for the Next Killer Virus" - TED video

From the TED archive, a new video:
Virus hunter Nathan Wolfe is outwitting the next pandemic by staying two steps ahead: discovering new, deadly viruses where they first emerge -- passing from animals to humans among poor subsistence hunters in Africa -- before they claim millions of lives.

Armed with blood samples, high-tech tools and a small army of fieldworkers, Nathan Wolfe hopes to re-invent pandemic control -- and reveal hidden secrets of the planet's dominant lifeform: the virus.

TED Talks: Nathan Wolfe (thanks, Jason Wishnow)


  1. Virii aren’t technically alive, so it’s a bit inaccurate to call them the world’s dominant lifeform.

  2. But a fast-spreading virus with a very high mortality rate is really the only hope the planet has of averting ecological collapse. We desperately need something to control the primate infestation that is rapidly destroying the natural world. Why is this guy trying to PREVENT it?

  3. The connection between poverty and environmental degradation is such an important one to make. In this case, bush meat. Other examples being overpopulation (developed nations have lower birthrates) and rainforest destruction (for timber and farmland). Bill Gates spoke to the population reducing effects that poverty alleviation has in another video from this years TED conference, as a counterpoint to the idea that disease and hunger will take care of overpopulation in the 3rd world for us.

  4. #5 you can Help!!!! killz yourself! I know, it’s not going to make a hell of a lot of difference. But who knows it might catch on.

  5. #6 You’re right of course. Developed nations aren’t growing as fast – in terms of population. But take just the current population of the world and lift those people out of poverty (the majority are very poor by our standards) to our level of profligate resource consumption, and the whole place is doomed. Suffering on an unimaginable scale awaits us as energy, water and resource wars are waged on a scale never before seen.

    The problem is that individual action counts for little and we are just too selfish to organise for collective action.

    A killer virus won’t save the planet of course – we are too selfish and clever for that to happen. But there is no escaping the collapse in whatever form it takes.

  6. i thought about this too – thats why u call it a “life form” – not “organic life” -(like a conscious mass of electrostatic gas floating in space close to absolute-zero that u have a conversation with could be a “life form”) – and what if he unwittingly unleashes the doomsday bug that otherwise would have died out with whatever small, isolated, and very unfortunate village happened to be it’s first human breeding ground?

    and (#5) maybe he’s secretly NOT trying to prevent it…

  7. i dont think anyone could truly advocate “mass murder” but joking about the possibility does help take the sting out of the fear… does it not?

  8. oh and nobody answered #1’s question — cuz the areas of permafrost that are melting may house viri (is that the right plural?) that have laid dormant or at least isolated in a tiny biosphere – for centuries if snot longer

  9. Plurals: In biology, it’s viruses, for computers it’s virii.

    Dedalus @ 11: Thanks!

    Viruses/life: Viruses aren’t alive on their own, but they enter a cell, they borrow the components of the cell to respirate, so I like to think of them as life forms. This differentiates them from prions and so forth.

  10. @Dedalus; that’s an angle I hadn’t considered. I thought migratory corridors would be the only reason, but with the retreat of the ice, I guess you are right there. The Russians find anything in that subterranean lake yet?

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