Yesterday, the CDC announced the discovery of several vials of smallpox virus, forgotten in a storage room since the 1950s. Back in April, Nature's Sara Reardon wrote about the risks (and benefits) of just this sort of thing.
Her story primarily focuses on sources of extant smallpox other than forgotten lab samples — virus that could, theoretically, survive in permafrost mummies, for instance, or the carefully saved smallpox scabs that people stumble across from time to time. But it includes this great paragraph that would turn out to be very prescient.
This month, the World Health Assembly — the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO) — will meet in Geneva, Switzerland, and decide when to destroy the only known stocks of smallpox virus, held in deep freezes at highly protected laboratories in the United States and Russia. It is a move that has been delayed since the 1980s, and in all likelihood will be put off yet again. But even if the official stocks of virus are destroyed, the chance remains that other batches of the virus could be hidden in a freezer somewhere — or that the pathogen could re-emerge, zombie-like, from a mummified corpse such as the dead woman found in Queens.
Images: Some rights reserved by PAHO/WHO
In the late 1960s and 1970s, the mind-expanding modus operandi of the counterculture spread into the realm of science, and shit got wonderfully weird. Neurophysiologist John Lilly tried to talk with dolphins. Physicist Peter Phillips launched a parapsychology lab at Washington University. Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill became an evangelist for space colonies. Groovy Science: Knowledge, […]
In a lead editorial in the current Nature, John Wilbanks (formerly head of Science Commons, now “Chief Commons Officer” for Sage Bionetworks) and Eric Topol (professor of genomics at the Scripps Institute) decry the mass privatization of health data by tech startups, who’re using a combination of side-deals with health authorities/insurers and technological lockups to […]
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Having to pack and drag your stuff through security can put quite the damper on your vacation plans. Thankfully, we’ve got your back with one way to make traveling more painless: the Jumper Overnighter Travel Bag.This compact bag is so lightweight that you can effortlessly carry it, and fit it into any overhead compartment. But just […]
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Home audio has taken some big leaps forward in recent years–not just in terms of sound quality, but also in the style department. The FRESHeBAR Leather Soundbar, now 56% off in the Boing Boing Store, is proof.The FRESHeBAR comes packing almost all the options you’d ever need for a home sound system, including Bluetooth streaming capabilities.The unit’s 90 […]