A team of French scientists have discovered a frozen virus in
Siberia, that vast wilderness of enigma that I've
talked about before, see: http://hpanwo.blogspot.co.uk/2007/12/russian-roswell.html.
This virus has never been seen before and is not thought to exist anywhere on
the Earth's surface; it was found a hundred feet below the ground in the
northern permafrost. It was assumed to be dead, but as soon as it was thawed
out, it sprang back to life... so begins the plot of several horror movies!
However this virus, called Pithovirus
sibericum, only infects amoebas, single-celled organisms. It poses no
threat to human life, or any other animals and plants. It is enormous for a
virus, fifty-nine microinches long. That sounds tiny; it's less than a quarter
of the width of the thinnest human hair, but in viral terms it's a giant. It
was last active thirty thousand years ago and since 1970 the permafrost in
which it was stored has shrunk releasing much else from its natural time
capsule. The scientists are worried that other viruses might emerge that are
harmful. This retreat of the permafrost coincides with the arrival of large
numbers of people in the region, oil company workers drilling for oil and gas.
If they bore into the melting permafrost they might bring up far more than
hydrocarbons. An ancient strain of smallpox could be one of the nasties freed
from their cryogenic prison, or maybe even something never imagined before.
One of the best horror films ever made, in my view, is The Thing directed by John Carpenter. It tells the story of a deadly extraterrestrial organism that was buried in the ice of
Antarctica in the distant past. When scientists
in the modern era melt the ice around it, the pathogen escapes and infects its
human discoverers, with horrendous consequences. The scenario in The Thing in probably an extreme example
of what might happen... I hope; nevertheless I agree with the French scientists
that we should proceed cautiously. It's interesting how once again climate
change caused by man-made Carbon™ emissions is crowbarred into the story; this
is a tiresome inevitability nowadays, see here for more details: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/2015-and-climate-change.html.
Zombies are once more at the forefront of my mind following my latest live
performance of "Real Zombies" at the High Wycombe Paranormal Group
last week; the recording of this is now online, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/zombies-fact-or-fiction.html.
In the lecture I speculate about whether the zombie meme is actually a metaphor
for something real, like a virus. Although I didn't mention it this time in the
speech, it has struck me that zombies have a lot in common with viruses,
especially when it comes to reproduction. Viruses are a completely different
form of life to any other. Most eukaryotes- animals, plants and fungi,
reproduce through sex; a male and female will produce a unique offspring that mixes
both their DNA. Viruses don't do that. Instead they reproduce asexually by
infecting the cells of another organism, termed the "host", and
creating a copy of itself through that infection. Zombies do the very same
thing; they create new zombies by biting a human being which subsequently
transforms into a copy of themselves, a new zombie. I think it's sensible to
take care in Siberia as the French scientists suggest,
but I'm not terribly concerned by this news. As I say in "Real
Zombies", I think we have far more to fear disease-wise from the hidden
laboratories of the shadow government than we do a dripping chunk of ice from
the Russian tundra.