How Dangerous is Ebola?

I don’t wish to alarm anyone unnecessarily.

ebola

At this stage it seems fairly clear that Ebola only spread in West Africa due to poor hygiene, funeral practices and lack of knowledge amongst the general population. And that it is unlikely to spread in places like the USA. In the USA people typically don’t hug the dead, and don’t “rescue” Ebola patients from hospitals.

Yet there is the disturbing fact that western health professionals, who presumably have taken all necessary cautions, are still catching it. In droves!

According to the World Health Organization (WHO):

Health-care staff fear for their lives. To date, more than 170 health-care workers have been infected and at least 81 have died.

Some are saying that Ebola has mutated, and it now has airborne transmission. Authorities say it doesn’t, yet are not explaining why so many doctors are catching the disease. This could be a deliberate ploy to stem fear.

If Ebola is airborne, it may have mutated in other ways as well. We have been told that the infected are only contagious when they are showing symptoms. Were that to change, we would be screwed. The global pandemic that has long been predicted could be about to happen.

I find it extraordinary that multiple infected people have been transferred to hospitals in western countries (2 to the USA, 1 to Spain). Why risk millions of lives to save one or two?

We are told that the hospital in Atlanta has the finest facilities in the world for such situations. But that never means 100% perfect.

Post-SHTF: How To Charge Batteries

After TEOTWAWKI there will be enough regular batteries to last us a while, but when they all run out there will be some savvy survivalists using rechargeable batteries. But how to recharge them if there is no electricity? Here are some ideas, but you need to buy and use them now. Unless noted, they charge your devices directly.

BikeCharge Dynamo. Dynamos have been on bicycles for decades to power lights. This one will charge your batteries. The Dynamo ($120), attaches to your bike’s wheel; the Power Converter ($30), turns the energy from the turning wheel into usable power; and that power is stored in the 2,600 mAh Power Pack ($59.99). Use the Power Pack to charge devices via its USB port.

Powerpot

PowerPot. For $150 you get a little camp stove that, aside from boiling water or cooking a meal, charges your device at the same time.

nPowerPeg. If there’s one activity you are almost guaranteed to partake in after the SHTF, it would be walking. This $200 device is powered by you, just by doing some walking. Kinetic energy.

Eton FRX4. Powered by the Sun, or via a hand-crank. Splash-proof and drop-proof. Includes a radio and flashlight. $80.

Mercury 4-S Ultra-Slim. Foldable solar panels. Cheap, portable solution. $33

July 2012 Solar Storm – Biggest Ever – Could Happen Again Soon!

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” said Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado this week.

solar-flare-earth

“In my view, the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event,” said Baker. “The only difference is, it missed.”

On 23 July 2012, two coronal mass ejections (CME) burst out of the Sun’s surface within 15 minutes of each other and headed out into space at more than 3,000km per second. If they had erupted nine days earlier Earth would have been directly in its path. Instead, NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) satellite was perfectly positioned to record the blast.

For a paper [PDF] in the journal Space Weather, scientists analyzed the data from STEREO and found that the CMEs were the largest yet measured – and could even have exceeded the notorious 1859 Carrington event. Had they hit us, the resulting electromagnetic disturbance could have taken out most of the GPS network, communications satellites, electrical grids and some servers.

But we may not be so lucky next time, and research published in February by physicist Pete Riley shows solar storms of this magnitude are more common than first thought.

Riley went through the last 50 years of solar data and calculated that the chances of a Carrington-class storm hitting Earth over a decade were 12 per cent. See the full paper.

All the above is from a recent article at The Register.

And below is from a more in-depth article at NASA:

A paper in the March 2014 edition of Nature Communications by UC Berkeley space physicist Janet G. Luhmann and former postdoc Ying D. Liu describes the process: The July 23rd CME was actually twoCMEs separated by only 10 to 15 minutes. This double-CME traveled through a region of space that had been cleared out by yet another CME four days earlier. As a result, the storm clouds were not decelerated as much as usual by their transit through the interplanetary medium.

“It’s likely that the Carrington event was also associated with multiple eruptions, and this may turn out to be a key requirement for extreme events,” notes Riley. “In fact, it seems that extreme events may require an ideal combination of a number of key features to produce the ‘perfect solar storm.’”

Chikungunya Update

As I mentioned back in March, the terrible disease Chikungunya is heading towards the USA, due to the first cases ever appearing in the Caribbean late last year. Now that region is really suffering:

In the last six months, the Pan American Health Organization has documented nearly 4,600 new cases of chikungunya in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico has recently confirmed its first case as has the US Virgin Islands. The mosquito-borne disease is sweeping through the tropics, inflicting its victims with arthritis-like symptoms – chronic joint pain. The disease is like Dengue fever, causing fever, rash and nausea. The symptoms of chikungunya can last for months or years.

Chikungunya is spreading rapidly on the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, accounting for 2,800 of the new cases. At least 20 states or islands have confirmed new cases, with 793 cropping up on the French side of St. Martin and 123 on the Dutch side.
[Source: The Watchers]

It sounds like the tourist business will be hit hard.

Spanish Flu brought back to life :(

spanish_flu

I have a lot of respect for the good that scientists achieve, but there is something generally missing from their skill sets: risk mitigation.

This seeming blindness to the true risks of their endeavours leaves the general population at risk, and I suggest it is a greater risk than we would accept if the choice was down to us.

No laboratory is 100% safe from theft, accident or sabotage. 

The extinct influenza virus that caused the worst flu pandemic in history has been recreated from fragments of avian flu found in wild ducks in a controversial experiment to show how easy it would be for the deadly flu strain to reemerge today.

Critics said that any benefits of the attempts to recreate 1918-like flu viruses from existing avian flu strains do not justify the catastrophic risks if such a genetically engineered virus were to escape either deliberately or accidentally from the laboratory and cause a deadly influenza pandemic.

“This is a risky activity, even in the safest labs. Scientists should not take such risks without strong evidence that the work could save lives, which this [study] does not provide,” Professor Lipsitch said.

Robert Kolter, professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School, said: “The scientists doing this work are so immersed in their own self-aggrandisement, they have become completely blind to the irresponsibility of their acts. Their arguments in favour of such work, i.e. increase ability for surveillance, remain as weak as ever.”

Simon Wain-Hobson, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said: “The work doesn’t offer us much. The risk of escape is small but non-zero. I do not see such benefits, so on balance we are worse off.”

Source: The Independent

Perhaps if this flu virus were to escape, there would be a much higher toll than the 50 million who died in a much less global era.

 

Big Bang Described in 1225

Bishop of Lincoln, and scientist, Robert Grosseteste wrote about the Big Bang way back in 1225:

Grosseteste had been studying the recently rediscovered works of Aristotle, which explained the motion of the stars by embedding Earth in a series of nine concentric celestial spheres. In De luce, Grosseteste proposed that the concentric universe began with a flash of light, which pushed everything outwards from a tiny point into a big sphere.
New Scientist, 22 March 2014

Brewers Yeast – from Patagonia to Germany

bavarian_beer

Brewer’s yeast has changed many times as agriculture spread & different human cultures emerged.  New forms, as distinctive as species, emerged in association with beer & wine production in different regions.  Some of these yeasts changed further to give a wide variety of bread yeasts.  In a monk’s cave in Germany, the cold-tolerant yeast used to make lager evolved as a hybrid of S. cerevisae & a species that hails from Patagonia. Mysteriously, this occurred more than 100 years before Europeans reached the New World. 

New Scientist, 26 Jan 2013, via Google Groups

You can now add brewer’s yeast to items that managed to traverse the globe before there was human contact.

Rob Dunn reiterates this at Scientific American:

Lager beer was apparently first brewed in the 1400s. How do you get a yeast from Patagonia into a brewing vat in Bavaria before European ships had gone to Patagonia and back?

If it was humans who carried the yeast across the Atlantic, that would also suggest that it was a deliberate act. And that means very clever people.

Carrington-Level Events

If you haven’t heard of the Carrington Event, the short explanation is this – a solar storm in 1859 knocked out the telegraph system, and if it happened today you could expect electric grids to fail and take years to repair. That would be a first world doomsday.

solar-flare-earth

The Carrington Event pretty much occurred when scientists first began to study the Sun. Because another storm of that size hasn’t hit us since, scientists tend to be a bit vague about when to expect another.

However there have been similar storms that didn’t hit us – we just happened to be in the wrong place. Regardless of what you call it – Coronal Mass Ejection, Massive Solar Storm, Solar Flare – a key factor is that it is directional. Like someone on the Sun wielding a giant flashlight that they randomly aim out into space every now and then. The beam is much wider than Earth…

Major solar storms have happened in recent times that, had they struck Earth, could have been catastrophic. Example:

Massive bursts of solar wind and magnetic fields, shot into space on July 23, 2012, would have been aimed directly at Earth if they had happened nine days earlier. The bursts would have wreaked havoc on the Earth’s magnetic field, matching the severity of the 1859 Carrington event. [Reuters]

And in historical times there was what looks like a far larger solar storm, with enough energy to strip our ozone layer:

What Miyake found was a startling spike in carbon-14 levels around
the year AD 775. In other words, a radiation storm – and a big one at
that.

 

It is at least 20 times bigger than the biggest solar
storm ever recorded, by English astronomer Richard Carrington in
1859. “We can absolutely say that what happened then was bigger than
Carrington,” says Usoskin. It is also 100 times bigger than any flare
in the last century, according to David Eichler, a physicist from
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.

There were no matching supernova remnants, so the scientists looked to our Sun as the culprit. This possible description of aurorae from that period is a good match for collaborating evidence:

“Fiery and fearful signs were seen in the heavens after sunset; and serpents
appeared in Sussex, as if they were sprung out of the ground, to the
astonishment of all,”

The Sun may have had some help in the flare formation:

Eichler estimates that to spark a superflare, a comet the size of Hale-Bopp, which reappeared in the sky in 1997 and is estimated to be between 40 and 80 kilometres across, would be needed [to crash into the Sun]. [New Scientist]

If it was caused by a cometary collision, we will hopefully be well-warned before the next one. But if it was a random super-massive solar storm, the fore-warnings will be brief or non-existent.

We have been uniquely vulnerable (especially in modern societies) for a relatively short period. But our reliance on electronics is getting to a point where a solar storm bringing us to our knees is looking inevitable. Not a matter of if, but when.

Wall Street Titans Bunkering Down

I guess it is human nature – when you have so much money that it can help many future generations of your progeny, you do your best to make sure it gets to them.

Smarter still is to use some of that money to ensure that they survive at all.

The client, a senior partner at Goldman Sachs, wanted him to design a family house in upstate New York with a difference. It wouldn’t just be completely ‘off the grid’, with its own power and water supplies, but — and there isn’t yet an architectural term for this — it would be post-apocalypse. The conventional house would be mirrored below ground with pretty much identical living quarters that would be completely secure and so self-contained that there would be facilities to hydroponically grow plants and vegetables without soil.
[Source: The Spectator]

This isn’t a unique case, another prominent example is the Walton (Walmart) family and their compound. What pleases me is that (seemingly) such preparations are occurring in a post-2012 era.

The article mentions a 2nd Wall Street millionaire:

The strange thing was that when my friend rang a mechanical engineer for advice on a few technical details, rather than be gobsmacked, the engineer said he’d been working on pretty much the same brief for another Wall Street titan. Only he wanted a moat, too. ‘What do they know that we don’t?’ the architect asked me.

I would do the same, if I had the cash. But presumably I’d invest in weapons and secrecy over a moat.

Western USA – Not Fit For Survival

Obviously this is a generalisation – the west of the USA is close to half a continent. There will be some great survival spots here and there.

But generally speaking, the West is dry, and the East is not:

usa-rainfall

 

According to the rainfall map, there is a clear mid-continent dividing line. The upper West coast gets a lot of rain, but that is of no use when folk flee an earthquake or volcanic eruption.

New Mexico and Arizona have numerous towns that attract new agers and survivalist types. Unfortunately the survivalists have made critical mistakes. To survive you will need food, water, shelter and a pleasant climate. Regardless of what attracts you to a desert, you won’t be able to survive for long when society can’t provide you with the basics.

From my book:

Albuquerque, New Mexico is 8-9000 feet above sea level, which some survivalists find appealing. Being so far inland, height is not a necessity, and you’ll find that the arid climate and inability to grow crops major negatives for many SHTF scenarios, such as a loss of the power grid, or a pandemic. I recommend heading farther east.

If you were surviving in the West, your crops failing, your family starving, and you come across the above map – which direction would you head?