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If You Didn’t Have Enough to Worry About January 16, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, ghost towns, weird news, westerns, writing.
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It takes a lot of time, effort, skill and material to make a nuke. The NORK wet firecracker underground test a while back is proof of that. The Stuxnet worm was so devastating because it screwed up the computer controlling the Iranian centrifuges. A little off and you’ve got a pile of burnt bearings and a big mess, so computer control is vital. (That they found the worm shows it failed to some degree–it ought to have erased itself entirely after doing its dirty work.)

So, worrying about somebody setting off a bomb amid radioactive medical waste is more likely. But the “nice” thing about radioactive junk is that it can be tracked down with Geiger counters and isolated.

Not so with biological weapons, and the potential for this one is utterly frightening. Prions had been thought to be transmitted only through ingestion of diseased meat and meat, uh, byproducts (why do I think of Vienna sausages?) But no longer. Prions–mad cow disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease–can be spread using an aerosol. And in the test mice, it is 100% fatal.

When a kid in a high school lab can modify DNA in E. coli, this is especially disturbing. Start spraying at a basketball game and you can infect hundreds. Put it in the vent system and…? We can only hope any terrorist wanting to try this starts at a UNM football game. The few fans who go now all have paper bags over their heads.

The 100% fatality is the scary part. In the Old West there were all kinds of plagues, smallpox being the worst. But diphtheria and cholera were able to wipe out towns. Sanitation wasn’t high on folks’ minds back then. A plague starts, you hightail it to the high country away from the infected. This theme gives me the creeps but I have used it in at least one book.

And Bent’s Fort might well have been abandoned and burned because of smallpox. That is one possibility I explored in Warriors of the Plains.

I enjoy writing but not being out among the snuffling masses makes me even happier. Time to get to an article, then a short story. No sniffling, no sniveling.

Warriors of the Plains by Karl Lassiter

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