The death cult agenda of the anti-advocates

 

As The Washington Post reports, 107 Nobel laureates have signed a letter blasting Greenpeace for opposing the deployment of a GMO rice which would help fix a dreaded condition, vitamin A deficiency (VAD). As the letter states:

“The World Health Organization estimates that 250 million people suffer from VAD, including 40 percent of the children under five in the developing world. Based on UNICEF statistics, a total of one to two million preventable deaths occur annually as a result of VAD, because it compromises the immune system, putting babies and children at great risk. VAD itself is the leading cause of childhood blindness globally affecting 250,000 — 500,000 children each year. Half die within 12 months of losing their eyesight.”

Sounds pretty serious! So what does Greenpeace have against “Golden Rice,” the GMO strain that is proposed to deal with this preventable catastrophe? The same letter also states:

“Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production. There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.”

The simple fact of the matter is that humans have been modifying their environment — animal and vegetal — for millennia. There’s no such thing as a wild cow, or a wild pig, or a wild shih-tzu. Wheat and corn, as we know them, bear almost no resemblance to their wild and distant ancestors.

There’s nothing new, unusual, or dangerous about GMOs and all the science confirms it (just like global warming). And yet a strong and vocal fringe in some advanced countries, are opposed to GMOs. In the U.S. it’s still relatively a fringe phenomenon, but in Europe, particularly France, it is very much part of the mainstream discussion.

But the extreme environmentalists have a long history of damaging hostility to evidence, a hostility which has cost many, many lives over the decades. Here is an example. In the infamous case of DDT, this miraculous insect-killer eliminated malaria, as well as many other insect-borne diseases, from the Southern United States, Southern Europe, and parts of South Asia, and was poised to do the same thing to Africa until it was banned by the US in 1972 on unscientific grounds as stated by the National Academy of Sciences.

The Academy stated: “To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT. It has contributed to the great increase in agricultural productivity, while sparing countless humanity from a host of diseases, most notably, perhaps, scrub typhus and malaria. Indeed, it is estimated that, in little more than [a period of] two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million deaths due to malaria that would otherwise have been inevitable.”

In 1962, Rachel Carson‘s book Silent Spring was published. It cataloged the environmental impacts of widespread DDT spraying in the United States and questioned the logic of releasing large amounts of potentially dangerous chemicals into the environment without understanding their effects on the environment or human health. One book set off an anti-DDT frenzy to ban DDT in the US within 10 ten years and globally a few years later. The ban has been credited for the recovery of the American Bald Eagle and the reemerging of virus carrying mosquitoes. Now we are killing the bold eagle again, this time with huge wind turbines. Catch-22.

Another example of Greenpeace damaging hostility is my favorite topic; nuclear energy, which has almost no carbon emissions and works safely. Opposition to nuclear power is mostly motivated by superstition or the perception of fear created by the environmentalist based on pre-historic data that has never been updated.

Environmentalism sometimes has a little trace of a death cult and they look at the world with those ridiculously insane predictions of Armageddon that scientists made in the 1970s, warning that we would all be dead, or something like it, by the year 2000, if we didn’t shut down nuclear power plants and oil wells right this minute. Well, what happened?

The radical environmentalists like Greenpeace actually have an anti-human worldview, one that views the Earth goddess as the only valuable “life-form” and humans as parasites. DDT was fine and Nuclear power is fine and Golden Rice will be fine. What is not fine is how a few people in the right places can turn the whole world society completely up side down.

However, some of the disorder is actually creating new order. Now there are pro-nuclear climate scientists and environmentalists that are expressing their concerns for climate change solutions through nuclear energy. Their open letter to all environmentalist [especially you Greenpeace] states:

“As climate and energy scientists concerned with global climate change, we are writing to urge you to advocate the development and deployment of safer nuclear energy systems. We appreciate your organization’s concern about global warming, and your advocacy of renewable energy. But continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.”

I personally advocate nuclear energy for the sake of efficient and sustainable electric power. Hey, and it’s environmentally clean too. If there were ever an advance nuclear addendum on a climate change bill in Congress (not likely though), I am okay with that too. I would consider myself a pro-nuclear environmentalist if that is what it would take to move forward with nuclear energy.

We have already been exposed to lots of radiation.

The average annual equivalent dose from natural background radiation in the United States is about 3 mSv (a measurement of radiation). A person might accumulate an equivalent dose from natural background radiation of about 50 mSv in the first 17 years of life and about 250 mSv during an average 80-year lifetime. The ‘m’ stands for milli- which means it is very minute.

Personally, I am probably closing in on 212 mSv myself because I lived at sea level most of my life. Those that live in higher elevation were exposed to more natural radiation over their life time and those with careers in commercial aviation were exposed the most. Nuclear power plants, nuclear fuel manufacturing facilities or nuclear waste disposal sites workers are probably exposed the least because they are constantly monitored and removed if necessary. This is one area where regulation has really paid off.

My most recent research has surprised me in what has already been done to feed the world, but even more so on what is being done to create unlimited energy. Is there such a thing as unlimited energy? Even the sun and wind are not unlimited sources. Why? First of all, you have to capture the sun and wind to make either useful as a practical energy solution. The products you use to capture the energy are made from finite minerals on the surface of the earth, which also makes them non-renewable. All the elements of the Periodic Table are finite to one degree or another. For example, it has always been thought that uranium ore was limited. It actually was in the early days of the atomic age because we didn’t look for it yet, but new sources have been discovered ever since.

The latest source of uranium has been the discovery of how to extract it from the ocean water. America, Japan and China are racing to be the first nation to make nuclear energy completely renewable. The hurdle is making it economic to extract uranium from seawater, because the amount of uranium in seawater is truly inexhaustible. Will it be renewable – probably not, but sustainable – absolutely.

New technological breakthroughs from DOE’s Pacific Northwest (PNNL) and Oak Ridge (ORNL) national laboratories have made removing uranium from seawater within economic reach and the only question is: when will uranium for our nuclear power plants change from mined ore to seawater extraction? For me it seems like a lot of extra chemistry processing to extract uranium from seawater when you can do the same thing from thorium so much simpler and cheaper. Thorium is very plentiful and accessible right on the surface of the earth’s crust on every continent. There doesn’t need to be any wars over access to thorium.

Whether uranium is extracted from seawater or transmuted (decay) from thorium, society still has to get over their perceived fear of all things nuclear. After 60 plus years, radioactivity has finally been re-classified based on real data and not base on the assumption of one scientist who used flawed data to set the wrong base line.

What was amazing to me was that no other scientist challenged that standard, known as Linear-no-threshold (LNT), which means all radiation is bad radiation. One of the reasons was that it was used to leverage the termination of above ground nuclear bomb testing. Unfortunately its use was continued as part of the nuclear regulatory policy for nuclear energy causing the fear of just the word nuclear to be exaggerated.

However, it has been proven that is not the case and there are many examples of why. I will provide just one source of radiation usage that everyone should understand and that is in our hospitals – MRI, CT-Scan and X-Rays.

It has been determine that a new standard will be set at a conservative 100mSv for any one dose at any one time period. This is considered low dose radiation. Let me make it perfectly clear that there is also a very deadly high dose of radiation too. That threshold has been determined to be above 500mSv per dosage. The last time we saw humans exposed to that dosage and higher were the thousands at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and several dozen workers at Chernobyl.

When discussing the pros and cons of radiation, you have to take into perspective the toxins that surround our everyday activity. Plastic is what comes to mine over all others. The genius and hubris of plastic has been absorbed by most living things. Plastics do breakdown into very minute particles, but they never go away. Cancers caused by the chemicals used to make plastics and pesticides have been documented in many studies. But if you think about it, life causes cancer, so I won’t worry about it until I have to.

My point about plastics is not to criticize it but to justify that both nuclear energy and plastics both come with risk, but both are very beneficial to a healthy lifestyle. I say healthy because energy and chemicals have both been very instrumental in doubling the average life span of newborns in the last 100 years. I suspect GMO’s will be the next healthy extension of humanity even with anti-GMO advocates.

Shut the front door – Britain’s New Foreign Policy

After Israel had taken the first order of the F-35 fighter jet from the United States recently, they renamed it the F-35I. The ‘I’ could stand for Israel or the ‘I’ could stand for improved. In this case it could also stand for the most innovative technology Israel has ever used to modify an American fighter jet. For 60 years, Israel has taken our technology and made it better. Why? Because terrorism has been knocking on their front door for that long and their door is still shut.

That can not be said about Europe and the Americas. We have allowed the front door to swing wide open and are paying the price for it. If you leave your front door open and unlocked, you are inviting the criminal elements in and they will steal you blind before you can respond. All the F-35’s in the world are not going to stop them. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and it is also the safest in the most dangerous place on earth. You must ‘shut the front door’ first and then defend your borders, with walls if you have to.

Britain has now learned that lesson and that is why the people took up arms with their vote and left the European Union. Brexit is about taking a step away from “globalism” and toward “individualism”. It was the only way they could shut their front door to control their own destiny. Brexit will allow Britain to move forward with nuclear energy their way and not restricted by the anti-nuke EU and their controlling standards. Britain will be able to negotiate trade deals directly with Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and the US for competitive nuclear technology which are not sanctioned by the EU.

Great Britain is the 5th largest economy in the world. I am willing to go out on a limb and predict that their economy could move to the 3rd largest in the world just behind the US and China. Japan and Germany, currently 3rd and 4th are both going in the wrong direction with their energy policies and that will have a drastic effect on their ability to compete. Britain is committed to advance Thorium Molten Salt Reactors (TMSR) for nuclear power and this will make the difference. The Americas have not made that commitment yet.

Germany will be the first to fall in the rankings because they are the primary economy in the EU and have to carry the load for all the smaller nations, like Greece. Without their nuclear energy, which the Green socialists are forcing them to shutter, their energy source will be expensive renewable, expensive biofuel (wood pellets) and cheap coal.

Germany has abandoned plans to set out a timetable to exit coal-fired power production and scrapped C02 emissions reduction goals for individual sectors, according to the latest draft of an environment ministry document seen by Reuters.

Japan could be the next to be bypassed unless they change course and restart all their nuclear power plants again. The energy is there and they just have to get over their psychological fear of nuclear. Fukushima was a financial disaster, not a nuclear disaster.

The United States has the largest economy in the world, but for how long? China is knocking at our front door and by 2025, they may be coming though that door to take over 1st place. China is investing in energy to feed their growth with nuclear power. In 2015, they had 33 critical reactors connected to their grid with 22 more under construction. Nuclear was China’s fastest-growing electricity source in 2015 (29% growth), not coal, not natural gas and not renewable (wind or solar).

Hillary Clinton once said recently: “[We have] the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges [to] face as a nation and a world.” She wasn’t talking about ISIS or the growing terrorist threat, but about climate change. She also stated that she was going to put the coal industry out of business and has taken a transitional position with natural gas and fracking.  She is not against nuclear power but she is also not a strong advocate for it either. She would likely keep nuclear at around 20% of net electricity generation by continuing the Clean Power Plan (CPP).

Donald Trump, on the other hand is all about ‘high energy’ except when he uses a teleprompter. Well, in his North Dakota Energy speech he included nuclear as a renewable energy. Does that mean nuclear will get the same subsidies as renewable?  He also wants to discontinue the CPP which could have a serious effect on existing nuclear power. He is not against nuclear power but he is also not a strong advocate for it either. With Trump, this can be remedied when you show him the numbers as projected economic growth in jobs and wealth.

Gary Johnson is ‘high’ on nuclear energy. When asked if he supports nuclear energy his answer was “yes”. That was it. No qualifier other than “do it in the free market”. The one thing Johnson doesn’t support is “we must use nuclear energy to save the planet”. This, I absolutely agree with him on. Nuclear energy should be developed because it is the most efficient commercial energy source on earth at this time. The next generation of nuclear reactors will be even better. No other energy source will ever match up against nuclear efficiency and sustainability (millennia’s favorite word).

Nuclear Energy is what feeds a healthy and secure economy and environment.

Eighty is the new forty for nuclear energy.

When the first wave of nuclear reactor from the 1960’s to the 1980’s occurred, an arbitrary number of years for their commercial duration was set at 40 years, but not for any technical reasons. Nuclear science and reactor designs from this first generation did not have enough actual usage data known about the durability of the material technology that was use at that time.

While the 40 year threshold has already occurred for some of those early reactors and many more coming up in the next decade, it appears the current U.S. fleet of 99 nuclear power plants could likely run for another 50 or even 70 years before it is retired. The total reactor count had reached 105 during the 1990’s and no new reactors had been connected to the grid until this year.

So why are nuclear plants being shuttered prematurely across the United States? Answer: the cost and lack of demand for generating electricity. The plane and simple answer is that natural gas has become the new normal for generating electricity and only coal can beat its cost. This has occurred at the same time the US is actually using less electricity.

Coal will no longer be in the picture like it used to be because of more and more regulations that are designed to put the coal industry out of business. Renewable subsidy has also made nuclear power generated electricity less competitive. Hopefully, 2016 will be the last year the tax payers will have to pay for someone else’s electricity with a sunset on those renewable subsidies.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) expects the first application for an 80-year license could come within five years or less — perhaps the largest lingering question is one of basic science: How do heavy doses of radiation, over generations, fundamentally alter materials like steel and concrete?

Gary Was (that is his name), the director of the University of Michigan’s Phoenix Energy Institute and an expert in aging materials said, “Thirty years ago, we didn’t have techniques to see material changes.” It’s taken many years for us to understand the problems. The Department of Energy even began a program looking at “long-term operations,” as it is known in the industry.

Nuclear power supplies some 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. The vast majority of the United States energy is generated from carbon-intensive fossil fuels, that is, coal and natural gas. Natural gas is use to replace older coal burning power plants and natural gas is used to replaced the early shuttered nuclear power plants and natural gas is also used to supplement both wind and solar renewable energy sources during down times, which is often. As you can see, the US is becoming a natural gas energy domain.

According to Ronald Szilard, the technical director of DOE’s Light-Water Reactor Sustainability Program at Idaho National Laboratory, “The focus right now is very intense on building new advanced nuclear power plants, because we have come to the realization that reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the future cannot be achieved without pushing nuclear further,” he said. “Both existing and new plants will have to contribute,” to sustain our biosphere.

The United States has been well served by the caution of engineers who built the country’s first generations of nuclear power plants, as seen in the ability of its plants to seamlessly cross the 40-year mark. “Today, virtually every component in a reactor plant has been replaced at one point,” said Tiffany Edwards, a DOE spokeswoman. “The exceptions are the reactor pressure vessel and the concrete [containment] structures. However, even those could be considered.”

Despite the concerns which arose among the public after the Three Mile Island accident, the incident highlights the success of the reactor’s safety systems. Several independent studies have assessed the radiation releases and possible effects on the people and the environment around TMI since the 1979 accident at TMI-2. The most recent was a 13-year study on 32,000 people. None has found any adverse health effects such as cancers which might be linked to the accident. The safety record of the US nuclear fleet has been outstanding and it is a shame that the public is not aware of this, except my readers.

After a forty year hiatus, mostly because of over regulated cost, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar 2 reactor lifted its control rods from the water in the core, and neutrons went about the business of splitting uranium atoms, life comes to a new nuclear reactor. The industry refers this as going critical.

“Watts Bar 2 nuclear reactor is a big step forward for clean energy, and we really have to be pushing that as hard as we can for the sake of the climate” said MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel. As an avid supporter of nuclear energy for the most efficient energy source, I have to agree with that statement 100 percent.

Now that many environmentalists and climate scientists have realized that nuclear energy is essential for addressing global warming, a coalition of environmental groups sponsored a multi-day “March for Environmental Hope in California” in support of nuclear power. That march from San Francisco to Sacramento occurred last week.

It is the reverse of all the anti-nuke marches back in the 70’s and 80’s and organized by the same people. It took them long enough to realize that nuclear energy was not bad for the environment, but it may be too late. California just announced the premature shutter of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant, the last two nuclear reactors in the state. This is the second worst decision the State of California has ever made.

Solar for seniors: What is practical?

Several years ago my articles were based on the technology that I was studying at the time. Lately, my ideas have been inspired from conversations I have had with people in the neighborhood. This weeks article was inspired by one of our senior citizens who walked over to my house at 6:30 in the morning to ask me for my advice on purchasing a solar system for their house. My first thought was: why? At their ages (70 and 83), they will never see a return on investment. I told my dear friends that I had a few concerns about this idea of purchasing a solar system for their house.

Concern #1: Return of Investment. This should always be your first thought when purchasing any discretionary product that is not ‘needed’ for the comfort of your life style. 

A really good solar system for a house will cost about $25,000.00. With the state and federal government’s tax credits, the cost is still about $15,000.00. This tax credit only applies to earned income. If your earned income from social security and your investments is in the high 6 figures, then the credits will apply. But why?

Concern #2: Six feet under vs. six feet over. Anyone over the age of 70 has to ask that simple question. Will my life be better with solar panels suspended over my roof?  If your electricity bill is the average of $150 per month for the Roswell area, it will take 10 years to break even. Why would you give up a discounted $15,000.00 today for the same electricity that you can get for $150 per month and will make absolutely no difference in your standard of living except give you one more thing to worry about around the house?

A residential solar system can only be placed in two locations on your property as determined by city codes. Your roof is one location and your backyard is the other location. If you put the solar system on your roof, you have to consider the cost of a new roof before you do. Most solar systems are suspended and only have a few contact points on the roof but the entire system will have to be removed if your roof is damaged by the element – hail. A better solution is to place the system in your back yard. You may have to give up a tree or two to let the light shine through. But then again, what if you don’t have a back yard, as the case with my friends?

Concern #3: Solar house vs. solar farm. If you haven’t taken a quick ride out on East Pine Lodge to see the city and county solar farms, you should. These commercialized farm systems have expensive computerized controls that will track the sun from east to west. The house solar system also has some expensive mechanical parts that you have to maintain, besides just cleaning off the solar panels.

The tracking system allows the panels to be at their greatest efficiency most of the day, but never at night. When it is cloudy, the efficiency will drop. When there is a thunder storm with hail, the solar farm panels will automatically shift to a protective position to prevent damage to the panels. None of these features are offered on a discounted $15,000.00 solar system for the house. If you want insurance, you have to pay for it and one of those costs is having your house connected to your existing utility company for backup.

If you take a Sunday drive through the countryside, you will see more and more solar clusters that are providing farmers and ranchers localized electricity during the day. Electricity (and fuel) is the major cost of operating an active crop or dairy farm. Their cost of installing supplemental electricity from solar can easily be justified, even without the tax credits which will probably go away in 2017. But remember, solar doesn’t work at night, the best time for irrigating, so the farmers and ranchers still have to buy energy from the utilities.

Recommendation: Solar Least Program. This is the ideal situation for anyone who doesn’t have the upfront cost to purchase a home solar system. In Sacramento CA, the municipal utility district (SMUD) offers least programs through SolarCity for home solar systems. Our friend visiting from Sacramento this week told us about how her program works. There was no upfront cost for the system to be installed on her house. She pays a fixed cost of only $34 per month for full service on a 20 year contract and about $20 per month for the electricity they use from the grid, mostly at night. That is a $120 saving per month for them compared to a standard connection with utility company.

All their unused day time generated electricity revenue goes to the SolarCity leasing company. The home owner’s house is basically used as an energy generating site. The only requirement is that there is a multi-year commitment period and if you bail, there is a recovery payment. As a senior citizen, solar leasing is a program I could afford but I will never see anything that progressive in Roswell, New Mexico, in my life time.

As always, my preferred source of electricity is from a nuclear power station because it has the most energy from the least amount of natural resources (uranium and thorium) and as I always state – the smallest footprint on the ecosystems. As a society, it makes more sense to buy electricity from centralized and decentralized generating station around the world as long as it is maintained as an affordable source. Electricity is like water and sewage. You really don’t want to mess with either, especially senior citizens.

What if fear is used to promote a negative agenda?

Fear makes the world bigger and more complex than it really is. There are many fear factors for many different agendas but I only want to focus on nuclear for this article with a touch of current campaign politics. Fear is always about the “what if’s?” for any agenda but has been most effective with everything nuclear. That is because nuclear has been associated with ‘bad’ when in fact nuclear is actually very ‘good’ for humanity. Unfortunately a perception was set ages ago and it is very hard to change.

The strategy that Hillary Clinton has decided to use in her campaign is the ‘what if’ nuclear fear factor. Donald Trump has limited foreign policy experience and is a complete unknown as to how he will deal with issues. Hillary on the other hand, has a well documented failure in foreign policy and plans to continue it. What I do know about Trump is he will take the issues head on immediately and not wait for others to set a judgment based on what is politically correct. In Trump’s vision, it will always be America first in peace and prosperity. I trust him with the nuclear codes.

When we look at the perception of fear we can break it down into a few categories. The first, of course, is the ‘what if’ story. For example, the news about nuclear power was not that something bad had happened, but that it almost happened, or that it could happen or something terrible is going to happen. Usually, news stories are about something that did happen. But hey, a little sensationalism sells better. It is sad how ignorant our media reporters really are about nuclear and they feed this misinformation to the public and create anxiety.

Hillary Clinton can be documented as something that has been. In her 50 years of politics from collage to present, she has a long list of accomplishments, whether good or bad. The ‘what if’ story does not work on her because she is so predicable based on her extensive government history. She is an open book, except for a few e-mails. Most people have very little detail knowledge of her character behind closed doors according ex-Secret Service personal. There is a reason this service is secret.

The same is true for the nuclear power industry. It too is an open book that no one seems to read. Maybe nuclear science should be an isolated policy issue in the campaign debates so everyone can focus on it a little. Nuclear is a lot more than the threat of weaponry. It is the energy to power future societies.

Being able to anticipate dangers is very important. What’s most important is to have the fear be realistic; that the fear fits the facts of the risk. Nuclear power is a phenomenally successful industry in terms of its safety record, not only for the public, but also for the people who work within the energy and medical industries. Yet still after 60 years, a large segment of society fears nuclear power for no valid technical reason. It is purely a psychological fear that was inherited from the old days before nuclear was fully understood.

Unfortunately, politics is not as clear cut as science. There is no logical reason for Trump to have his finger on the nuclear war button. A statement like that from Hillary is pure hyper-fear in its worst reference. We live in a global society with mostly sensible people, even politicians. What’s unique about Trump is that he has this innate ability to anticipate and see the bigger picture. He did that with architecture and he looks at politics the same way. In fact, his campaign has been like watching the construction of a high rise and when problems occur (whether by him or others), they are addressed immediately, such as reconciling with Gov. Martinez.

Nuclear is actually a symbol of peace, a deterrent to all out war. “Atoms for Peace” was the title of a speech delivered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) to the UN General Assembly back in 1953. The United States then launched an “Atoms for Peace” program that supplied equipment and information to schools, hospitals, and research institutions within the U.S. and throughout the world, including Iran.

Eisenhower’s speech opened a media campaign that was aimed at “emotion management”, balancing fears of continuing nuclear armament with promises of peaceful use of uranium in future nuclear reactors. That program was actually very successful because only a few nations pursued nuclear bombs when many nations could have. Of the 195 nations in the world, only 9 have nuclear weapons (I included Israel). The one notable exception is Iran. Atoms for Peace laid the foundation for Iran’s nuclear program beginning in 1957 before their last revolution. Consequences!

The US, Russia and China all have the nuclear triad (its okay Trump, I didn’t know that either) and are capable of destroying civilization as we know it today. I say that not to create fear but to emphasize the importance of open dialogue between these nations. Trump has already expressed his willingness to work with Russia and China and it does not include threats of having his finger on the button. For Clinton to keep spreading this fear is not a healthy campaign slogan.

This 2016 general election is coming down to which you fear most: the teleprompter, the free speaker, or the wacky dude. I personally don’t fear any of them.

Viruses have always been and always will be.

In last week’s column I said that viruses are a part of the human race. It makes us – us. A small percentage of our DNA is made up of historical viruses that have allowed us to evolve and are appropriately called indigenous retroviruses. Through nanotechnology and bioengineering, scientists have found a way to treat all viruses in the human body universally. Remember, this is actually a small world and fear is what makes it bigger.

Have you ever wondered why doctors give out different flu vaccines every year? It is because viruses are vastly different from one another, and even the same strain of a virus can mutate and change. So the medical researchers have to scramble to come up with a new vaccine for every new stain.

A group of researchers at IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore sought to understand what makes all viruses alike. Using that knowledge, they’ve come up with a macromolecule that may have the potential to treat multiple types of viruses and prevent them from infecting us. The work was published recently in the journal Macromolecules.

Historically, scientists have focused on the viruses’ RNA and DNA.  But because they change from virus to virus and also mutate, it’s very difficult to target them successfully. Instead, the researchers focused on glycoproteins, which sit on the outside of all viruses and attach to cells in the body, allowing the viruses to do their dirty work by infecting cells and making us sick. All viruses are similar in how they work on our body cells.

The researchers tested out this treatment in the lab on several viruses, including Ebola but not Zika yet, and they found that the molecule did work as they thought it would and reduced the number of viruses in the body. It demonstrated a significant reduction in infection after incubating viruses or cells with the antiviral polymers. And even more importantly, it prevented the virus from infecting immune cells. Disorders of the immune system can result in autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases and cancer, according to the NIH.

Immune cells are part of our natural body defense system against viruses and indirectly cancer. When functioning properly, the immune system identifies a variety of threats, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, and distinguishes them from the body’s own healthy tissue. Everyone should know about white blood cells because they play a large role in defending the body against disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.

One of the first thoughts I had was will this research work directly on cancer cells and the answer turned out to be – No. Cancer is not thought to be a virus or bacteria, but can be caused by them. Mutated cells that have lost the ability to self destruct are cancer. The body doesn’t recognize those mutated cells as a foreign invader, so growth goes unchecked. Cancer cells have to be either cut out of the body via surgery or bombarded with radioactive isotopes. Sometimes there is unexplained divine intervention and it just goes away.

Okay, now for the political side of this article. President Obama has asked Congress for $1.9B to fight the zika virus and the Senate has countered with $1.1B. However, the House only authorized $660M and half of that was left over from the Ebola funding. My question is and always has been; “how is this money going to be spent?” As we all know, government has a bad credit rating because it is so wasteful with our tax dollars.

Currently only three states (FL, TX, HI) and Puerto Rico have had some zika outbreaks. At least the President was correct when he said that the zika virus is not something we have to panic about. However, listening to the news media, most people would not get that same message because as always, fear is the emotion that sells news.

A good example of that news fear was the West Nile virus. There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent WNV infection. Fortunately, most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms. Less than 1% of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness. What is 1% of one occurrence here in New Mexico last year?

This research project and the treatment still have a ways to go before it could be used as a disinfectant or even as a potential pill that we could take to prevent and treat viral infections. From my perspective: hooray for nanotechnology! Have you invested IBM yet? What does IBM have to do with biochemistry research anyway?

IBM noticed that biologists needed microprocessors as much as microscopes. Back in 2001, IBM used $100 million to start a division that sells supercomputers, software and services to biotechnology and drug companies. Within a year this life sciences division had some success; pulling into second place behind Compaq in the supercomputer realm. Remember Compaq, that company that Carly Fiorina bought as HP’s Chief Executive, and eventually got her fired.

So what if we could eliminate all virus carrying mosquitoes through Generic Modified Organism (GMO)? After all, they are the deadliest animal family in the world. First, you would have to get past the anti-GMO lobby and then you have to ask the big question: If it saves a million lives would it be worth it? Here’s something else to think about: What ever happened to those Africanized honey bees, or killer bees? You know – the half-breeds that also came up from Brazil. Be very careful when you mess with Mother Nature.