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Author Topic: Could pandemic illnesses come from space?  (Read 4447 times)

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Could pandemic illnesses come from space?
« on: 25/05/2008 11:24:58 »
I was watching a program last night on possible causes of pandemics. It raised some interesting questions.

The flu pandemic of 1918 broke out simultaneously in America & India. No Earthbound explanation can account for that.

The possibility was also put forward that the SARS epidemic began when birds flew through virus clouds that originated in comet dust. The argument was that birds flying at altitude would encounter the virus first. One of the proponents is Chandra Wickramasinghe - and they don't come much more eminent than him.

Has anyone else seen this program? Or have you come across this theory elsewhere? If so, what are your views?
« Last Edit: 25/05/2008 14:54:55 by chris »


 

Offline RD

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Re: Could pandemic illnesses come from space?
« Reply #1 on: 25/05/2008 14:44:14 »
There may be a grain of truth in the Panspermia hypothesis: the elementary molecules from which DNA is made are present in interstellar material, so they could provide a seed for life to begin throughout the universe. However this interstellar material is very simple amino acids, not complex like virus or bacteria, so life originating in this way would virtually be built from scratch.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia
http://astrochemistry.org/amino.html

Extra-terrestrial hypotheses for epidemics have been around for a long time ...

Quote
Main Entry: in·flu·en·za 
Pronunciation: \ˌin-(ˌ)flü-ˈen-zə\
Function: noun
Etymology: Italian, literally, influence, from Medieval Latin influentia; from the belief that epidemics were due to the influence of the stars
Date: 1743
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/influenza
« Last Edit: 25/05/2008 15:32:33 by RD »
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Could pandemic illnesses come from space?
« Reply #2 on: 25/05/2008 17:30:30 »
"The flu pandemic of 1918 broke out simultaneously in America & India"
Actually, poor communication about lots of dead people - but in a poor country far away- explains it quite well.
There was a war on at the time, perhaps for the fiorst time in history, many people were travelling around the world. Carrying a virus with them would explain this event well enough.

"The possibility was also put forward that the SARS epidemic began when birds flew through virus clouds that originated in comet dust."
Well I can't say what the birds felw through, but the virus has all the characteristics of ones that are well known here on earth and just required a bit of mixing. Such mixing is known to take place.
Incidentally, domestic birds don't get to any altitude to speak of unless someone puts the cage on a really high shelf and the human cases of the disease were contracted after contact with domestic birds.

Why consider the idea of an extraterrestrial origin for a virus when its "parents" are here on earth?
 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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Could pandemic illnesses come from space?
« Reply #3 on: 25/05/2008 18:45:10 »
Have to agree with BC here Doc. I have studied this pandemic and reading about the damp humid conditions that people were in during the war, coupled with lots of people in close proximity to each other and many people travelling to fight or liase in all areas of the globe, it i not difficult to fathom out what happened when a new strain of virus found its way into the perfect breeding grounds.

The idea of a virus arriving from space, other than a compter virus fails to stimulate even a raised eyebrow. Sorry doc. 
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Could pandemic illnesses come from space?
« Reply #4 on: 25/05/2008 19:35:13 »
We will have plenty of oportunity to study the transmision of viruses when the next pandemic arrives.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Could pandemic illnesses come from space?
« Reply #5 on: 25/05/2008 21:23:17 »
The point that was made about the 1918 pandemic is that the first case in the US and the first case in India occured on the same day. In 1918 there was no way of travelling between India & the US that quickly.
 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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Could pandemic illnesses come from space?
« Reply #6 on: 26/05/2008 15:38:16 »
Not a point at all. If a thousand people died in India of a virus prior to the first identification of the virus it would merely asertain that the virus had been identified on that day in India not that this was the arival of the virus in India as implied in what you read. The USA analysis carries more weight because even then they kept records on unusual deaths, whereas in India even today the records of deaths are probably not that acurate. For example, look what is happening in Burma. How many of these unfortunate people have died of diseases now and who is able to identify the first one to die of cholera?
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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Could pandemic illnesses come from space?
« Reply #7 on: 27/05/2008 09:24:37 »
Point taken, Andrew.

Do I gather, then, that no-one has seen this particular program?
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Could pandemic illnesses come from space?
« Reply #8 on: 27/05/2008 11:02:56 »
"Do I gather, then, that no-one has seen this particular program? "
Probably, but a title, date, and channel might help make sure.

Incidentally, it's possible that the pandemic flu virus started somewhere else, say China, and got to the USA and India at roughly the same time.
 

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Could pandemic illnesses come from space?
« Reply #8 on: 27/05/2008 11:02:56 »

 

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