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Why Do Pathogen Researchers Face Less Scrutiny Than Nuclear Scientists? 227

Posted by timothy
from the time-travelers-totally-get-off-easy-too dept.
Lasrick writes "Derrin Culp of the National Center for Disease Preparedness explores the different levels of scrutiny that scientists in microbiology undergo, when compared to those who work in the nuclear weapons field. His complaint is that, even though America's most notorious biosecurity breach — the 2001 anthrax mailings — was the work of an insider, expert panels have concluded that there is no need for intrusive monitoring of microbiologists engaged in unclassified research."
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Why Do Pathogen Researchers Face Less Scrutiny Than Nuclear Scientists?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 06, 2013 @08:35PM (#43381685)

    Remember 9/11 folks. That happened because the government didn't have the proper tools to monitor the terrorists before the act occurred mainly due to the idiotic beliefs in an outdated and itself a terroristic document, the constitution. Now that we are moving away from the constitution, which was a piece of crap anyways, the country can be made secure. We now have a solid globalist President that is on board with the abolition of the constitution, especially the second amendment, which will lead us to a socialist global society. It's time to give up your so called 'rights' and get with the program. FORWARD!

  • Spanish Flu (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Roger W Moore (538166) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @09:25PM (#43381887) Journal

    Speaking of naive. You're sure of this. Just a 'few sequences' and poof, the end of life as we know it?

    Obviously that seems exceedingly unlikely so to try to cut through irrational fears lets try looking at a real disease. The Spanish flu of 1918 killed 50-100 million people world wide. If we scale that as a percentage of the population today that number would be 180-300 million and that is for a disease which 80-90% of the people who caught it survived. This is clearly comparable to several, powerful nuclear weapons and for something as infectious as flu it is unlikely that you could stop it once it got out e.g. the recent swine flu outbreak.

    So for those involved in researching viruses with the same, or worse, potential as the spanish flu why shouldn't there be similar safe guards to nuclear weapons researchers? The consequences of material getting out is similar in both cases and, in a world with suicide bombers, I'm not sure I'd rely on the fact that a biological weapon may well kill the one who releases it to stop if from happening.

  • Re:Spanish Flu (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 06, 2013 @09:35PM (#43381941)
    Really? So what? The nuclear weapon not only kills a bunch of people in a spectacular way, it also makes a large area uninhabitable and, of course, destroys the infrastructure too. The flu kills some people. The land is still livable and the buildings, roads, bridges, etc. are all fine. The only thing that happens is the population (which is too high) goes down a bit.
  • Re:Spanish Flu (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Roger W Moore (538166) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:00PM (#43382031) Journal
    Yes but with the Spanish flu as much as 50% of the world's population was infected so, while a nuclear weapon is limited to killing the people in one city a biological weapon can reach into practically every home on the planet. Those "some people" will include your friends and family so again I would say it seems just as terrible as a nuclear weapon but in a different way.
  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Saturday April 06, 2013 @10:55PM (#43382253)
    It seems like it's mostly because of bad PR for the word "nuclear". The sciency types here on /. know that nuclear power plants are not as dangerous as other types of power plants, yet the majority of the public is against nuclear power systems. The PR for "nuke" is so bad that it even caused medical types to change the name of one of their diagnostic devices:
    .
    MRI machines (magnetic resonance imaging) are called that because when they called them NMR machines originally, people were afraid of the word "nuclear" in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. Even though MRI machines are still exactly the same thing and still measure nuclear magnetic resonance, they no longer use the word "nuclear", because no one wanted to be stuffed in a tube of a machine that had "nuclear" in its name!! People confused it with nuclear imaging [wikipedia.org] in which radioactive isotopes really are injected into the human body and then imaging is performed to see how the isotope is distributed and if it clusters in certain parts of the body.
    .
    People are scared of "nukes", and not-so-much of teeny little microbes, though look at all of the wacky episodes of ReGenesis [wikipedia.org], a canadian show about the canadian equivalent of the CDC and a genomics lab, to see the crazy plotlines of what could go wrong with bio-organisms. Psych also did an episode, "Death is in the Air", Season 4, Episode 13, that used "Bob" from Regenesis as the same sort of scientist. See my other post here [slashdot.org] for links to those episodes.
  • Re:Spanish Flu (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Sunday April 07, 2013 @04:02AM (#43382993)

    This. The potential "super virus" that was developed a few months back wasn't done with any complex genetic engineering. They just passed it between ferrets for a few generations, and wound up with the most dangerous disease currently imaginable.

    You want a risk factor? Factory farms swimming in our antibiotics of last resort for no good reason.

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