Defense Against Dark Information -- Assignment for Oct. 22
Reading assignment (unconventional bioterrorism)
Read the following, available in the Reserves section of Shields
Library or in my office (Plant Environmental Sciences 1312), by next
week. Estimated reading time (in a quiet place without interruptions): 25
minutes, but allow at least an hour so you have time to think
about what you read and to answer the questions below.
- YS86126. Excerpt from
"The Tide Turners", a novel about an unusual form of
"bioterrorism" (if that's the right word; well, it scared me)
that could be especially difficult to defend against, for reasons to be
- YS86167. "Rodent plagues,
immunocontraception, and the mousepox virus." Only the first paragraph is assigned.
- YS86336. Science
panel urges review of research terrorists could use. This group
was motivated by research discussed in the previous paper.
- YS86128. "Fatal
attraction in rats." Only
the abstract is assigned.
- YS86134. "Biological
attack on agriculture: low-tech, high-impact
terrorism" I have crossed out
some sections that aren't assigned. The first author is a
UC Davis Lecturer. I invited him to give a guest lecture, but he's
teaching at the our Washington DC Center this quarter.
Reading questions -- written answers due at beginning of class:
1) What kind of replicator were the characters in "Tide Turners"
planning to use for their scheme?
2) The immunocontraception scheme discussed in the Trends in Ecology
and Evolution (TREE) paper was tried because their first attempt worked
on some mouse genotypes but not others. What happened with their
3) What agency organized the science panel that is recommending
restrictions on research that might be useful to terrorists?
4) What effects did the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii (which
also infects humans) have on rats?
5) The US and the UN have considered the deliberate release of
pathogens. To do what?
Questions to think about (to be discussed
- Does anyone think any variant of the scheme
discussed in Tide Turners might be a good idea, under some
conceivable circumstances? Are there several different aspects
of their plan that some people ("all right-thinking people" or "a few
crackpots") might object to? What if those aspects were changed? For
example, what if the intended target were mosquitoes, rather than
humans? And so onů
- Does the "fatal attraction" article give us anything new to worry
- How likely do you think it is that there might be some
group/organization/government with both the expertise and the
willingness to spread microbes like those discussed in this week's
reading? What possible unintended effects might happen? Are possible
perpetrators likely to be deterred by the risks of such unintended
- What should we (the US, the UN, etc.)
consider doing to deter anyone from developing and releasing such