Planet of the humans ... big pictures and small minds

Putting Michael Moore's name on a documentary guarantees it will get an audience. And Jeff Gibbs's documentary Planet of the Humans, is being promoted with "Michael Moore presents...". This is getting him an audience of millions, but also some serious flak. I've loved some of Moore's films, they are brilliant entertainment with a serious intent. But would I cite anything in a Michael Moore film as fact; accurate in every detail? Not without checking. There is no peer review of documentaries, no editorial filtering. A good Michael Moore film is like a good piece of fiction; it makes you think, challenges pre-conceptions, raises important issues and makes the bad guys squirm. Does he cherry

Is the Covid-19 pandemic anybody's fault?

There have been a number of viruses which have jumped from animals to humans during the past 30 years, here are some of the more famous ones: Nipah, Ebola, SARS-CoV, Mers-CoV, H5N1 influenza (bird flu), H1N1 influenza (swine flu), Zika and now, most famously, SARS-CoV-2 (which is the official name of the Corona virus causing the disease called Covid-19). Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus has far too long a name to be famous, but with 40 percent of the people who get it dying, it's a serious contender. It's a disease of sheep, cattle and goats and it gets passed to people by ticks. If you want some sleepless nights, you might like to think about a genetic shuffle that gave it person to

Covid-19 testing (III)

Part II defined the two types of testing that are being used to test for SARS-Cov-2 virus infection. (2) Antibody testing ... cheap but not very reliable Antibodies are proteins that your immune system makes to fight infections. New types of infection typically result in new types of antibodies. These are in your blood stream where they will be looking for cells infected by the virus. So an antibody test is done using a small pin prick of blood. The detection of the proteins is based on their shape. Two proteins will stick together if they have the right shape ... like a hand fitting into the right sized glove. So the people making the tests have to come up with another protein that will fit

Covid-19 testing explainer (II)

From last time ... there are two methods to test for infection with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes covid-19): look for the RNA or look for antibodies. (1) looking for RNA ... why it's hard, but very reliable. So you have a swab, and you've processed it to extract a bunch of RNA and you want to see if any of that RNA matches the approximately 29,000 letters that define the SARS-Cov-2 RNA. Your swab may have millions of bits of RNA from all kinds of viruses. You might, for example, have a cold; which can be caused by multiple viruses. This is because the name 'cold' is just shorthand for a fuzzy bunch of symptoms. And to make matters worse, your millions of bits of RNA will be in little pi

Covid-19 testing explainer (I)

The virus which causes the Covid-19 disease is called SARS-CoV-2. The CoV stands for "corona virus", obviously. There are many different corona viruses, but the one that most people may have heard of is SARS. The SARS virus causes the SARS disease ... which is nice and simple, but for obscure reasons, the name of the current corona virus causing so much trouble is different from the disease it causes. That's actually quite normal. Many different kinds of virus can cause a common cold and they have different names. Perhaps another virus will come along which will cause a disease very similar to Covid-19 and it'll be good to have given them different names! A SARS-Cov-2 virus particle is a

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© 2020 Geoff Russell