- NASA Watch
- September 18, 2021
COVID-19 Is The Borg
Keith’s note: As a biologist who once ran science review panels on infectious disease for several government agencies at one point in my career, it is frustrating to see rocket scientists pontificate about viral epidemiology. So, for the record, from a rocket science/Sci-fi point of view:
This COVID-19 pandemic is all about Biology. It involves the virus SARS-CoV-2, a relentless molecular machine that has one design role – to copy itself. It uses animal bodies – including human bodies – as factories. The closer that human bodies are to each other the faster this thing can copy itself to other human bodies so as to copy itself again and then spread and copy itself again. It does not care about who you voted for since it does not have the ability to care. Your job is irrelevant since it works for free. It cannot read the Constitution.
SARS-CoV-2 is a simple machine that does one thing and does it well. Our defenses are imperfect and vary from one human host to another. The illnesses that often result are a side effect of human bodies reacting to being taken over as virus factories. Once you get sick you have likely already completed your job as a virus factory by spreading the virus – often before you even got sick – even if you did not get sick. You are disposable.
With regard to “Herd immunity”: If you decide to just let humans (or any other animal) interact freely more of them will get infected, get sick (or maybe not) and then recover and have some immunity. Or they die. Eventually the infected people who survived will no longer be infectious. As a result the statistical probability that any one person can be infected eventually drops since there are fewer infected people to infect others who are not infected. That is “Herd immunity”. But those people who have not been infected are still just as vulnerable to the virus and all of its deadly effects. It is only the probability that an infectious human can infect them that goes down.
OK so let’s do the herd immunity thing. By opening up free interaction between humans you knowingly allow the disease to kill more people. You also run the risk of the infection process getting out of control and possibly swamping your health systems.This can, in turn, cause more people to die due to lack of health care than would otherwise be the case if you limited human to human interaction and the number of sick people seeking health care at any given time. Or you can develop a vaccine/cure and stop the ability of the virus to infect and spread. And that takes time – even when a crash program is undertaken. Or you can keep humans apart – which is what we are all doing.
This molecular machine is “novel”. We still do not totally understand how it works. We do not know all of the ways it affects its human factory hosts. Our current collective ignorance leaves us vulnerable. If you are a Star Trek fan then imagine the Borg as “nanites”. That is what SARS-CoV-2 is. Right now reistance is futile. But staying apart from other humans to slow the spread is not. So stay apart until a vaccine and/or proven treatments are developed.
If NASA can talk to – and reprogram – the Voyagers in interstellar space then its employees can certainly figure out how to get through this.