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Page #23

MA: Very well.

Let's discuss what we do know for a bit, and see if we have any common ground in our worldview.

Q: Rock on....

MA: There is a collogue of mine who long ago wrote this famous phrase:

MOST SPECIES ARE SUBJECT TO CYCLES OF SUSTAINED GROWTH AND SUDDEN CALAMITY.
IT IS A RHYTHM AS OLD AS LIFE ITSELF.

Do you think that is accurate?

Q: I am not sure, I know that wild animals (when they loose their predators) multiply until starvation or hunters or something weeds them back down. Is that what you mean?

MA: Pretty much. Few, if any natural populations are constantly at equilibrium densities. Variation in the weather, predation, health and other environmental parameters results in great variability in populations.

In our discussion of rhythms or Chaos, I explained that Chaos is a set of rhythms that lie outside our normal perception. A nonlinear system will be chugging along with easily understood parameters, but often it will move to a "period doubling" phase and on to chaotic dynamics (which can be read as "all hell breaking loose" or "I can't tell what is going on).

MA: Which brings us to human population, which is following an exponential growth pattern. With the advent of modern medicine, better sanitation, and increased food supplies, the biggest constraints on population growth were removed.

Many people feel uncomfortable discussing this issue, but because I am very old and have spent a large part of my life in close contact with issues of disease and death - I do not have that reservation. Can you and I have that conversation?

Q: Yes of course.

MA: Would you like a drink first?

Q: Very much so....

MA: When we look at the potential outcomes for any event we are required as scientists to look at a broad spectrum of possible results.

That does not make us negative, nor does it leave us without recourse. It simply makes us prudent in our approach and honest in our work.

Would you agree?

Q: Yes

MA: Very well, lets you and I consider the novel H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009 in a larger context and see if there are any issues that are being overlooked.

Would you consider influenza to be the most threatening virus to us as a species?
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