The Recent Commitee Meeting

BlueBottleBlueBottle Australia Join Date: 2018-02-03 Member: 236674Members Posts: 344 Advanced user
A: So the results are unexpected?

B: Well no, no. Not at least by me. Heh ... but I guess we can all say that now. The idea has long been considered likely, from at least around 500BC when the Greeks debated it. 'Considered', at least, until a couple of powerful interest groups popped up with some pretty violent objections! Heh..

A: Hmm. So, an extra-terrestrial bacteria? I'm sure there's more to it than that though. What have we got so far exactly?

B: Well Madam Chair, there's the fact of DNA for a start. Another chemical set up for life has long been thought possible. But in the sample, same as everything alive on Earth, we've got DNA again. That and that dating result. Its extreme age alone seems to refute the notion that life developed from just here, on Earth.

A: Hmm. "Man's dominion over all" takes a little hit from this. Never did like the 'man' part of that notion. And so it turns out 'All' is hell of a lot bigger than we decided it was too. But don't anyone rush to spell out that implication to our conservative funding bodies!

[C and D Politely chuckle]

A: But yes, we could still be biggest fish around though, even if somewhat hazed by a few clouds of bacteria out there. Yes, that should now be our PR angle. Any other results of concern?

B: Well yes, a couple of things came up in the gene sequencing. First, the bacteria's DNA codes it as a parasite. This means there had to be something bigger and more complex around for it to parasitise upon.

A: Ok ... that's a little trickier perhaps - assuming rigorous and verifiable research validity. What else?

B: Well, Madam, its the ... familiarity. The genome looks almost identical to our old companion the Black Plague.

A: This is starting to sound tenuous. Are you suggesting the Black Death rained down upon us as a blight from the Heavens?

B: Ah no, .... ah well yes, Ma'am, that idea did come up. And I guess it does sit rather nicely with the age old superstition of comets as auguries of doom. The situation is this: After news of the sample went public we all know comets can carry bacterial spores between solar systems. But for them to arrive here fit to survive is entirely another matter. There's the eons of destructive gamma radiation between systems to endure, and then there's the Sun's UV radiation when they get here. And finally, on arrival there's the high temperatures from entering our atmosphere. Certainly, the odds of survival are astronomically low. But, with all the funding, we went ahead made the DNA comparisons anyway.

A: I am sure you did. So, can a correlation be established between our specimen any of the stored W.H.O. plague samples?

B: Well ... yes Ma'am, indeed. But not just that. We also made comparison with the full spectrum of historical samples - right back to Plague spores found in Neanderthal bones. The pattern of gene variability shows up quite well, I think, on this projected chart.

[B fumbles clumsily with a remote]

B: Ah, you can see how there's been periodic plagues arising over the past 20 thousand years. Each plague hits with full virulence causing the death of around 94% of the exposed populations. In each case any remaining population, blessed with some natural resistance, survive to pass on those genes. Now, with this degree of herd immunity we should expect the Plague to rapidly become extinct. And indeed, seemingly it does each time. However, after closer examination these two, err ... puzzling data variables emerged.

A: Continue ...

B: The first is - it's regularity. At precisely regulated intervals ... ah, of 904 years, the plague returns.

A: And the second?

B: The devil here is in the detail. It seems each plague varies systematically. In fact each plague's DNA varies by a single genetic change working its way down - I mean sequentially down - the plague's chromosome chain. As shown in this image .... here.

[B fumbles again at the remote]

A: So what exactly is your learn-ed hypothesis?

B: Well .... it's really all a little too early to properly present a rigorous and objective opin....

A: Take .. a .. guess.

B: Well, if I saw this data anywhere else ... I'd say it's field data .... of heh .. someone developing a vaccine using a wild host population. But, er, really Ma'am, this only just a speculative ...

A: Thank you. I think that will do quite enough for now Doctor. The Committee appreciates your ... creative input towards our funding deliberations.

B: (shuffles away)

A: [turns to C and D)
It seems you are correct, far too erratic. Go ahead with Doctor B's termination immediately and confirm my selection for his replacement. For my part I will convey our doubts to the Administration of the value of any future research this cycle - at least for the Kharaa. And C and D, no loose ends this time please.

[Exit C and D]

[A: Frowns, obviously burdened. Her human features flicker slightly as they sometimes do when she's alone and feeling the full weight of responsibility].
I've got my objections to the World, certainly. But I'll be very sorry to see it ruined.
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