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by George Trinkaus

from The Wall Street Journal

Nerd Flu

Scientists Produce First Digital-to-Human
Viral Infection, Predict Pandemic

___________________________________________________________________

Pharmaceuticals see "bio-digital"
bonanza,
as Congress ponders
emergency powers
.
________________________________
By GEORGE TRINKAUS
staff science writer
__________________________________

BETHESDA, Md. -- A U.S. scientific team has engineered the first successful crossover of a computer virus to human subjects, thus raising the specter of a worldwide epidemic vectored by the internet. Dubbed "nerd flu" by the scientific press, the new bio-digital virus produces high fevers, acute respiratory congestion (similar to that of SAARS) and other flu-like symptoms. Mental derangement is also in the clinical picture. Nerd flu can be fatal.

culturing nano-plasmas
Details of the crossover technology remain classified. However, sources inside government science say the phenomenon involves the translation of genetic data into holographic digital codes which can be transmitted via the web. At the user end, these data forms are programmed to culture into nano-plasmas that can condense on the surface of any PC monitor screen, migrate into the environment, and act as infective biologic agents.

Human-to-human transmission of computer-generated bio-digital viral infections is also possible, according to a spokesman for the project. Of the five deaths of prisoner test subjects in the project's Vacaville studies, two could be attributed to human-to-human transmission.

designer diseases
Scientists on the project state confidently that the same methodology that produced nerd flu could also be used to culture electronically and transmit digitally cancer, malaria, AIDS, or any other disease known to medical science.

The new technology also points to the possibility of custom computer-generated "designer diseases." The Defense Research Project Agency (DARPA) has expressed interest in the project's potential and contemplates applications in bio-warfare and population-management projects. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have both expressed keen interest in the project.

The nano-plasma disease agents are particularly abundant and virulent when they condense on old-style monitors. This is due to the electrostatic charge that accumulates on the glass surface of high-voltage cathode-ray tubes. Under these conditions, bio-digital nano-plasmas accumulate with ten times the intensity of those observed on the newer liquid crystal flat-screen monitors. A WHO spokes observed how this condition could facilitate population-management programs that target a specific negatively privileged social class.


preemptive

"Our computer models predicted that this formidable machine-man crossover was a possibility, so we went ahead and did it first," said Dr. Seymore Smyth, director of the five-year-old, $2 billion Cyber-Viral Project, which is funded by The National Institutes for Health (NIH) under joint contract to Merck and Microsoft.

"This was preemptive research," continued Dr. Smyth. "Think Iraq, think bird flu. We anticipated how hackers could conceivably engineer such a phenomenon and inflict great damage on the population. Of course, now that we have developed the methodology, there is also the concern that cyber-criminals could steal our secret codes. We try to stay a jump ahead of these terrorists."

Says Smyth, "We already have novel pharmaceutical counter-agents for nerd flu in the works." At Merck and Microsoft, scientists are formulating a new generation of bio-digital antivirals and vaccines that can be downloaded on the internet and paid for by credit card.

Patents on the technology, which will be held jointly by Merck and Microsoft, are expected to hold great value. Bio-digital stocks may soon become the latest high-tech sensation on Wall Street.

emergency
The team says it will take its findings to Congress next week and argue for emergency legislation that would expand the powers of Homeland Security. Says Smyth, "Emergency management agencies need a new latitude to meet this new threat so they can enforce programs for detention, quarantine, and vaccination and for the culling of infected populations and equipment."

Representatives from NIH, the CDC, and WHO will also testify in favor of expanded powers at a closed House Internal Security Committee hearing next Tuesday. Meanwhile, administration sources say that if Congress does not act promptly and appropriately, the emergency may have to be addressed by executive order.

Warns Smyth, "A preemptive worldwide shutdown of the internet may soon be necessary to protect the public from the impending deadly hazards of nerd flu."
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This satire was inspired by a business-news item (Forbes on Radio) that drew a scenario in which an epidemic of bird flu shuts down the internet.

George Trinkaus wrote How the Chronicle Invented AIDS


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