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Is anyone here an MD, or at least a medical professional

pocketrocket

I have an idea for homo-superior, but I need some basic factual information.

J

Ernest Bywater

@pocketrocket

you'd be surprised how much actual info you can get from wikipedia and a Google search. Try them.

awnlee jawking
Updated:

@pocketrocket

Even if you're restricting yourself to the straightforward bigger/stronger/faster/smarter type criteria, you won't find a reliable consensus on the limits of human potential.

If your plot, characterisation and command of English are sufficiently good, readers will happily suspend their disbelief and enjoy your story.

AJ

Replies:   Dominion's Son
Dominion's Son

@awnlee jawking

Even if you're restricting yourself to the straightforward bigger/stronger/faster/smarter type criteria, you won't find a reliable consensus on the limits of human potential.


You won't find a consensus on the exact limits, but you can get into generalities. An ant can lift 50 times it's own body weight simply because it is small.

The strength of a muscle fiber increases proportionally to the increase in size. The problem for strength vs size is that the weight of an object changes proportionally to the cube of the increase in size.

An ant can easily lift things many times it's own size. However, if you double the size of an ant, you only double it's raw strength, but an object the size of the ant is now 8 times heavier.

Shinerdrinker
Updated:

Early on in my story "Mayhem in a Pill," I had the main character have a massive bowel movement due to the nanites he swallowed. The nanites removed cancerous cells and body impurities from all over the body and stored them in the lower intestine so the body could get rid of them in a natural method rather than just osmosis. I jokingly said that in one violent BM he voided nearly 20 pounds of feces from his body which was undigested and still stored stuff in the intestines.

I had someone who said he was a doctor say that the intestines would never hold that much.

While I appreciated him writing to me and pointing out something that could have been something I got wrong, I just could not stop laughing about the idea that the only thing he found wrong with the story was that a person could not have that large of a BM. Time travel and body correcting nanites were okay by him but to big of a BM was the straw that broke the camels' back.

Dominion's Son
Updated:

@Shinerdrinker


just could not stop laughing about the idea that the only thing he found wrong with the story was that a person could not have that large of a BM. Time travel and body correcting nanites were okay by him but to big of a BM was the straw that broke the camels' back.


I see that as perfectly natural.

For things that are way outside a reader's normal experience, such as time travel and body correcting nanites, suspension of disbelief is relatively easy.

The closer you get to things that a reader experiences as part of their day to day life, suspension of disbelief for violations of those experiences get's harder and harder.

pocketrocket

I am going to take all this as a "No."

My idea runs rather parallel to Weber's The Appocolypse Troll. A tailored bio weapon is released in the high atmosphere. It kills 99% of humanity outright. 99% or the rest die of neglect, since almost all are too ill to care for themselves.

The important exception is a cluster of 3rd and 4th stage colon cancer patients at MD Anderson in Houston. With cutting edge support, the cancer incorporates the bio-weapon and becomes a helpful parasite. One side effect is that the parasite is able to regulate growth in the entire body, producing a starfish effect.

Other exceptions are submarines that stay submerged and those in polar regions, latitude > 75°. Part of the story is getting the ship crews home alive. Another is what to do with the sex imbalance, about 90% male. Are new births possible?

Are there any resources along those lines?

J

Dominions Son
Updated:

@pocketrocket


Are new births possible?


As long as the survivors include at least one female of child bearing age, yes.


Are there any resources along those lines?


Maybe, maybe not. The resources you would need if you want to stay realistic would cover a very wide range of disciplines.

One of the areas where I have a little personal knowledge (not a lot) is the electric grid. I've worked IT for a US electric utility.

The electric grid will be one of the first things to go. Maintaining the electric grid is a delicate balancing act. Load and generation have to be kept in balance on a second by second basis.

There are automated protective devices that take power plants off grid if things get too far out out of balance. If those protective devices were to fail and things got too far out of balance, things connected to the grid could start to explode.

This is the sort of thing that is happening when you see geographically large power outages (say the whole US east coast area).

The reason it takes so long to restore power in these cases is because you have to carefully put both generation and load back on the grid in sync.

On top of that, bringing a new large power plant onto the grid requires delicately phase syncing the power plant with the existing grid, once in sync and on the grid it will naturally stay in sync, but bringing a generator on line out of sync can again cause things to blow up if protective devices fail to take it back off line quickly enough.

A side from what devices and small scale energy sources that your survivors have at hand, the would be back to the stone age.

Outside of the tropics and sub-tropics, a large percentage of the survivors would not survive the first winter. Too many lack the skills necessary to survive in cold climates without constant supplies of gas or electricity for heat. Food would also be a problem. Once local stores of dry and caned goods dry up, you are down to hunting and gathering for food. Obtaining sufficient food in a cold climate is difficult and almost no one today has the skills to do it.

Edited to add:

This is why I generally hate post-apocalyptic fiction. Too many hand wave away what it would actually take for people used to plentiful energy and industrial agriculture to suddenly have to survive without either of those things.

richardshagrin

If there are not enough females available to maintain or increase population, cloning might work. Maybe the symbiote might help keep cloned individuals alive in conditions they otherwise might not survive.

JohnPalko

A 0.01 survival rate still leaves a world population of 700,000 but only 55,000 in North America. IIRC there needs to be a pool of somewhere between 4,000 to 7,000 people of potential breeding age, in close enough proximity to eventually crossbreed (within a few generations -the number depending on the genetics of the survuving population i.e the variation of phenotypes and degree of consanguinity)to prevent dangerous levels of inbreeding, or the results will be unsurvivable levels of infant motality within a few generations or severe genetic drift, if the society can find a way to adapt social norms enough to conserve variation.

Also your plan for the cancer center is unlikely. There will only be a handful of caregivers surviving on the medical staff. It's unlikely they would concentrate on providing "cutting edge support" to Stage 4 cancer patients when 99% or more of their coworkers and patients are dying. It's called triage.

With the extreme level of population reduction suggested and the gross infrastructure surviving, food would likely only be a problem after the second year when cannned and dry goods start to spoil.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@JohnPalko

With the extreme level of population reduction suggested and the gross infrastructure surviving, food would likely only be a problem after the second year when cannned and dry goods start to spoil.


Electricity would be gone in a matter of weeks, along with natural gas for cooking/heating. Accessible stocks of gasoline and diesel vehicle fuels might last a couple of months.

Sure, in theory, there might be enough canned and dry goods out there for the survivors to live on for a couple of years, but 90% or more of it will be beyond their reach long before your two year limit is up.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Shinerdrinker

I made reference in a story to the steel in a jet, like when someone fell and smashed their head against the bottom of the doorway (or whatever it's called in airplane-lingo).

A reader informed me a plane is made out of aluminum. If it were steel, it would be too heavy. I changed it to aluminum except for one place where I thought that word sounded too soft so I used metal. But I was grateful for the feedback.

sejintenej

@pocketrocket

The important exception is a cluster of 3rd and 4th stage colon cancer patients at MD Anderson in Houston. With cutting edge support, the cancer incorporates the bio-weapon and becomes a helpful parasite. One side effect is that the parasite is able to regulate growth in the entire body, producing a starfish effect.

I think that you have gone a bit, but only a bit beyond current actualities. AIDS has hit the world BUT there is a group of prostitutes in Sierra Leone who are actually immune to the AIDS virus. You have taken a situation and specified the patients who are concerned and worked from that.
Surely this is one form of sci fi?

Replies:   pocketrocket
pocketrocket

@sejintenej

It is a form of SF.

To those that comment that 99% dying off is still leaves a substantial population, albeit spread out, that does not take into account secondary causes. In this case the survivors are deathly ill from something else. Their caregivers die first. What are their chances?

Warehoused food would last a very long time for this level of death. Out of a city of over 1 million, less than 500 survive the plague and the aftermath. Refined fuel is mass stored close by (that is coincidence BTW). All they need to do is figure out the mechanisms.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@pocketrocket

Warehoused food would last a very long time for this level of death.


Yes, it would. The problem is how will survivors thinly spread out over a large area be able to reach that food. Also only the goods that can be stored long term at room temperature will survive any significant time. A refrigerated meat warehouse won't last long without electricity.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

only the goods that can be stored long term at room temperature will survive any significant time. A refrigerated meat warehouse won't last long without electricity.

In my PA world, functioning electricity is worth more than any other resource (and it's best to keep hidden, lest someone attempt to displace you from your hideout).

Replies:   sejintenej
Dicrostonyx
Updated:

Here's another point that usually gets ignored in PA writing: gasoline goes bad pretty quickly. There's no set deadline, unfortunately, but even in a sealed container gasoline will rarely stay good longer than a year.

In a pinch, a vehicle or generator might be able to use gasoline that has gone bad, but it could damage the engine. With no spare parts and a limited knowledge of mechanics, a survivor might not want to risk it.

@pocketrocket

As to the OP's point, I'm not a doctor, but a 99.99% kill rate probably actually isn't possible. The problem is that any disease that kills that many people wouldn't have time to spread. It would need to have a very long incubation time so that the disease could get around before people start dying, otherwise people with the disease would be too sick to carry it around. Same problem with having people do the cutting edge support; once 99% of the population is sick, there wouldn't be anyone left in the hospitals.

It's also worth noting that viruses, parasites, and cancer are three completely different things, and they are all highly specialised.

A virus is basically a bag of DNA. When the virus enters a cell, it uses the cell's functions to replicate itself; on it's own, a virus can't even reproduce. Once the cell volume is full of the virus, the cell bursts, and the virus goes to find new cells to inhabit.

Parasite is a very broad term for anything in a parasitical relationship with another organism. A parasite can be anything from viruses, bacteria, and protozoa to plants like mistletoe or animals like hookworms. Presumably you're using the word parasite in the sense of the small animals like tapeworms, fleas, flukes, and so on.

Cancer is probably one of the most misused words today, in that there is not really any such thing as "cancer" in a general sense. Medically, cancer refers to a group of diseases which involve abnormal cell growth; these diseases have different causes, different treatments, and different effects on the body. The main thing they have in common is the shape of the tumors.

My point being that saying that a virus which infects humans could interact with colorectal cancer to create a parasite is like saying that eating watermelon would cause a bird to turn into a giraffe.

Cancer is not a parasite. A virus cannot change one thing into a completely different thing. Yes, some diseases can insert new genes into a host, but those genes can only work with what is already there.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dicrostonyx

As to the OP's point, I'm not a doctor, but a 99.99% kill rate probably actually isn't possible. The problem is that any disease that kills that many people wouldn't have time to spread. It would need to have a very long incubation time so that the disease could get around before people start dying, otherwise people with the disease would be too sick to carry it around. Same problem with having people do the cutting edge support; once 99% of the population is sick, there wouldn't be anyone left in the hospitals.


Illness caused population devastation is possible with a particularly virulent disease with a long incubation period can see it wide spread before people start to die of it. A deadly virus can be such a cause, as can many bacteria related illnesses - influenza and bubonic plague are just two examples that have been major killers in the past.

With influenza most symptoms are two days after infection, and then another two or three days before people realise how seriously ill they are. A particularly virulent influenza can be world-wide with today's travel patterns before people realise it's a pandemic issue.

Most deadly bacteria related severe illnesses are three to seven days from exposure to first symptoms and then a few more days before people realise how serious it is. Again, today's travel patterns can see it spread world-wide before they realise there's a major problem.

Historically the difficulties with travel have been what's kept many plagues from doing a lot more harm than they have, mainly due to the longer travel times between places and the lower percentage of people travelling.

Another aspect here is a situation that cause a large number of deaths can interrupt the daily patterns of people living in urban areas sufficient to see a lot of diseases that are under control run rampant again, like cholera, diphtheria, typhus, and the like. They'll be an issue due to the significant hygiene issues caused by a high number of deaths.

Then we can get onto the deliberate or unintentional release of an enhanced bio-agent from one of the bio-warfare labs, all designed for high death rates and easy transfer.

Check some of the stats in this list, and think about how hard travelling was then, as compared to today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_epidemics

Replies:   Dicrostonyx
Dicrostonyx

@Ernest Bywater

influenza and bubonic plague are just two examples that have been major killers in the past.


Yes, but the main reason why a lot of the plagues, such as bubonic, lasted as long as they did is because they had a reservoir in rodent populations.

Bubonic plague kills 30 - 90% of those infected if they do not receive treatment, and it is generally 7 - 10 days from exposure to death. The problem historically was that there wasn't one plague; some estimates suggest that at least one city in Europe suffered an outbreak every year between 1346 and 1671.

That's my point. I'm not saying that a global epidemic wouldn't be disastrous, or that big plagues haven't been disastrous in the past, I'm saying that part of the reason that bubonic was a big of a deal is because it did travel slowly, and it was carried by animal populations.

A tailored bio-weapon released in the atmosphere with a 99.99% kill rate would need to have an amazingly long incubation time or it wouldn't succeed. No parasite survives by killing off its own host before it can reproduce.

That's putting aside the problem that whomever created the weapon would need to create a simply massive quantity in order to infect a large population, since the virus won't replicate on its own. The virus would also need to be able to survive outside of the human body for extended periods of time for that release mechanism to be effective.

...

@pocketrocket

Assuming that what you actually want to write about is a story in which a theoretical cancer treatment allows patients to survive a plague, how about approaching it from the opposite direction?

Researchers at MD Anderson are working with cutting-edge treatments on stage 4 colorectal cancer patients who have volunteered for a research program. One of the trials involves a genetically tailored virus or parasitical organism intended to combat the cancer directly while being invisible to the body's immune system. This trial may have been done against orders by a disgraced researcher with a pet-theory, if you want to keep the bio-terrorism angle.

The treatment works better than expected, merging the parasite, the cancer, and the host into a symbiotic relationship with super-human characteristics. The successfully cured patients can be harvested to allow the symbiote to be given to other patients, and the suggestion is that this may be applicable to other forms of cancer or even to the problem of ageing.

Unfortunately, there isn't time for this to happen. Either due to interactions with other medications or disease, further deployment by the original creator, or simply a slow infection caused by the original treatment, the infectious portion of the cure escapes into the population without having the symbiote to mitigate the effects. Lots of people die, a small portion are naturally immune, and there is a group of super-human symbiotes with the ability to make other survivors like themselves, assuming they have the skills and knowledge to do so.

Same long-term situation, but much tighter link between the cause and effect. This would also engender two big possible changes to your story.

First, since the symbiote carriers are linked to the disease themselves, despite not really being the cause, it is reasonable for them to be seen both as heroes and as villains by different people.

Second, because everything links back to a single source, you only need one "miracle" to make the story happen, rather than having two or three separate impossible events happening in concert. This will help the suspension of disbelief in the audience.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  Grant
Ernest Bywater

@Dicrostonyx

Assuming that what you actually want to write about is a story in which a theoretical cancer treatment allows patients to survive a plague, how about approaching it from the opposite direction?


You've got a good point there, many new drugs of the last 100 years have had unintended effects, some of them at the genetic level as well. Now, with the gene-splicing that goes on with them not knowing all there is to know about it, you could easily have something like that happening with a new drug, or even a genetically altered food.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Grant

@Dicrostonyx

A tailored bio-weapon released in the atmosphere with a 99.99% kill rate would need to have an amazingly long incubation time or it wouldn't succeed.

As others have mentioned, air travel makes the world very small these days. And Autobahns, Motorways, the US Interstate highway system, and high speed trains all would be able to spread the disease over a huge are in just a matter of days. Just a week would be long enough to have a massive effect on the world's population.
Give it an intubation period of a 3-4 weeks and even many of the populations in the remotest areas would be infected.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Now, with the gene-splicing that goes on with them not knowing all there is to know about it, you could easily have something like that happening with a new drug, or even a genetically altered food.


Not actually true. For many decades before the development of modern genetic engineering, people were producing new plant varieties by dosing plants with radiation or chemical mutagens then waiting to see if anything useful developed. Sorry to burst your bubble, but gene splicing is far less dangerous than what it replaced.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Sorry to burst your bubble, but gene splicing is far less dangerous than what it replaced.


Until they have better then 90% of the entire DNA and genetic lists identified with exactly what they do and every variant, gene-splicing is very dangerous. Now, I'm not saying creating mutations with chemicals or radiation is safe, just that all three are very dangerous and the gene-splicing has a hell of a lot of unknown options available to bite them in the arse than they care to admit because they don't yet know enough about the genes.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Now, I'm not saying creating mutations with chemicals or radiation is safe


But creating mutations with chemicals or radiation has been done for the better part of a century, and nothing remotely dangerous to humans or the environment in general has happened.

Sorry, but the empirical evidence puts anything truly dangerous coming out of genetic engineering at small fractions of a percent.

Capt Zapp

@Dominions Son

Sorry, but the empirical evidence puts anything truly dangerous coming out of genetic engineering at small fractions of a percent.


All it takes is one.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Capt Zapp

All it takes is one.


Yes, but the evidence says that such a one happening is so unlikely that genetic engineering is as safe as anything else. 100% safe is impossible.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

Sorry, but the empirical evidence puts anything truly dangerous coming out of genetic engineering at small fractions of a percent.


Need I mention they said that the empirical evidence available for the first few decades of use made it clear Morphine was not addictive, that early empirical evidence was thalidomide was perfectly safe to use, that for many decades the medical evidence was asbestos was perfectly safe to use - the list goes on an on.

The scientist do not yet have a full map of the dna or genetic at all, not do they have anything close to a real idea of what changes to the genetic code can do downstream. Even the most basic of genetic manipulation done in the past by cross-breeding animals and plants have come up with some horrid examples, and they still don't know exactly why.

Until such time as they have 100% knowledge of every aspect of genetics it's impossible to say there is no danger from what they're doing. The fact the luck has been good so far, doesn't mean it will stay that way. They act without full knowledge or understanding, so anything can still happen.

Replies:   sejintenej
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son


Yes, but the evidence says that such a one happening is so unlikely that genetic engineering is as safe as anything else. 100% safe is impossible.


and the use of nuclear fuels are 100% safe, on the same basis. We have a high level of knowledge and experience with nuclear affects than we do of gene-splicing.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


and the use of nuclear fuels are 100% safe, on the same basis.


what part of "100% safe is impossible" do you not understand. 100% pure distilled water can not be proven safe to the standards demanded by those advocating that we follow the "precautionary principle"

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

100% pure distilled water can not be proven safe to the standards demanded by those advocating that we follow the "precautionary principle"


My comment was directed at the part of the first sentence of: ... such a happening is so unlikely that genetic engineering is as safe as anything else. - we know more about the details and use of nuclear material than we do about the details of genetic material, so anything to do with genetic manipulation is far less safe than anything to do with nuclear manipulation.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

we know more about the details and use of nuclear material than we do about the details of genetic material, so anything to do with genetic manipulation is far less safe than anything to do with nuclear manipulation.


We know that genetic manipulation has been happening for somewhere around twice as long as nuclear power and there hasn't been even a minor incident of human health impacts recorded due to genetic manipulation. In fact, if you include domestication / controlled breading as genetic manipulation, genetic manipulation has a record of being used safely thousands of years long.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

In my PA world, functioning electricity is worth more than any other resource (and it's best to keep hidden, lest someone attempt to displace you from your hideout).

Neville Shute in "On the Beach" had a situation where the hydroelectric plant continued to function despite the death of everyone in the vicinity and eventually everyone on earth. That plant supplied the broadcasting station where the wind (from memory) rocked a branch which transmitted tones.

sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

Until such time as they have 100% knowledge of every aspect of genetics it's impossible to say there is no danger from what they're doing. The fact the luck has been good so far, doesn't mean it will stay that way. They act without full knowledge or understanding, so anything can still happen.

Of course "anything" can happen - fail to put the cheese in the bin and he ended up with penicillin. It is not the experiment creating something dangerous but the preprepared precautions taken to ensure that nothing gets out of the lab °° and for that keep the forces out of it. That is the danger and can you trust politicians not to overrule the scientists?

°° The story goes that live deadly biological preparations instead of dead ones were mistakenly shipped to Koreans who did not have the facilities to keep them safe.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

genetic manipulation has been happening for somewhere around twice as long as nuclear power


It's been happening longer, but it's not as well understood. The top genetic scientist admit we know next to nothing about the details of genetics and what happens when changes are made. Yet, the full details of how nuclear activities occur are known.

Fragile X is one of the few genetic based illness they know a lot about - even to it's location and cause in the DNA chains, yet are not able to suggest a viable gene-splice way of correcting it or ensuring it doesn't happen.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


It's been happening longer, but it's not as well understood.


An yet no one can point to any concrete demonstrable risks. The anti genetic manipulation crowed is limited to going on and on about highly speculative hypothetical maybe risks.

If you can point to a real concrete risk, I might change mind about you not having a valid point.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

An yet no one can point to any concrete demonstrable risks.


Which was exactly the case with a many things in the past - Morphine and asbestos are two major issues that had no clear risks for decades, but turned up have some very serious one. Then we can move onto PCP and DDT and a whole pile of other items that were deemed safe and clear because they weren't fully known at first and needed decades of use for the problems to become clear once more was known about the them and how they worked.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

Which was exactly the case with a many things in the past


Which is what the Precautionary Principle advocates use to justify using the Precautionary Principle, utterly ignoring that it is impossible to prove anything is safe by the standard they demand.

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