Wednesday, January 11, 2006

One in a million.

If someone or something has a "one in a million" chance of happening today, then it will happen about 400 times today in the United States alone and about 6,000 times world wide. How about a "one in a billion" chance. That would happen about 6 times today in the world. One in a Trillion? Probably happen 2 or 3 times this year. So, why do we blame god for unusual happenings or call them miracles?

Perhaps it is comforting to have some one else in charge of our lives, of our fate. Maybe we find it difficult to think these unusual occurances might be in the control of a "god of probablilities." Or, it's possible we just don't want to take responsibility for our actions or for the random level of many outside influences. In any event, what it comes down to is that "If it can happen, it will."

Will the bird flu jump to humans? Yes. That one is really a no-brainer. It has jumped to humans several or many times already but either not in the mode required to replicate or in such a way as to be isolated and allowed to die without infecting other humans. With the many, many trillions of opportunity for human infection with the proper mutation, there is little chance of such a jump not happening. The best we can hope for is that the jump is done by a mutated virus that is less deadly than the original strain. This may already have happened and we haven't noticed simply because people get sick and recover in a similar manner to any other "ordinary" flu.

There is some thought that something similar may have happened with the 1918 bird flu. Studies seem to show the 1918 bird flu popping up nearly simultaneously in areas that it is nearly impossible to allow for human transportation of the virus. The idea is that the flu was a "two stage" flu. In this manner, many people caught a lower level of flu, something which most survived but, similar to the chicken pox/shingles virus, the flu virus of this strain may have sat around in the body and, like an alarm clock set to a certain time, erupted almost at the same moment all over the world.

As a side note, this could be used to bolster the "Intelligent Design" argument in that we have computer virus that are similar and are timed to erupt on certain dates or within a number of days of the original infection and the "intelligent Design" supporters may say that the medical virus (1918 flu) was "designed" to do the same by some, perhaps not-so-benign god but one intelligent enough to design such a virus. I bet it could be done by humans right now.

If it's a one in a many trillion chance the deadly form of the bird flu (OK, AVIAN flu for those picky ones), no matter the many trillion chance, the deadly form of the bird flu will make the jump if you do the statistics. Just ask youself how many individual virus are out there, how many individuals are carrying about a hundred billion of these individual virus right now (count all the pretty birds), how much interface between these infected individuals and all the ways each individual virus can have an opportunity to reach a human, and the results are mind boggling.

Of course, you can use the idea of a "one in a million" chance happening as an opportunity for good. After all, someone actually does win the lottery. Someone does actually buy an acre or so of waste land for next to nothing only to find it was the last piece of property needed for a new, up-scale shopping mall and is suddenly worth a few million and the developers are begging to give those millions to you. It does happen. You might also remember that there are some airplanes flying right now that have peoples names written across their nose and those planes will somehow, some way seek out those people to kill. One in a million? Happens all the time.

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