Making Influenza: my story in tomorrow's New York Times

By Carl Zimmer | March 5, 2012 4:46 pm

The ongoing controversy over experimental strains of bird flu is one of those multi-dimensional stories that you just can’t fit into one article. I’ve written about it at Slate and here at the Loom, and I can point elsewhere to no end of excellent stuff. Fellow Discover blogger Ed Yong has a sharp, concise round-up on the research over at Nature, for example, and Michael Specter has a new story on it in this week’s New Yorker (subscription required, alas).

In tomorrow’s New York Times, I take a look into one dimension of the story that has seemed under-explored to me. The controversy over the bird flu revolves around the risk that publishing the full details of the research could lead someone to recreate the virus and unleash a pandemic. Not just a terrorist or a hostile nation, but perhaps even a so-called “garage scientist” toiling at home. Is this a realistic risk, or unfounded fear? After talking to virologists who make viruses for a living and DIY biologists who don’t, I find that the answer is pretty complicated. Check it out.

[Flue virus image: ESRF]

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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