I think the proposed usage was more of a "I want to destroy all of civilization by poisoning schoolchildren's lunchmeat" scenario than a targeted weapon.
I'm sorry for coming a bit late to the discussion. Who's proposal? It seems to me that a Kill-every-living-human/WMD-type device that takes months to years to take effect in a statistically small proportion of the exposed target population wouldn't be a very good way to achieve any kind of military or political objective in any sensible way. If on the other hand, you are a non-state actor trying to spread terror....I'll give you that, maybe. But still, there are no historic precedence to my knowledge of any extremist groups declaring to the world: "give us what we want or we will give you brain cooties". True, symptoms of fevers/bleeding/malaise of things like bird flu makes for dramatic visuals in the same way conveyed by WWI photos of soldiers blinded by mustard gas. In contrast, aside from the scary name of Mad Cow Disease, how many in the general public can identify the symptoms of vCJD much less know what it is? Put it another way, Do you think a terrorist would consider it a good idea to weaponize HIV? Similar in a lot of way - certainly easier to get and transmit, but just not practical from a common sense perspective.
This is a totally different scenario from normal warfare, for which an unmodified form of the disease vector would do just fine.
Exactly! In unmodified form, the disease vector is terribly inefficient - being statistically significant enough infection-wise to make your target sit up and take notice, but otherwise doesn't nearly approach the virulence that true pestilences of the past have cause death and destruction among the masses. It really isn't going to kill very many people. I guess what I am trying to say is, no matter how you cut it, prions - as we currently understand them - do not have the qualities of a good biological weapon regardless of what kind of war you are trying to fight with it. I would assert thus, that given the slow acting nature and generally vague symptoms (which can easily be mistaken for other neurological issues in the absence of post-mortem histological analysis), the only appropriate role for prions as a weapon of some sort is along the lines of some kind of assassination tool. That is, if other short comings can be addressed.
Speaking generally, I would guess that the period before symptoms manifest on a given prion is unmodifiable, and is directly linked to that protein's role in the organism.
Last I was aware, no one has yet divined the role played by PrP in living organisms. (It must be important though because the sucker is highly conserved across many species.) It has been a while since I've kept up with this stuff, so it is entirely possible that something within the last few months has been published that can be used to put numbers on this thing. However, The matter of symptoms can be really tricky to pin down. We've made great strides in illuminating many aspects of prion molecular biology, but not nearly enough to say we truly comprehend disease pathology. To complicate matters further, the brain is an incredibly resilient organ capable of taking quit a bit of abuse by adapting and compensating around damage. It may very well be the reason why symptoms take so long to appear is because victims brains are actively rewiring around parts damaged by plaque formation. I don't know if plasticity is something that has yet been quantified and/or standardized across all people. But given the range of brains, even in a place like slashdot, there are different levels of suceptability. I could very well be wrong, but I think it is premature to be asserting any kind of symptom time frame in association with a protein function that still isn't clear at all. From a strictly experimental perspective, however, I am optimistic analytic tools and techniques can be applied with further effort to help establish the "conversion" mechanism prion infection (if it is indeed that. the protein only hypothesis still has detractors) to the point where it can be possible to artificially enhance/accelerate the process to induce higher virulence. ehrrr.....I am *NOT* suggesting we do that, though - just that maybe we can....if we wanted to....which we never would. Crap. I need to get some sleep.
An open letter
Dear Citizens of Missouri,
We support your efforts to take science education in your state into a brave new world. Science is an ever changing, ever advancing quest. However, not everything in science ought to be about science. For we must recognize the practical reality that science serves human civilization. And in today's global community, the American nation faces a crisis in which we must as loyal patriots reaffirm our nation's position at the forefront of civilization. We can not afford to continue outsourcing, exporting, abandoning, or otherwise ceding economic and social opportunities to less advanced parts of the world. Therefore it is imperative that we begin building and nurturing a domestic underclass to which we can bequeath unskilled labor and civil malcontent ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H diversity. Through the fire of conflict that your state endured during our nation's bloody adolescence, you have demonstrated an admirable ability to endure hardship and be resilient. We should all be fortunate, that you have taken the bold step of engaging in this new social experiment where the idea that state-directed education can be used to further the socio-political goals of our nation with tangible socio-economic effects.
Let's face it: If we are to stem the hordes of illegal residents taking away job opportunities from real Americans, we must have enough Americans sufficiently educated to be able to compete for those appropriate jobs that do not require an over-abundance of schooling based on excessive and unnecessary critical thinking. A workforce thus educated under your new legislations should be expected to also considerably lighten the load on social services such as health care that is riddled with exorbitant expenses based on medical practices founded on unproven Darwinian principles. Under ID-inspired health care, we are, by design, perfect and thus require no treatment. Imagine the savings we can achieve for a government that is already burdened by entitlement programs our children can not afford!
Ages hence, when historians look back upon our era, the state of Missouri will be held up as a shining example of the pioneering American spirit that blazed a new trail for intellectual courage and social freedom. You will be remembered as the brave souls who cast aside the shackles of conformity and not only challenged, but prevailed against the stifling madness of old tradition. The multitudes, Missourians and non-Missourians alike, will remember with gratitude the legacy you have left them.
yours truly, the mob-ocracy.
You should seriously consider the wide-spread sentiments here about broadening your options. Your wealth of experience is your greatest asset here. I would recommend to you some writing done by NPR reporter Adam Davidson on the current and future state of American Manufacturing.
Basically, Adam makes the case that while low skilled, labor intensive work has gone overseas, the American economy still has a lot of opportunities for qualified workers to fill less manual but highly skilled positions in advanced manufacturing. Your work history and familiarity with industrial control stuff positions you nicely to enter the job market he writes about. You didn't mention where you live (and presumably where you'd be job-hunting) however. That may play a significant factor in available opportunities for you.
The experiment was conducted both outdoors under the night sky, and inside a planetarium where researchers could manipulate the starlight and hone in on the specific cues that the dung beetles were using.
Better trolling next time.