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Sunday, October 26, 2003
The Demon in the Freezer ~ Richard Preston 

The Demon in the Freezer
Richard Preston

During my trip back to Miri two weekends ago, I managed to spend my last few hours at Belle's Bookstore. The Miri branch stocks up the latest books and there is a wide variety available compared to the Kuching one which seriously needs to really catch up with the head branch in Miri. This book was one of the many books that I bought and I did finally managed to find Rudolph Giuliani's 'Leadership' there.

Anyway, back to this book. The book cover has these words in front : A True Story. All in small print, mind you, but definintely able to carry forth the impression that this is a terrifying account. Smallpox is terrifying and for one who has never seen or live through the period where it was raging endlessly, it is hard to imagine what it was like for our parents, grandparents and ancestors.
In one of the greatest feats of modern sicence, the devastating smallpox virus, the worst disease in human history, was purged from the planet in 1979. In the interest of research, two stores were kept : one at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and one at a Russian virology institute. But the demon in the freezer has been set loose. Iraq and North Korea are most certainly hiding illegal stocks of the deadly virus.

A premonition of things to come? Definitely brings to mind the deadly Weapons of Mass Destruction. It brings out the unadulterated truth of biological weapons and it's threat to humankind. You will see how frustrated the weapons inspector were when they went to Iraq and Russia. You will also see first hand account of behind-the-scenes during the anthrax episode just after September 11. Here is an excerpt from the book about the anthrax letter episode :
Geisbert carried the tube of dry anthrax into his microscope lab, set the tube in a tray, and turned his attention elsewhere. A minute later, he happened to glance at the tube. The anthrax was gone.
Yet the cap of the tube was closed.
"What the heck?" he said out loud.
He picked up the tube and stared at it. Empty. He tapped the cap with his finger, and the particles appeared and fell down to the bottom of the tube-they had gotten stuck underneath the cap, somehow.
He went back to work. A minute later, he glanced over at the tube. The anthrax was gone again. He tapped the cap, and the anthrax fell to the bottom. He stared at the bone-colored particles. Now he saw them climbing the walls of the tube, dancing along the plastic, heading upward.
The anthrax was like jumping beans; it seemed to have a life of its own.
He began preparing a sample for the scope. He opened the tube and tapped a little bit of the anthrax onto a piece of sticky black tape that would hold the powder in place. But the anthrax bounced off the tape. The particles wouldn't stick. Eighty percent of the Daschle particles flittered away in air currents up into the hood. That was when he understood that the Hart Building was utterly contaminated.

Scary thought, isn't it? An engineered biological weapon with the intention to wipe out as many people feasibly possible. It doesn't speak about which party was responsible for producing it though. Preston is providing glimpses into a world that seems very very far off from the current world we're living in but which is very very real.

Wena Tan  # 12:16 AM