In Part 1, I told you about my work with the 1918 influenza virus, and promised to tell you more about why the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N2 (HPAIH5) influenza strain that is currently rampaging through chicken farms in the Midwest is unlikely to jump to humans.

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Back in the day, whenOutdoor flu ward, 1918, Walter Reed Hospital I was the kind of scientist who worked in a lab, I spent seven years deciphering the genetic sequence of the 1918 influenza virus at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) in Washington D.C. The pandemic caused by this virus, which erupted in three distinct waves beginning in the late summer of 1918 and ending in the spring of 1919, killed somewhere between 20 and 50 million people worldwide. Never before or since has an influenza virus killed so many, nor returned in so many waves so quickly. Could it happen again? Could the outbreaks of avian influenza (subtype H5N2) currently devastating chicken farms in the Midwest lead to 1918-scale disaster?

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Warning: I am not a climate scientist. To say that Freeman Dyson is a highly respected scientist is an understatement. Over his 91 years, he has made seminal discoveries in mathematics and physics; written evocatively (and provocatively) on what it means to be a scientist, the role of science in society, and the culture of science; shared the fruits of his imagination about possible future discoveries and their implications for humanity; and generally offered up one fresh and unexpected view after another on topics from space travel to genetic engineering and beyond.

By all accounts, he’s a modest and funny man, a loving husband and father, and a continued source of inspiration to his colleagues at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. However, since 2007, he’s been purporting to be the voice of “moderation” on the topic of climate change. Casting himself in the role of objective, outside observer, he has declared that climate scientists are caught up in their own hype, in love with their own models, and distracting society from ills far more important than climate change.

I wish that he were right. It would be swell if climate change were really not a big deal. But he’s not, and it is.

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