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Lovelock, sneezing and germs.

count tiszula

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The other night I saw a tv interview with James Lovelock, the famous inventor of the Gaia theory and ex-environmentalist guru.

It turns out that for a long time after the war he worked at the famous Common Cold Research establishment near Salisbury! In fact he was involved in discoveries about the spread of cold germs that don't seem very well known; and we seem to know surprisingly little about what went on there, even though most of us have dreamt of having a job there!

To investigate germ-spreading, they got the healthy volunteers sitting around in one half of a room, separated by a curtain from the other end where they had pupils from a local school who definitely had streaming colds. [How did they get them; given the ethos of the time they probably just turned up at schools and ordered anyone seen sneezing to follow them!]

Now, the people with colds were not sneezing enough so they had to give them sneezing-powder [presumably of the old-fashoned, chemical kind]. Yet, however much they sneezed, they got no reaction from the healthy people. However, when they all got bored and started playing cards, once the cards were exchanged between groups, the healthy people started sneezing in the approved manner.

Conclusion; contrary to all the wartime propaganda and what we are still told today, the common cold is NOT generally airborne; you have to spray on to some object which may then cause contagion.

Anyway, it really does sound like a dream job; and of course the volunteers got paid!!!

PS; Q: How many Gaian environmentalists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: If the room needs light, the lightbulb will eventually change itself!

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Well, it's droplet infection -- which means the germs travel about as far as the sneeze travels. That can be "onto your hands, and from there to playing cards" or can be "across two feet to the person sitting next to you". The entire length of a room is too long, but I think you can catch a cold from someone breathing down your neck on an airplane...

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