Omicron’s Anatomy Explains Why It Is So Contagious


Falconieri Visuals

The Omicron coronavirus variant was likely the fastest-spreading virus in human history. One person with the measles virus—a standout among infectious microbes—might infect 15 others within 12 days. But when Omicron suddenly arrived this past winter, it jumped from person to person so quickly that a single case could give rise to six cases after four days, 36 cases after eight days, and 216 cases after 12 days. By the end of February the variant accounted for almost all new COVID infections in the U.S.

Back when the Alpha variant was spotted in November 2020, scientists knew little about how its few mutations would affect its behavior. Now, with a year’s worth of knowledge and data, researchers have been able to link some of Omicron’s 50 or so mutations to mechanisms that have helped it spread so quickly and effectively…

Omicron hosts twice as many mutations as other variants of concern, and its BA.2 sublineage may have even more. There are 13 mutations on Omicron’s spike protein that are rarely seen among other variants. Those changes to its anatomy gave it new and surprising abilities. If Delta is the brute-force Hulk variant, think of Omicron as the Flash—masked and wicked fast.

RTFA. It helps to understand what we’re facing. So far.

The article tracks four ways this variant has physically changed. Three of those alterations helped enable the virus to evade our immune systems. Making it more infectious. Fortunately. the fourth appears to have made it produce a milder disease.

Look! – There’s Edgar.

This is supposed to be a birdbath and a drinking dish for the smaller birds that populate Lot 4. However, Edgar – that’s what we call our favorite raven – has been showing up the past few days for an occasional drink.

We love his visits and this is the first time I was able to grab an iPhoto of him. Very sensitive to movement at the windows of the house.

Explosions, fire, in Russian provinces bordering Ukraine

A series of explosions were heard in the early hours of Wednesday in three Russian provinces bordering Ukraine, authorities said, and an ammunition depot in the Belgorod province caught fire around the same time…

The Belgorod province borders Ukraine’s Luhansk, Sumy and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago.

Separately, Roman Starovoyt, the governor of Russia’s Kursk province, which also borders Ukraine, said explosions had been heard in Kursk city early on Wednesday, which were most likely the sounds of air defence systems firing…

In Voronezh, the administrative centre of another province adjacent to Ukraine, Russia’s TASS news agency cited an emergency ministry official as saying that two blasts had been heard and the authorities were investigating.

Russia said it was sending investigators to Kursk and Voronezh regions to document what it calls “illegal actions by the Ukrainian army”…

A top Ukrainian official on Wednesday described the attacks as payback and “karma” for Moscow’s invasion.

“If you (Russians) decide to massively attack another country, massively kill everyone there, massively crush peaceful people with tanks, and use warehouses in your regions to enable the killings, then sooner or later the debts will have to be repaid,” Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said.

You can’t always get what you want. Sometimes you get what you need. Even better, sometimes you get what you deserve!

Famous Viking Warrior was a Woman


David Guttenfelder/NatGeo

More than a millennium ago in what’s now southeastern Sweden, a wealthy Viking warrior was laid to rest, in a resplendent grave filled with swords, arrowheads, and two sacrificed horses. The site reflected the ideal of Viking male warrior life, or so many archaeologists had thought.

New DNA analyses of the bones, however, confirm a revelatory find: the grave belonged to a woman

Viking lore had long hinted that not all warriors were men. One early tenth-century Irish text tells of Inghen Ruaidh (“Red Girl”), a female warrior who led a Viking fleet to Ireland. And Zori notes that numerous Viking sagas, such as the 13th-century Saga of the Volsungs, tell of “shield-maidens” fighting alongside male warriors.

But some archaeologists had considered these female warriors to be merely mythological embellishments—a belief colored by modern expectations of gender roles…

Since the late 1880s, archaeologists had viewed the “Birka warrior” through this lens; textbooks had listed the grave as belonging to a man, but not because the bones themselves said so. Since the remains were found alongside swords, arrowheads, a spear, and two sacrificed horses, archaeologists had considered it a warrior’s grave—and, thus, a man’s.

Sad; but, true. Even reputable scholars are sometimes trapped in the preconceptions of the culture that affords them speech and record. Hard to learn the truth, eh?