Mother Nature as a Geopolitical Force

History is biased, and not just because the victors tend to write it. The study of history is largely the study of humankind – specifically, the geopolitical events that have shaped human actions (and vice versa) over millennia. It’s true that to learn from the past, we must study ourselves. But what if we’re missing a large part of the story? What if Mother Nature plays just as large a role in shaping the course of human events as mankind? After all, any force that compels specific actions by nation-states is necessarily geopolitical. Read the rest at Geopolitical Futures.

How the Plague Hijacked Fleas to Kill the World

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

The bacterium that causes bubonic plague or Black Death, Yersinia pestis, is a relatively new species. Research suggests it diverged from its nearest living bacterial ancestor no more than 6,400 years ago. During this transition, the genetics of Y. pestis changed. Most notably, it acquired genes that helped it survive inside fleas. Continue reading

Black Death: The Upside to Killing Half of Europe

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

The doctor will see you now.

The Black Death, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, wiped out 30 to 50 percent of Europe’s population between 1347 and 1351. But, this is just the most infamous of the little microbe’s shenanigans.Y. pestis, which is one-millionth our size, has caused three major pandemics and continues killing people to this very day. The plague gets such a bad rap because it represents some of the greatest tragedies to ever befall the human race. Continue reading