Who is killing off the microbiologists?
January 14, 2005 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Yet another dead microbiologist. Why was Joeng Im of the University of Missouri, a 72 year old protein chemist, stabbed to death, stuffed in the trunk of his car, and burned? Was it a random act of violence? Was it a former student bent on revenge? Or is this biologist merely following in the footsteps of 40 other microbiologists and other scientists who have mysteriously died in the past 4 years? Scientists like David Kelly, Steven Mostow, Ian Langford, , Don C. Wiley, David Wynn-Williams, Michael Perich, Gene Mallove, and dozens of other scientists? Is it too presumptuous, too "tinfoil hat" to suppose that someone is killing off the microbiologists of the world, for some nefarious purpose?
posted by Sir Mildred Pierce (46 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
*begins to nervously assemble tinfoil bioterror suit*
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 10:23 AM on January 14, 2005

Dear Lazyweb,

Please do an study which compares the rates of homicide amoung various groups of scientists sorted by field of concentration. If there is a statistically significant rise in microbiologist homicides than, say, astrophysists, we can start to worry.
posted by gwint at 10:30 AM on January 14, 2005

There was a similar case in the UK a few years back (Mid '80's) of (mostly Indian and Pakistani) technicians and researchers dying at an alarming rate.

They were dropping like flies of what were, frankly, mundane causes (heart attacks, traffic accidents etc.). The only thing that didn't seem right was that apart from their being just too damn many of them, they all had some connection with MOD or DeRA (Ministry of Defense and Defense Evaluation and Research Agency).

If I remember rightly they appeared to be working on unrelated projects (But then they again they would wouldn't they....)
posted by fingerbang at 10:30 AM on January 14, 2005

Interesting that all the victims listed are men...or is it just that there are so many more men in science than women?
posted by LunaticFringe at 10:32 AM on January 14, 2005

Should we just add them to the Clinton death list?
posted by 2sheets at 10:38 AM on January 14, 2005

I've been warning people that the paramecia have been luring us into a false sense of security. But did they listen? Nooooooooooo...
posted by tittergrrl at 10:38 AM on January 14, 2005

From the last link. There was one female.
Two weeks later, two prominent microbiologists died in San Francisco. Tanya Holzmayer, 46, a Russian who moved to the U.S. in 1989, focused on the part of the human molecular structure that could be affected best by medicine.
posted by Cool Alex at 10:41 AM on January 14, 2005

Well, what do you mean by "other scientists"? There are a lot of scientists.
posted by delmoi at 10:43 AM on January 14, 2005

I don't believe in these things, but don't forget Bush's Death List.
posted by agregoli at 11:02 AM on January 14, 2005

It's time travelers ... trying to prevent a future catastrophy.
Only each time one doctor is killed the key event is shifted to another one, so they keep on killing.
posted by Dillenger69 at 11:18 AM on January 14, 2005

Dillenger -- there was a really bad episode of THE X-FILES about that. It inspired us to write the plot for JURASSIC PARK 4: TIME DINOSAURS, in which the US government sends dinosaurs back in time to strategic points throughout history in order to cause mayhem -- i.e. a Tyrannosaurus in Dallas, November 1963; velociraptors pouring off of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria as they run aground in Hispaniola, etc.

Uh, I'm a little off-topic aren't I. Would love to see the statistical chart mentioned earlier.
posted by logovisual at 11:21 AM on January 14, 2005

from the police sketch, i bet the guy used to go clothes shopping with the unabomber.
posted by armacy at 11:21 AM on January 14, 2005

Logo, I thought Jurassic Park 4 was Dinosaurmageddon.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 11:35 AM on January 14, 2005

Maybe the microbiologists knew something that someone wanted covered up.
posted by orange clock at 11:41 AM on January 14, 2005

You don't say.
posted by Kwantsar at 11:49 AM on January 14, 2005

This is just another tragic death in the turfwar between micro- and macrobiologists.

When will the violence end???
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 12:18 PM on January 14, 2005

I'm with Orange Clock, this whole post is spooky!

(Unless Orange Clock was being facetious, in which case: bravo!)
posted by crazy finger at 12:19 PM on January 14, 2005

I'm from Columbia and am a grad student at the university. Things have been strange in the past few days. The professor getting killed, a man shooting police then shooting himself, and a guy running into a gas station stabbing people. It's pretty strange, especially since we only get one or two murders a year, and this all has happened in the space of one week. 2005 is looking great!
posted by zsazsa at 12:40 PM on January 14, 2005

Holy shit, that's weird.

*checks tinfoil hat* yup, it's firmly in place...
posted by salad spork at 1:04 PM on January 14, 2005

But are they really dead?

Or have they all been transported to a remote island to work on a New World Order?

*cue Peter Griffin making a stupid theme tune sound*
posted by Harry at 1:09 PM on January 14, 2005

Ok, you want to really make a conspiracy theory out of this? then you need a little thing called a motive. Here you go!

Maybe it is because one or more of them was ready to blow the whistle on the reality of AIDS and HIV (read the previous items in the thread, it's interesting). Or maybe it has to do with influenza research, since microbiologists pretty much agree that someday, somewhere there will be a flu pandemic. Of course only terrorists would want to kill an expert who might be able to mitigate a flu pandemic.

I suggest this because (see "tinfoil hat" link above) "Dr. Wiley, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Harvard University, was an expert on how the immune system responds to viral attacks such as the classic doomsday plagues of HIV, ebola and influenza."

This post is for entertainment purposes only.
posted by ilsa at 1:19 PM on January 14, 2005

It's the culture of emergency. It's a memetic infection which causes people to believe that their field/project/company/whatever is the most important thing going on in the world right now and that anything they're doing not related to that is wasted time and pointless. It has infected the medical industry, it totally infected sillicon valley in the late 90's, and it's infected biotech now. It causes long hours, social atrophy and severe distraction, and leads to lack of sleep and poor judgement.

Which is why, when a particular field gets hot, you suddenly get a rash of seemingly unrelated accidents and spooky death clusters.
posted by hob at 1:22 PM on January 14, 2005

hob, that's far too logical.

clearly the satellites have gotten to you. please ensure that your tinfoil is properly aligned.
posted by flaterik at 1:36 PM on January 14, 2005

Funny, hob, I don't remember a rash of silicon valley deaths.
posted by telstar at 1:39 PM on January 14, 2005

I'm from Columbia and am a grad student at the university. Things have been strange in the past few days. The professor getting killed, a man shooting police then shooting himself, and a guy running into a gas station stabbing people.

Not to mention the house invasion, followed by the escape attempt of the suspects who had been arrested for the house invasion.

Strange stuff . . .
posted by flug at 2:01 PM on January 14, 2005

Uh-oh ... my mom's husband is a microbiologist. I should warn him. But, then, I'm sure no one's after the sorts that are mostly concerned with germinating carnivorous plants.

posted by The Great Big Mulp at 2:01 PM on January 14, 2005

You know what Stuart? I like you.
You're not like the other people here in the trailer park.
Oh no, don't get me wrong, they're fine people, good Americans.
But they're content to sit back, maybe watch a little Mork and Mindy on channel 57.
Maybe kick back a cool Coors 16-ouncer.
They're good fine people, Stuart.
But they don't know what the queers are doing to the soil.
posted by LouReedsSon at 2:18 PM on January 14, 2005

Funny, hob, I don't remember a rash of silicon valley deaths.

I'm going to attribute that to the fact that the particular form of overwork represented by the Silly Valley phenomenon involved mostly sitting very still for 16 hours at a time. There were in fact a rash of divorces and bankruptcies, you may remember.
posted by hob at 2:22 PM on January 14, 2005

*pours out Coors for Dave Blood*
posted by felix betachat at 2:41 PM on January 14, 2005

I know absolutely nothing about this. This is unimportant to all of you, and are simply coincidences. Pattern within these deaths do not exist. Do not try to find one. Good day, citizens.
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:57 PM on January 14, 2005

posted by QuestionableSwami at 2:59 PM on January 14, 2005

While I don't disagree that the silicon valley employees probably do/did a lot of sitting around, I don't see how that makes them much different from microbiologists. I don't suppose I am an expert in either field but sitting in a lab and sitting in a cubicle can't be that much different, at least in their degree of involvement in international (or even interplanetary), conspiracy and espionage.

Therefore the three possible conclusions I can draw are:

There is a paranoid theory out there somewhere that some murders of silicon valley people have taken place and are involved in a tinfoil hat conspiracy, but it was boring and quickly forgotten.

Sometime after killing off many influential computer technicians, the beings involved removed all traces of memory of them and their mysterious deaths from the minds of us average folk, as will doubtlessly happen after the murders run their course here.

Unlike computer technicians, microbiologists are jet-setting super secret agents, daring horrific and wildly impractical traps even during everyday tasks, such as dodging a complex laser net while attempting to relabel their petri dishes.
posted by SomeOneElse at 3:20 PM on January 14, 2005

That's the news from Columbia, where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the police kill their lovers.
posted by cosmonaught at 3:41 PM on January 14, 2005

I'm also from Columbia, Missouri, and there has been some strange stuff going on.

The place where the professor's body was found was the "Maryland Avenue Parking Garage" (a... parking garage over by the university hospital that is completely non-descript except that some strange shit has been happening there lately).

Two weeks ago someone was stabbed in the garage and left for dead, no motive, 6 weeks ago an old woman fell to her death from the top floor, and a few months ago, the (accused) jilted, closet-case homicidal cop (mentioned above) had a tense police standoff, threatening suicide from the top of the garage after escaping from protective custody. (also, by 'accused' I mean 'guilty as shit,' being thorougly familiar with the cop, the victim, and all involved)

This is made extra weird by the fact that the Maryland Avenue garage is one of several in the area (a crime-free campus-policed sterile environment). Nothing seedy ever happens here, ever, and in the last six months every front page-worthy act of violence has happened in or around this completely mundane and featureless garage. Strange stuff.

posted by cadastral at 4:11 PM on January 14, 2005

"It causes long hours, social atrophy and severe distraction, and leads to lack of sleep and poor judgement."

So the microbiologist was stabbed, stuffed in a trunk and burned because he was overworked?
posted by spazzm at 4:31 PM on January 14, 2005

So the microbiologist was stabbed, stuffed in a trunk and burned because he was overworked?

If he hadn't been overworked and distracted, he would have seen them coming to stab him, and he'd have run away.


Seems to me that this whole thing could easily be explained as coincidence. Basic maths: death rates in a particular year, occupation by occupation, are going to follow some sort of normal distribution - most occupations will have death rates close to the national average. Some will have more, some less. Some will be extreme outliers, and it will look like something weird is going on. But statistically you'd expect a tiny minority of occupations to have really high death rates in a given year, purely by chance.

Seems likely that microbiologists are the unlucky ones, this year (and somewhere there's an occupation where no-one's dying - film critics maybe).

Though I did like dougunderscorenelso's hypothesis.
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:20 PM on January 14, 2005

This just in from CoMo.

Columbia is, incidentally, the site of Wessely's education (discussed here)

I spent a summer in Columbia and am thoroughly convinced it is the city god loathes.
I'm not going to make this personal and discuss basketball.
posted by cosmonaught at 5:29 PM on January 14, 2005

This was of course on Art Bell.. er.. Goerge Noory's Coast to Coast AM last night when I was driving home at like 3 am. The person being interviewed was Steve Quayle who has a site dedicated to this topic. From the Coast to Coast AM site:

He theorized that a group of people plan to unleash "the ultimate epidemic" on the planet and are trying to eliminate scientists who might successfully combat it.

Or whatever that means. I don't usually listen to the show, just happened to turn it on so I found it odd to see it in the blue the next day...
posted by woil at 5:49 PM on January 14, 2005

If this had been epidemiologists dying, they would have figured it out by now.
posted by rks404 at 7:13 PM on January 14, 2005

I suppose the life insurance companies would have perhaps the best data on which occupations have higher death rates, but they probably wouldn't be looking for changes in rate over short time spans.
posted by hank at 8:33 PM on January 14, 2005

Follow the money.

I have no idea where, but that's what they say.
posted by stbalbach at 8:36 PM on January 14, 2005

"Seems likely that microbiologists are the unlucky ones, this year (and somewhere there's an occupation where no-one's dying - film critics maybe)."

Oh and the year before that... and the year before that.. oh, and the year before that.
posted by Sir Mildred Pierce at 9:24 PM on January 14, 2005

Don Wiley was a structural protein biochemist - his work had very little application to terrorism. He was one of my favorite professors in college, and when he died I did enough investigating to convince myself that he died owing to complications of his known epilepsy.

Very sad, but nothing nefarious about it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:40 PM on January 14, 2005

Well, as far as microbiology being more important than, say, working with semiconductors or some other field of endeavor, read Plagues and Peoples by William McNeil.

Microbiology matters.

Pandemics and epidemics can kill millions upon millions of people. That matters.

And despite the fact that Russia is now 'friendly' with the West, don't doubt that there are still cloak and dagger things going on. It would be in their self-interest to make sure that people who could do something about a bioweapon attack are dead before it happens.

And if you don't think that this shit goes on, then I want to borrow your pollyanna rose-colored glasses. I don't care if you think I have a tinfoil hat or not.
posted by geekhorde at 12:44 AM on January 15, 2005

So what exactly is it that a bunch of microbiologists "could do about" a terrorist microbiological attack? Get a blood sample, run to the lab, isolate the virus/bacterium/whatever, genetically engineer antibodies, and distribute them to half the earth's population, all before the pandemic wreaks havoc on us?
Sounds extremely far-fetched to me. Also, killing off a few talented minds will not kill the know-how, which, however advanced it may be now, will be grad-student material in 10 years.

I could see the "they knew too much" motive, but I think the "they are the only ones who could develop a cure" is a bit over the top.
posted by sour cream at 3:29 AM on January 15, 2005

I think there has been some statistical debunkage of this. I don't think X (any organization) could coordinate the killing of 40 specific individuals. Dropping bombs is one thing, but targeting 40 people and not leaving piles of evidence would be a massive organizational nightmare. This sounds like a job for Christo. Were they wrapped in pink plastic?
posted by mecran01 at 12:41 PM on January 17, 2005

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