Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Sometimes Trojans break..."

Posted by Jessie

While reading through smutline band emails last night in the viral library, Dave read off an idea for a Band-sponsored t-shirt to commemorate Stanford football's unexpected victory over USC last Saturday: "Sometimes Trojans Break" (or something along those lines, sorry if i'm butchering it).

Anyway, since we were working on the problem set and viruses were taking over every thought running through my brain, I thought about how many similarities there were between what happened on Saturday and a potential viral infection caused by tearing a condom:

1. Condoms have a very low failure rate. According to Stanford's SHPRC website, male condoms have a failure rate of 3-14%. While it's debatable whether the odds of Stanford winning against USC were higher or lower than that, I think it is fair to say we were on the lower end of the probability spectrum.

2. Stanford students' reaction after the victory could be compared with lysis of a host cell. On the viral side, some viruses replicate using the host machinery and assemble within the cytoplasm of the host cell. Once a threshold level of viruses is reached, the host cell bursts, releasing all these virus particles to wreak havoc in the system. Similarly, each loss Stanford football had accumulated over the last 4 years has been creating this build-up of unspent celebratory energy. This win over USC was the breaking point that allowed Stanford students to release all this pent-up energy (that can be measured by the liquid volume of alcoholic substances consumed on campus between 8pm and 8am).

3. Some viruses have a latent stage, when they fly under the radar of the immune system, and then catch the body by surprise when it becomes virulent. Stanford football's pitiful winning record in past years made it all the more surprising that this upset was pulled off.

4. At Maples Pavillion at midnight when the football team returned to campus, a HUGE crowd had gathered to welcome them back. As the buses pulled up on Campus Drive, the entire crowd rushed toward the buses like macrophages toward a foreign antigen, and the crowd consumed each player or team staff member as they got off the bus.

5. The immune system sometimes responds to viral infections by inducing fever. Analogously, several enthused students started a bonfire in the middle of Main Quad to fan the flames of a rising Stanford-excitement response.

6. It may take a long time to control a viral infection, and even after it is contained, "memories" of the virus are created in the form of B and T memory cells, so that a more robust and rapid response can be mounted against a secondary infection. The campus is still simmering from the victory, and the victory is still on the minds of a lot of people on campus. If Stanford football were to continue its one-game winning streak a secondary, tertiary, or quaternary response may be successively greater.

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