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We like to think we’re such a fast-paced society. Well, in the 1300s, it only took a year for the Black Death to spread from Italy to England. That’s close to 1,000 miles as the crow flies, and this without cell-phone technology or instant messaging. And yet the plague wasn’t entirely lethal. The English town of Eyam was quarantined after the epidemic appeared within its walls, but a year later more than half its residents were still standing. Stephen J. O’Brien, author of Tears of the Cheetah and Other Tales From the Genetic Frontier, tracked down descendants of the Eyam survivors and other disease-resistant marvels to find a genetic explanation for their hardiness, and his research may affect work on cures for such modern scourges as AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. Bring out your dead when O’Brien explains “The Mystery of the Black Death: A Tale From Today’s Genetic Frontier” at 6 p.m. at the National Museum of Natural History’s Baird Auditorium, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. $15. (202) 357-3030. (Dave Nuttycombe)