Near the end of 12 Monkeys, the terrorist mad man OPENED one of the vials of virus at the screening, so wouldn't that have initiated the collapse of society anyway, by starting the death of all who were in the airport at that time, and wouldn't that have traveled everywhere those travelers were going?

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    It's not clear what your question is. Are you asking whether Cole failed in his attempt to stop the virus? That's was quite clearly the case: it's a stable-time loop universe. – Acccumulation Apr 4 '19 at 1:11
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    @Nathaniel, they were never trying to stop it, only study to help in the future. – Tom.Bowen89 Apr 4 '19 at 11:02
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    this answer suggests that Cole is indeed trying to change the past at that point, and the scientists in the future are actually trying to stop him. It seems open to interpretation though. – Nathaniel Apr 4 '19 at 15:14
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    @Nathaniel that's correct. His mission is not to stop him, and the scientists understand he can't change th future, but that doesn't stop him trying. – Tom.Bowen89 Apr 4 '19 at 18:05
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    From a biological perspective, it does not make much sense anyway. If you have a virus in liquid suspension, opening the vial does not turn that virus into an aerosol just like that, even if the virus itself is usually airborne / transmitted by aerosol. And while the infectiousness of some pathogens can be downright terrifying, "opening a vial" would not doom "all people present". This kind of stuff is often done in movies for dramatic effect, but no virus or bacteria I know of is that infectious. – DevSolar Apr 5 '19 at 7:48

Because the plan was never to change the past but to obtain the original virus, as he told to Railly:

COLE: I just have to locate the virus in its original form before it mutates. So scientists can come back and study it and find a cure. So that those of us who survived can go back to the surface of the earth.

The issue was in current time virus was mutating and they needed the original form to craft a cure.

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    A better answer than mine because of the quotation. +1, and also *1 as a bonus. – James McLeod Apr 3 '19 at 13:01

The goal of the scientists of the future was never to stop the outbreak (their past cannot be changed) it was to develop a cure.

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