Ways To Go

« April 2008 »

Memo to Walter Wagner and the Bush Administration: YOU ARE DUMB.

But for completely opposite, though tangentially-related, reasons. Allow me to explain at my customary turgid length.

Science has always carried within it certain dangers. Foremost amongst those dangers is the possibility that science could attempt something, and either by fucking it up or succeeding, end up destroying the human race. If you play with fire, and you aren't careful, you will get burned. But if you play with fire, and you ARE careful, you can have tasty fajitas. Progress requires risk, and properly managing that risk is a hallmark of good science.

Walter Wagner did not feel that the people at CERN were managing risk properly with their plans to fire up the Large Hadron Collider and search for the Higgs Boson. If they do everything right, they'll learn obscure and fascinating things about the structure of matter. If they screw something up, maybe, they just might create a black hole that will eat the Earth. Wagner, fearing the latter possibility, has filed a lawsuit attempting to stop the experiment from going forward. Fuck Walter Wagner.

How do you think you'll die? Cancer? Heart disease? Hit by a bus? Blown up by an IED because Saddam Hussein allegedly tried to have Bush 41 assassinated? SARS? Bird flu pandemic? Monkeypox? All of those are awful ways to die, except for monkeypox, which at least has the best name of any disease ever. Most importantly, they are BORING ways to die. Ways to die that leave your survivors dealing with the paperwork, the corpse, and what to do with all your stuff.

But as soon as I heard about the possibility, "swallowed along with the rest of a human race in a black hole of our own making" immediately jumped into my top five ways to die ever. It is, as these things go, relatively quick, relatively mess-free, and is one of the few ways I can think of to die that will, eventually, cause an alien to exclaim "those crazy motherfuckers did WHAT?" Monuments crumble, technology rusts and decays, but a rip in the fabric of the space-time continuum? That shit is FOREVER.

And Walter Wagner wants to save us from what is, as fates go, a wicked awesome fate just so he can die peacefully, in his native Hawaii, of some kind of poi-based bowel obstruction? Fuck that. Wagner has the luxury of worrying about rogue black holes, because he doesn't live in the continental US, where George W. Bush is trying to KILL US ALL.

In one of those little, minor news stories you stumble across if you're not careful, I learned that the government has been studying foot-and-mouth disease, one of the most contagious and deadly diseases to affect livestock, for years. They've been studying it for years on a small island 100 miles northeast of New York City, because you can only get there by helicopter or ferry, and foot-and-mouth can't fucking swim very well. This is smart science.

The Bush administration, however, is looking to relocate the research facility. To the mainland. Either to Kansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, or Mississippi. If an outbreak happens, and outbreaks have happened, millions and millions of animals will have to be slaughtered and disposed of to contain the outbreak. And that assumes a limited outbreak, like the one in Britain in 2001.

Why are they moving the lab? Legislators appear to be competing for the jobs the facility would bring. Why are they telling us not to worry? Well, read these sentences and tell me if you're comforted. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"The White House says modern safety rules at labs are sufficient to avoid any outbreak... The Homeland Security Department is convinced it can safely operate the lab on the mainland, saying containment procedures at high-security labs have improved." - Well, there you have it. The Bush White House and Homeland Security Department are convinced that a disaster is impossible. Who are we to say different?

You know how I don't want to die? Trampled by a diseased cow, that's how. Or worse, trampled by someone at Cub Fucking Foods running to the meat department to snatch up one of the last pounds of ground beef that, with luck, will only have e coli or mad cow prions in it. But is anyone suing to stop our collective messy death by starvation and/or food riot and/or mutant form of human-transmissible foot-in-mouth created when President Bush, touring the lab one day for a photo op, drops his Gogurt into the clean room? No, they are not. Just another example of our fucked-up collective priorities.