We dropped the atomic bomb on japan today (in 1945) and that caused a lot of changes in the world. The idea of a bomb like this was so outrageous that it was actually possible to keep the project secret even though thousands of people worked for months on it, at many different locations. In one plant where nuclear material was being enriched people were told to make up whatever they wanted when asked what they were doing, as long as they avoided saying what they were doing. This was a bit risky because they didn’t actually know, as mere cogs in a larger and incomprehensible machine, what they were in fact doing. I understand that the answer “we are putting the holes in the donuts” became the standard answer.
Today, post WW II, Post Viet Nam, Post The X Files, people would not give that answer, or if someone heard that a friend was “making donut holes” they would assume that they were working on something like the atomic bomb or a death ray or something. But in those days it was simply not a possibility. Until that day in 1945, when it became a reality.
One of the consequences of the atomic bomb was a new brand of science fiction. Several new brands, actually. The two most important forms that arose right away were the post nuclear-apocalypse style movies and the Godzilla-style movies where scientists mucking around were responsible for the re-awakening, or the mutation, or the whatever, of some monster or another that would then eat Tokyo.
Today we manage to eat Tokyo without the monster. Or Fukushima, as the case may be. You see, the truth is, The Orangutan is right.
Which Orangutan? The one in the original Planet of the Apes, which was a late form of the post atomic bomb movie. The Orangutan is the most annoying character, the dogmatic bad guy who ruins everything throughout the movie. Then …
SPOILER ALERT IF YOU DID NOT SEE THE ORIGINAL PLANET OF THE APES MOVIE WHICH IS INCONCEIVABLE BUT JUST IN CASE YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
… near the end of the movie the Orangutan, forced to let Charlton Heston and his mute-human bride go their own way, gives a little speech. And in it he, the Orangutan, explains that any scientific advances allowed to happen by any sentient being would ultimately lead to the no good, and of course you, watching the movie, think “What a dumb-ass ape that Orangutan is.” Moments later, Charlton Heston and his mute-human bride turn the corner and they see it. And Charlton Heston realizes that the Orangutan was right. And he goes crazy and throws sand around and stuff.
I’ve not seen the new Planet of the Apes movie yet but I hope to go soon. I almost went today but instead I played around of Miniature Golf with the extended family. Three of us tied for first. And I did wonder, if Charlton Heston had seen a half buried Captain’s Cove miniature golf course instead of the Statue of Liberty would the effect have been any different?
Prolly. But I digress.
Think about this for a second. So far, the world’s nuclear arsenal has cost in energy (it takes a huge amount of energy to make nuclear bombs), resources, social costs (secrecy, dealing with pesky protesters, etc.) environmental costs, and so on more than anything our species has ever done, but we’ve only dropped two bombs. The total amount of energy used to make just the two original bombs that were dropped was probably much greater than the total amount of energy required to electrocute all the people who were killed by those bombs several times over (that is an estimate, I’ve not done the calculations). Or, more appropriately, if all the energy … both in terms of power and more generally human resources and activities, as well as materials … that have been devoted to having a nuclear arsenal over the last several decades in a handful of countries had been spent on developing and implementing safe and clean energy production methods, then …. well, just think about it.
And this is of course an impossible scenario. The reason Fukushima happened (the nuclear disaster) is because of the politics of building nuclear power plants, as much as the nature of nuclear power itself. And these politics continue. Engineers working at this plant have known for days, maybe weeks, that there was a deadly dose of radiation coming from a part of the plant where there should have been almost no radiation … a bunch of radioactive material had escaped from the reactors or storage areas and gotten jammed in an exhaust system, and has been spewing out deadly doses, and the workers have been running past the spot in order to not get too radiated. And we’ve only just now found out about this, because … well, I assume because no one asked. The International Atomic Energy Agency, or the press, never thought to ask this question of TEPCO:
“TEPCO person, is there by any chance a bunch of highly radioactive material that has essentially escaped from the reactor containment or the storage pools and gotten itself jammed in some other place so that the workers have to run past that spot in order to survive? By any chance?”
And because that question was not asked, that information was not released.
What. Kind. Of. Crap. Is. That.
This is not helping the nuclear power industry’s credibility issues at all. Not at all.
So yes, the Orangutan was right. Humans can’t handle the science and technology that we have or might develop in the future. There are very few, perhaps no, examples of extensive use of science or technology by humans, outside of medicine, that have not been disasters, by and large.
Perhaps it is time for the non-human apes to take over for a few tens of thousands of years.
I gotta see the movie first, though. I might change my mind.