Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Mothership Question #1

The Seed Media Group has initiated a new feature called Ask A ScienceBlogger. This feature will have its own home on the new Sb homepage next month, but until then, it is being launched as a blog carnival style thing, hosted on Stochastic. The rules; every Friday, Seed asks a question and they will link to our responses on the following Wednesday. Our responses are limited to 300 words or less. Of course, reader questions are welcomed (feel free to send them to the mothership). Additionally, I am very interested in reader answers to this same question, so feel free to add your comments.

Question: If you could cause one invention from the last hundred years never to have been made at all, which would it be, and why?

I agree with my blog sibling, John; landmines. Landmines are weapons that are made for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill and main people in the most gruesome manner imaginable. Worse, most of the people who are killed or maimed by these technological abominations are the innocents; civilians, particularly farmers and children. It appalls me to know that the United States still has not signed the International Ottawa Convention for banning landmine use, contrary to the expressed wishes of the vast majority of American* citizens. Gee, aren’t our so-called “smart weapons” smart enough?

* the landmine question is on p. 38 on that first document.

Update: car alarms are my first choice for those obnoxious inventions that affect my personal life on a daily and invasive basis that I wish had never been invented.



  1. #1 bigdumbchimp
    May 6, 2006

    I was sure this was going to be a post about Parliament.

    I would have to pick the technology that created that tornado.

  2. #2 GrrlScientist
    May 6, 2006

    i cut out that part of my response to that question because, well, i’ve complained a LOT about it already (behind the scenes). for those of you who don’t know why we hate that tornado, it breaks the links when it flies over the front of my blog (as if its intrusiveness wasn’t bad enough!). fortunately, that particular ad campaign ends tuesday, but that is not soon enough: it will be a HUGE problem for my link-heavy Birds in the News, which appears on Monday mornings.

  3. #3 John
    May 6, 2006

    Since someone’s car alarm just went off repeatedly while I was trying to read the internets, at this particular point in time I wish car alarms had never been invented. 🙂 I would have to give more thought to a serious answer. Landmines are a good one, though; unlike some other inventions, they have only brought evil into the world.

  4. #4 George Laszlo
    May 6, 2006

    If you thing really hard, the best answer is the atomic bomb. It was regretted by the very people who invented it. It’s science and wisdom put to a terrible use. It haunts us today and will continue to do so probably forever. Or until we’re annihilated by it and put us out of our misery.

  5. #5 GrrlScientist
    May 6, 2006

    the first thought that came to mind was nuclear weapons, especially since i knew the man who designed the triggering device for the bomb that was dropped on hiroshima in 1945. however, as much as i abhor nuclear weapons, the technology itself might possibly redeem itself in the future — i try to remain open-minded about these things — whereas landmines have no potential redeeming features to them whatsoever. unless you happen to be a surgeon or a mortician, that is.

  6. #6 Patrick Cassidy
    May 8, 2006

    TELEVISION. I’d volunteer the internal combustion engine as well, but that goes back more than 100 years.

    These have both done far more harm than nuclear weapons to date.

  7. #7 Charlieq
    May 8, 2006

    I don’t necessarily disagree with your nomination, but
    I’d simply argue the invention wasn’t invented for the purpose you claim for it. A science blogger should be able to come up with more informed, maybe even scientific response.

    “Landmines are weapons that are made for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill and main[m] people in the most gruesome manner imaginable.”

    IEDs are intended to do this. But most modern landmines were invented to stop the advance of troops and materiel through specific territory. Some mines were designed to stop tanks and others were to stop soldiers from disarming the other mines. Mine designers actually went to very great lengths to develop mines that could recognize a tank and not be fooled and go off at a car or a bicycle, for example.

    A landmine, like nukes, can do what it was designed to do even if it never explodes. All it has to do is deter the enemy from crossing the mined area.

    Now are mines bad? Yeah, I agree the world is better off without them. Have they been misused? Yes, mines designed to deter sappers have been deployed where they could kill unwary troops. Do they kill innocent civilians? Guilty there, too, because they can lay dormant but lethal for years after the original hostilities are forgotten.

    But there’s more to landmines, for better or worse, than your post lets on.

  8. #8 GrrlScientist
    May 8, 2006

    “understanding” landmines is moot: it does nothing to change my mind about them. just because landmines filfill an intended (human) purpose quite nicely does not change the fact that they are a waste of technological and intellectual investment. as an ornithologist, shall i tell you stories about how several species of vultures have been documented to sit next to fields that are mined, patiently awaiting for their next meal to announce itself loudly with gore and flying body parts, just so i can justify an ornithological argument that “there is more to landmines than meets the eye”? well, i’ll bet you didn’t know THAT! is that informed enough for you?

    well, let me cut the crap and respond to your insipid accusation; A science blogger should be able to come up with more informed, maybe even scientific response by stating unequivocably that landmines are an abomination, and i think the people who invented them had the same twisted psychology as wife-beaters and child-molesters; “if they had only (fill in the blank), well, i wouldn’t have had to blow their leg off!”

    yeah, i’ve known “people” like that, and they disgust me.

  9. #9 val
    May 22, 2006

    I agree I’d vote for landmines, but napalm would be second on my list. I, too, think that Nuclear technology may have to redeem itself, although I could wish that the 2 bombs that were dropped in Japan had never been. Insignificant things like car alarms no longer bother me, but you have to be an old fart to get to that point. No doubt, in my20’s or even in my30’s, I’d have been outraged by them.

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