Title: Everything is Going to Kill Everybody
Author: Robert Brockway
Genre: Non-fiction, humour, ecology, science, trivia, technology.
Publication Date: January 1st, 2010.
Summary: Twenty illustrated, hilariously fear-inducing essays reveal the chilling and very real experiments, dangerous emerging technologies, and terrifying natural disasters that soon could—or very nearly already did—bring about the end of humanity. In short, everything in here will kill you and everyone you love. At any moment. And nobody’s told you about it—until now
My rating: 8/10
♥ These are just the current dates, but humanity has believed that we are living in the end-times since the beginning of time. From the moment humans gained sentience, we immediately thought that everything around us was irrevocably fucked, and that it was just a matter of years - if not days - before the whole world came crashing down around us.
♥ No, every single subject within this book fits three simple important criteria: They affect the reader directly, they pose a real threat, and they could happen soon. To put it more succinctly: Everything in here will kill you and everyone you love in various horrible ways, and there's not much you can do about it but laugh. Or void your bowels and call your mom. It's your choice, really (but the former option is substantially less embarrassing and slightly less disgusting).
♥ It was just past midnight in Russia on September 26, 1983, and the Cold War was at its coldest...and warriest. A recent transgression by Soviet military forces had left U.S.- Soviet relations more tense than a Sammy Hagar/David Lee Roth threesome - that is to say, somebody was getting a dick in the eye; it was just a matter of time.
The "transgression", in this case, consistent of Soviet fighter jets blowing a Korean Air Lines passenger plane straight out of the sky. Two hundred sixty-nine people died in this incident, including one Larry McDonald, United States Congressman. Considering that we're talking about the height of the Cold War here - where a windblown fart would have been reason enough to nuke a continent - that's a pretty big "incident". The fighter pilot's justification for exploding a small town's worth of people flying in the danger equivalent of a giant retarded duck? The plane maintained radio silence when hailed. Some might call that a "holy fuck-ton of overreaction" just for getting the cold shoulder from a commercial airliner, but you must keep in mind that Russia at the time was a highly volatile place. These kinds of overreactions were probably common in the USSR, leaving hot-blooded young Russian males so high-strung that, upon receiving the cold shoulder from anything - even girlfriends - a reasonable knee-jerk response was to immediately fire high-yield explosives at the offending woman until she plummeted from the sky in flames... probably.
♥ Well, that's the noble goal biotech researchers had in mind when they spliced an alcohol-producing bacterium into K. planticola. Once their product was released, farmers would simply gather the dead plant matter into buckets and let it ferment into alcohol. Alcohol that could do everything they hoped: Be distilled into gasoline, sowed as fertilizer, burned as cooking fuel, or just drunk by the filthy, dirt-tasting bucketful. Their bioengineered K. planticola would create a beautiful, Eden-like garden paradise.
So it was with the intent of doing good that they engineered this microbe, but you know what they say about "the best intentions", don't you? That's right: They inevitably result in pestilent, humanity-destroying plagues.
♥ Because if there's one thing you really don't want your poison to be, it's "notoriously aggressive". And if there's one place you absolutely do not want your "notoriously aggressive" poison to be, it's everywhere.
♥ But medical advancement works both ways: That simple boost in immunity can start screwing over plants exactly the same way that it does us. We start overusing antibiotics and as a consequence we start to see the evolution of super-viruses that cannot be stopped. Similarly, we boost plant immunity, and new superbugs start ravaging crops and we have no defense against them. We're basically teaching plants how to use biowarfare against themselves... and it's about goddamn time! Why should corn live in peace when we must live in terror? Fuck you, corn. We'll genetically engineer you to feel fear if we have to.
♥ Most evidence of this reduced sperm count comes from citizens of industrialized Western nations, leading many to believe that technology - while inarguable awesome - is nevertheless out to neuter you. Conversely, shitting in a ditch is apparently excellent for fertility. We were first made fully aware of this worrying trend by a Dutch scientist named Niels Skakkebacks, when he conducted a worldwide poll of sperm levels in 1992. Ol' Dirty Skakkeback, as his friends probably called him, went on a veritable world tour of semen, and when he was done - sticky, exhausted, and no doubt walking funny - he found that sperm counts had no only dropped significantly (by the aforementioned half at some estimates), but that even semen with average sperm counts contained a much higher number of deformed sperm than in the past.
♥ But we're all going infertile, as this data seems to indicate, why does it seem like the planet is becoming ever more crowded with assholes? It's like all the stupidity in the universe collected on the surface of the Earth as retarded condensation.
♥ It's not just limited to this one bizarre strain, either. There are several other pathogens linked to obesity in the animal world, and any one could make the jump just like AD-36. Of course, this is all in a chapter about sterility, so let's get to the matter at hand: Let's assume there's a fat plague ravaging the world and that eventually everybody will end up big boned and burger laden. Humanity still has urges, and what is deemed attractive in the opposite sex can be quite flexible. So we're having fat, sloppy, roll-slapping sex, so what? So it's not getting us anywhere, that's what. A study at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam tested three thousand women struggling with fertility problems and found that chances of successful pregnancy reduced by a staggering 4 percent with every additional Body Mass Unit: The more obese the woman, the less her chance of pregnancy.
That means that there's a virus that inflicts irreversible obesity that in turn renders us infertile, not to mention the fact that our water is "feminizing" all the males, overall ball size has shrunken with a generation, and cornflakes turn your sperm into all-night dance machines that shake, shake, shake it until they die. It's not hard to see that this is actually one of the most likely doomsday scenarios threatening our species today. So if I were you, I'd start fucking right now.
We're going to need the head start.
♥ And if you think the prospect of a nuclear tornado in every major city in the world doesn't sound like an "end of the world" scenario to you... well, good for you, Batman. Put down the fucking book and go do something useful, like fight crime. Your giant, fearless balls are wasted here.
♥ When asked to describe what happened next, Swanson says he is largely unsure, because "the wave started for us right after that and I was too busy to tell what else was happening up there". While it normally might be safe to assume that Mr.Swanson was "busy" futile sobbing in the fetal position and cursing the wicked God that unleashes such horrors upon the world, one must keep in mind that Bill Swanson was an Alaskan native, and Alaska in the 1950s was basically a night-unsurvivable land of extreme temperature, severe terrain, and all-night grizzly bear mauling orgies. So in this context, it's pretty safe to assume that Bill Swanson's laconic statement that he was "too busy" to properly witness the largest wave in recorded history means he was probably rabbit-punching a Sasquatch in the stomach because it owed him money.
♥ Computers are reaching their saturation point in our everyday life - cell phones, iPods, digital cameras. They're getting more ubiquitous by the day and smaller by the minute. They provide most anything, from serious applications like military command and genome sequencing to the more trivial tasks like supplying online journals or easy access to obscure fetish porn. An it's no wonder they're so omnipresent; what other device could fill all those niches at once? What else could simultaneously function as an efficient soldier, run complex laboratory data, allow you to express your innermost feelings, and show you people fucking in cartoon coyote suits? Computers have thoroughly inundated modern life, so why not take it a step further and inundate your life, quite literally?
♥ There's a pretty standard, preestablished pattern of dissemination in place for new technology. At first, new tech is always reserved for serious uses, but before long it's so commonplace that you have it everywhere. Take the internet, for example: It was exclusively a military network just over forty years ago, and now half the line at Starbucks is tapping into said former military network to check out grammatically impaired cats while waiting for their Grande Frappucino.
♥ Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center quickly confirmed that at least one kind of nanoparticle could indeed penetrate the skin, and from there seep into the bloodstream. Those particles are called quantum dots, and they're on the smaller end of the nanoparticle scale. They are often used in makeup and sunblock, which is unfortunate, considering how they seep through skin like that - but even more unfortunate when you consider that UV light, like from the sun, actually facilitates absorption of the dots. So the thing you use to protect yourself from the sun is actually rendered harmful and then activated and inserted into your body by the mere presence of sunlight. Apparently the engineers in charge of quantum dot production for their doctorates in Irony Incompetent University.
♥ Downsides of Being a Smurf:
Whole life limited by adjective before name
Always getting captured by asshat Gargamel
Only one woman
♥ Asteroids, radiation, frigid vacuums, and hostile aliens - let's face it: space sucks, sometimes literally. Space doesn't bring you flowers, or nurture abandoned puppies back to health. Space doesn't provide delicious sandwiches at the company picnic or help old ladies across the street. It doesn't do one damn nice thing for you; it basically just plots your death from the abyssal void of nothingness. Sinister threats from outer space may seem like science fiction to you, but it's only science fiction until it's landing on your damn head. Also, if you really stop and think about it, there's a lot more of space than there are of us.
♥ But hey, don't worry, the government is totally on this one: A more official (well, more official than Canada anyway) approach is already under way. The U.S. Congress has introduced the NEO Preparedness Act, a bill mandating that we create a special program called the Office of Potentially Hazardous Near-Earth Object Preparedness, which would develop the technology to track 90 percent of all near-earth objects (NEOs), even those as small as 140 meters, by the year 2020. You better believe NASA's on that shit too; they've decided that we would need a much larger version of Canada's tracking satellite in place, preferably near Venus's orbit, to achieve this Congress-mandated goal. Unfortunately, it would cost about 1.1 billion dollars for fifteen years of operation, and that's just not in NASA's budget. Also unfortunately, Congress is far too busy asking if baseball players are really as strong as they seem and trying to choke bankers with wads of cash to grant more funds to such trifling matters as the avoidance of space bullets, so they won't give NASA the money. NASA scientists have stated that they intend to get to work on pursuing other, less costly plans, but seeing as how Congress is probably scheduling appointments to review whether wrestling is real and appointing a committee to decide exactly how awesome the last season of LOST is going to be, NASA probably shouldn't hold their breath on this whole "averting Armageddon" thing.
♥ And even if nature, fate, and God don't conspire to seal our fates with a giant rock kiss, we just might do it ourselves. Carl Sagan, in his book Pale Blue Dot, reasoned that any method capable of turning meteors away from Earth could ultimately be just as effective at rerouting otherwise harmless asteroids toward us. Sagan thought that since political leaders are all basically batshit insane, Earth will be at greater risk from a man-made impact than from anything naturally occurring. So he believed that by introducing ideas meant to avert disaster, we would actually give the bad guys some ideas to invite that same disaster. As if to prove his point, the Soviet Union read his theories and immediately set about work on Project: Ivan's Hammer, a military operation whose sole purpose was the complete weaponization of space by steering incoming asteroids toward specific global targets. Sagan was immediately struck dead by the irony.
♥ Events with a Probability of About 1 in 45,000
Stubbing both toed in the same day on the same thing.
Finding a $20 bill on the street.
Winning fifth prize on Scratch-it.
All life on Earth being blown to holy shit by an asteroid twenty years from now.
♥ But I digress; worrying about robots because of their sheer numbers is idiocy. To pose any sort of credible threat, robots have to possess three attributes that we have thus far limited or denied them: autonomy - the ability to function on their own, independent of human assistance for power or repairs; immorality - the desire or impulse to harm humans; and ability - because in order to kill us, they have to be able to take up in a fight. As long as we keep checks on these three things, robots will be unable, unwilling, or just too incompetent to seriously harm our species. Too bad the best minds in science are already breaking all three in the name of "advancing human understanding," which is scientist speak for "shits and giggles".
♥ The robots would have to be more effective fighters and hunters than we already are in order to do away with us, and that doesn't just mean weapons. Anything can be equipped with nearly any weapon, and a robot with a chain saw is no more inherently deadly than a squirrel with a chain saw - it's all in the ability to use it. It's like they say: Give a squirrel a chain saw, you run for a day. Teach a squirrel to chain saw, and you run forever. And we're handing those metaphorical chain saws to those metaphorical squirrels like it's National Trade Your Nuts for Blades Day.