Today’s guest post comes from Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.
In my work as a PDA (Professional Downside Anticipator), I constantly ask people to stop and carefully consider the variety of bad things that could happen before they choose to take one action or another. For this I am often criticized. People call me a spoilsport, a doomsayer, a sourpuss, a Cassandra and a worrywart.
As they belittle me, I ask them to consider this: if I turn out to be right about even ONE of my dire predictions, their attitude about my warning will place them squarely in the role of that character who appears in every science-based horror film – the one who dismisses the strange object in the crater made by the meteorite, the weird gelatinous substance found near the scene, the unusual young man who has no emotions, and the ruthless millionaire’s brain kept in a jar, saying they are “… nothing to worry about. There is no danger. Return to your homes”.
That person is the first one to be eaten by the mole people.
I find myself in that position again today with news that the Russians have finally broken through to the submerged surface of Lake Vostok in Antarctica. The lake is buried under miles of ice. Whatever is in it hasn’t been free to move about the planet for 20 million years. How can this be good? The Russians say they hope to find microbes in the water that have never been encountered by humankind.
I say, “Great scott, what if they find microbes that have never been encountered by humankind?”
These are educated people. Surely they know what happened to the tribes of North America when the microbe-laden Europeans arrived. Certainly they have seen the sort of movie I described, where an ancient horror is unleashed on an unsuspecting world by careless scientific inquiry.
Robin Bell, a glaciologist from Columbia University told the Associated Press: “It’s like exploring another planet, except this one is ours.” Robin Bell is exactly the sort of name a movie character has when he or she begins with a firm belief in the scientific project, and then slowly comes to realize what a terrible scourge has been unleashed on an unsuspecting world. “Glaciologist” is precisely the type of scientific discipline that character practices – legitimate sounding and yet a little quirky. Not your typical brainiac. Robin Bell ultimately winds up as the only person who can save humanity by rappelling down the ice shaft carrying a pocket-sized hydrogen bomb that must be placed directly under the creature’s nest. Robin Bell survives, but only after scads of walk-on characters with no names (you and me) perish.
It concerns me very much that there’s already a scientist named Robin Bell in this story.
I know people will not believe me when I say this because I have a reputation as a scold, but please, I beg you – “Seal up Lake Vostok!” Take this good advice from me right now, or wait until Robin Bell is forced to say the very same thing, as a gentle rain falls on a blasted, smoldering landscape.
What have you opened that you immediately wished you could close again?