Tag: Oxygen

Day 1000: How It Ends

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Inside this cubicle the air is thick as honey, with asphyxiating flecks of the mundane bracing against the irrefutable promise of a golden weekend. Outside these pin-cushion partitions – and indeed inside as well – every tiny molecule in the universe is saying its goodbyes to its neighbors and preparing to splash into the unknown permutations of a distant someday. My fingers hammer at these tiny plastic letters, fully ignorant of what’s to come.

Or are they? The hallowed fingers of esteemed science – no doubt similar in size and shape to my own, only tasked with a far more specific purpose – have combed back the hair of the observable now and picked at the scalp-nits of projection. The fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics, and a cabinet full of –ologies have given us a map of what’s to come. A timeline of time’s last hurrah.

And the best part? If any of these predictions are wrong, every record of them will likely be destroyed before anyone finds out. That’s my kind of science.

Genetics-1

Within 10,000 years, human genetic variation will no longer be regionalized. This won’t mean we’ll all look the same – the blonde gene will still speckle crowds and set up offensive jokes, but it will be distributed equally worldwide. This forecasted panmixia is far more optimistic than astrophysicist Brandon Carter’s Doomsday Argument, which places our present at roughly the halfway point of humankind’s civilized journey, and projects a 95% likelihood that we’ll be wholly extinct in 10,000 years.

If global warming hasn’t already soaked us into a Kevin Costner-esque hellscape by then, we may also be facing the melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which will raise the sea levels by 3 or 4 meters above wherever it will be once we lose the rest of the polar ice caps, which should happen long before then.

Long term forecast: buy a big-ass boat. Read more…

Day 816: Gettin’ High Off Last Week’s Munchies

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If there is one constant in human nature – and I hope there’s more than one, or I’ll never again be able to employ this opening – it’s that people love to get high. Some get their highs from adrenaline, others from religious fulfillment, and still others simply from exhuming the joyous moments from the depths of every waking moment. For the rest of us, we have other options.

I’m not one to judge another person’s form of escapism, unless that escapism somehow infringes upon my life. If your intake of bath salts instills a desire to consume my flesh as though it were made from Doritos, we have a problem. If your eleventh Jaeger-bomb has convinced you that you’re just fine to drive home despite the fact that your keys feel “fuzzy” in your fingertips, that ain’t right. But if you can get high while posing a danger only to yourself, simply because you feel the need for a swizzled splash of tweaked consciousness, I say go for it.

Even if that splash comes from a polyethylene bag of human poop.

Hey, we’ve all been there. Well, maybe not there, but we’ve all… actually no, most of us have never been anywhere near there. I might have to rethink my lack of judginess on this one. If jenkem is your thing, you really might need to re-evaluate your life.

Jenkem

I’m just going to lay this out there. Jenkem is an inhalant drug, created solely from the stench of fermented human waste. I don’t know the backstory of the first person to have discovered this – though I would certainly tune in for the TV movie based on his or her journey – but for a period in the mid 1990’s, jenkem was all the rage among street children in Zambia. You see, parents? Take away your kids’ Playstations and they’ll have nothing to do but run around in the street and huff doody.

The human waste is scraped from pipes or scooped up from the fringes of the sewer ponds into old cans or containers. The mere fact that these pipes and sewer ponds are so easily accessible to passers-by already bumps Zambia way down near the bottom of my travel bucket-list, alongside North Korea, any place currently at war, and Regina, Saskatchewan. Read more…

Day 745: Mind Over Brain Matter

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It is more than a little discomforting to imagine the center of one’s universe of perception, that grey squishy head-gloop that defines for us our life, our world and our being, getting plopped onto a table and poked by scientists in search of some glimmer of truth within the think-meat. Certainly I’m fully in favor of organ donation, either for life-saving or sciencey purposes. But no sense of morality is mighty enough to quash my nagging squirminess about my inevitable demise.

Nowadays it’s easy to feel secure in our medical knowledge of the brain. We count on it. Maybe we aren’t yet equipped with the tomes of knowledge that will eradicate our diseases and prolong our existences until whenever, but we should know how things work up there, right? But to get to this point, a lot of skulls had to be cracked open and a lot of eyes had to squint at what was inside.

Sometimes those skulls belonged to famous people. And sometimes the quest for knowledge was not at the front of the list of ‘why’s. Knowing this only makes me feel that much more squeamish.

EinsteinBrain

This particular slab of beige jelly once bopped along beneath the frantic trademark hair of Albert Einstein. When the great physicist expired in 1955, scientists were swiftly removing this cerebral steak from his dome within seven hours, presumably with Einstein’s prior consent. Even with most of the brain’s topography mapped out in extensive detail, the physical construction of a brain this exquisite was bound to pique a truck-full of curiosity. Was some component of this thing going to be larger or more robust than average? Or did he just master the goods that the rest of us also have? Read more…

Day 678: Alas, The Cheese Hath Been Cut

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Oh but for the crack of a wicked breeze, to damn the olfactory to the fleeting abyss of that which was wrought through the machinations of yesterday’s cabbagey broth. I fail to suppress this rumbling squeak and for that my fellow rail patrons afford me a banquet of scowls and derision.

Yet I question their condemnation. For this? Is this a trespass so egregious, so horrifically in opposition to our modernized civility that it warrants ostracization? Must I quell my internal commotion with flatus-flaying charcoal or bismuth? Does not my active participation in the betterment of our culture, our collective totemic documentation of societal touchstones allow me the leniency to unleash only the most irrepressible and urgent flutterings of gaseous… oh wait. Never mind. That one was just awful – wow, I’m sorry everyone. Anyone carrying any air freshener? Lysol? Whew! Crack that window!

However high we may perceive our own brow, the unavoidable fact is that everybody farts.

Isn't that the title of Weird Al Yankovic's version of "Everybody Hurts" by REM? If not, it should be.

Isn’t that the title of Weird Al Yankovic’s version of “Everybody Hurts” by REM? If not, it should be.

Fermentation is a wonky matter. In a vat burgeoning with yeast, malt, hops, water, and the hopelessly magical interminglings of these ingredients, fermentation produces the holiest of nectars: beer. In the shadowy alleyways of the colon, that process spits out comedy, crudeness or embarrassment, depending on the situation. Over 99% of our aft output consists of gases which are harmless to one’s olfactory nerve, innocuous clouds of nitrogen, oxygen, CO2, methane and hydrogen. To force a topical western societal parallel, it’s the 1% that run the show. And it’s the 1% that mess everything up. Read more…

Day 404: Fire Down Below – The Fried Foundation of Centralia, PA

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In researching this 404-day-old project, I have had the opportunity to explore the world, all from the comfort of my computer screen (so, you know, without actually having to leave the comfort of on my ass). Some locales (the island of Nauru) I’m almost curious enough to want to visit in person. Others (Ellef Ringnes Island in the Canadian Arctic), not so much. Still there are others that might just outright kill you.

This brings me to today’s article, and to a quiet little slab of the Australian outback. This place isn’t notable for the snakes, crocs and spiders who will kill you there – and believe me, they’d love to – but more for what would happen if you decided to build yourself a little hobbit-hole underground. You see, the ground underneath this particular mountain is on fire.

BurningMountain

About 224 kilometers (139 miles, over 122,000 fathoms if you’re into that) north from Sydney along the New England Highway, you’ll find a turn-off for the Burning Mountain Nature Reserve. Original settlers used to think it was an underground volcano, which would make life understandably more precarious and exciting. In fact it’s just a coal fire. Specifically, a coal fire that has been burning for about six thousand years.

The only top-side evidence of this natural phenomenon is the presence of a few smoke plumes popping up from the ground like poorly-extinguished campfires. If you aren’t already in Australia, this attraction ain’t worth the trip. Read more…

Day 231: Henry Thomas Lights Up

If you have a weak stomach, you might not want to read today’s article. Maybe flip back a day and read about the wild wackiness of the Golden Girls. This is going to get ugly.

Much like alien abductions, unexplained tales of the paranormal, and the wide appeal of Tyler Perry’s oeuvre of work, spontaneous human combustion has always fascinated me. Meet Henry Thomas:

Henry had a particularly bad day in 1980. Alone in his south Wales home, he settled into his easy chair, slid his slippers off his feet, took his glasses off to watch some TV, then promptly incinerated. Is it in poor taste to wonder if the last thing he watched was one of those Athlete’s Foot cream commercials in which the sufferer’s feet are shown as being on fire?

Very much so, yes.

All that remained of Henry was his skull and a piece of each leg below the knee. His socks and pant legs were still in place. Half his chair had melted, so had a few of his television knobs across the room. Televisions back then had knobs – I skew to a younger demographic so I feel I have to point this out. Read more…