Week of 22 Oct 07
We have covered some ground-breaking subjects here in the past. You may recall a few years ago when we discussed the flier that was in my water bill that admonished us to not allow leaves to fall in creeks in autumn. Well, we’ve fixed that one here in Georgia—we are in such a drought that there are no creeks. The symbiotic relationship between mother nature’s drought and humankind’s urban sprawl sucking up what water we have, thus averting the pollution problem with leaves and water, would bring a tear to one’s eye if we were not so parched. Reminds me of General Jack D. Ripper (in the movie Dr. Strangelove) who said, “We must guard against the depletion of our precious bodily fluids.”
You may also recall when we covered PETS—the People for the Ethical Treatment of Steel, whose mission it is to eliminate arc welding and the trauma that may be caused by the heat in that process as the crystalline structure transforms from martensitic to austenitic and back (they prefer bolted fasteners at PETS).
Such columns come so infrequently because we must make sure we have our facts straight ensuring we live up to our self-imposed mandate to give you only the fully researched truth, no matter how inconvenient it is for our research staff (we are not sure that is a requirement for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but it is our standard here at Nip Impressions). We have done our homework, as you will see from the bibliography at the end of this column, and you are reading it here first—the news is so fresh that I have not seen it anywhere else. It is only through diligent research and determined investigation by my aides, especially Fred, that I have been able to assemble the shocking truth.
Friends, we are suffering a crisis of monstrous proportions: Global Shrinking. It has been irrefutably caused by humankind. The good news is that there are some tiny signs that it is starting to be reversed.
This may seem counter-intuitive, for one often associates warming (the news in the popular press) with expansion. We are prepared to give evidence contrary to this here and now. Apparently this crisis we have so recently discovered started about two hundred years ago and has grown exponentially since that time.
As just mentioned, a couple of hundred years ago, the primary means of transportation was horses. As an aside, according to a study done by the State of New Jersey in the early 1990’s, the mean production of horse manure per day is 51 lbs. per 1,000 pounds of live weight. This was determined by, and I am not making this up, “grab samples”1. By the way, according to the same study, this is the lowest “exhaust” per 1,000 pounds of live weight amongst a number of animals: dairy cattle, beef cattle, swine, laying chickens and broiler chickens (it would just wear one out trying to catch those grab samples from chickens, wouldn’t it?).
Further, if one looks up the statistics on the Pony Express2, one finds they averaged about 10 mph and the horses were changed every ten miles. Thus, assuming a day’s rest and a 1,500 pound horse, the horse “exhaust” was about 7.65 lbs per mile. Comparing this to the automobile’s discharge of roughly one pound of carbon dioxide per mile, one might think there has been a great improvement, particularly since the grab samples indicate (I’ll skip to the summary) only about 3.9 streptococcus colonies per mile in the horse exhaust1. Ah, for the good old days when the transportation system did not emit carbon dioxide! There were other downsides, though—around 1900, in New York City, there were apparently about 15,000 dead horses3 continuously in the streets—it wasn’t all wine and roses.
Yes, humankind invented the tools of global shrinking in roughly this order: newspaper, railroads, telegraph, automobile, radio, UPS4, airplane, television, FedEx, fax machine and internet (although it may actually have started—we don’t have the proof yet—when curlers discovered that brooms make the stones go faster). All of these apparent “improvements” must take their share of the blame for global shrinking, even if the streptococcus colonies have been reduced. In fact, we may be suffering from a shortage of streptococcus colonies (there are rumors they may be placed on the Endangered Species List). Yes, we must hang our heads in shame (until we can firmly put the blame on curlers) that our industry started the headlong rush, the now shorter rush (due to Global Shrinking), to the abyss with newsprint.
The extent of the problem was driven home to me recently as I read a biography of Albert Einstein (by Walter Isaacson)5. On page 310, it is noted that Einstein was warned by Svante Arrhenius, the Chairman of the Nobel Prize for Physics Committee, that he (Einstein) should postpone a trip to Japan starting in October 1922, because “It will probably be desirable for you to come to Stockholm in December” which would be impossible in those days before serious global shrinking (if he were already in Japan at the time). It should be noted that Einstein went to Japan anyway, being the modest man that he was. But to the point--the globe must have been much larger then, for there is no other explanation for his not being able to get to Stockholm in a short length of time.
And this supports our thesis, for what has changed since that time? The Earth, inclusive through the Ionosphere, still contains essentially the same amount of each element as it did then. Sure, we have flung a few scraps of aluminum and titanium to the moon and beyond, but these are insignificant amounts in the larger picture. We have cleverly rearranged some elements and molecules into other elements and molecules. Additionally, we have taken a few molecules from beneath the Earth's surface and thrown them into the atmosphere, but the conservation of matter still prevails. We can definitively say nothing has arrived, nothing has left the Earth in the last few centuries. Global Shrinking is the only possible explanation for Einstein's travel delimma of the 1920's.
Attempts to stop global shrinking actually started some time ago, but were not recognized as such. In the late 1960’s, early 1970’s while Britain and France jointly the developed their SST (Super Sonic Transport) ultimately manifested in the Concorde6, the US shut down a similar project on March 24, 19717, an act that serendipitously slowed Global Shrinking. The British and French finally saw the light a few years ago (the last Concorde flight was November 26, 2003), abandoning the Concorde and thus making the Atlantic Ocean just a little larger for overseas travelers. It just shows that with determination, Global Shrinking can be curbed.
In another area, while there are hopes of some promise in reducing Global Shrinking, the results are mixed. I speak of the Amish8. Their settlements are spreading (a good thing) but they have taken to riding in automobiles as long as they are driven by us non-Amish (a bad thing) which makes the apparent distance between their settlements shorter. They have found a technicality around engines, too—diesels don’t have spark plugs (hence no electricity—a no-no in their world) and they are using them with abandon, but not yet for transportation. One can drive through Amish country in the summertime and see hay bailers powered by diesel engines but pulled by horses (at 51 pounds of exhaust per animal per mile due to the slower speeds in the field and the heavier weight of draft animals). By the way, it takes four draft horses to pull a hay bailer--you do the math.
Never, fear, though, such matters have their ups and downs as we attempt to solve the crisis du jour—Global Shrinking. Just remember, you heard of Global Shrinking here first. So, do your part, walk, not ride, the next time you want to go to Disney World.
Now, I must ask that you not shrink or shirk your duties to yourself and your coworkers when it comes to safety. My goal is that you are safe and healthy, even if the Earth is reduced to the size of a ping pong ball (40mm)9.
Be safe and we will talk next week.
5Isaacson, Walter. “Einstein: His Life and Universe.” Simon & Schuster, New York, 2007.