If there's one thing I don't need, it's another reason to worry. Which is why I'm watching a NOVA episode about mass extinction, deadly flu pandemics, robots programmed with human emotions, and ancient papyruses with food stains all over them.
I typed this while I was watching so forgive me if it suddenly makes no sense at all, that's just me FREAKING OUT about some NOVA fact that will inevitably be featured in one of my 4 a.m. disaster scenarios where my family and I struggle for survival, perhaps in the midst of a papyrus-borne flu epidemic that was started by the creepy
Whoa! Animated dying dinosaurs! I have to make my five-year-old son watch this later.
Okay, maybe that's kind of a perverse impulse on my part, but why should I be the only one awake at 4 a.m.?
Nothing goes better with bones and dirt than a spaghetti western soundtrack. Sergio Leone taught us that.
There have been five major extinctions in the last 600 million years, did you know that? Man, all I heard about was that last one when all the dinosaurs went kablooie.
That was in the Cretaceous Era, thank you, narrator.
I love watching huge chunks of space rock hurtle toward earth.
It's not just an archeological dig, it's a crime scene! NOVA reframes my perspective once again.
The Siberian Traps = enormous field of evil Permian-era (250 million years ago) volcanoes that oozed lava for a million years and smothered an area the size of the U.S. in an ocean of lava a mile deep.
OOZED LAVA FOR A MILLION YEARS AND SMOTHERED AN AREA THE SIZE OF THE U.S. IN AN OCEAN OF LAVA A MILE DEEP.
I don't think it can get any worse than that.
Okay, I'm back. Science, science, science...greenhouse gases warmed the earth, heated the ocean, warm water can't hold onto oxygen...
Basically, the end of the Permian Era smelled of rotten eggs.
Groucho Marx sends us out with "Hello I Must Be Going" and I need a hug.
PART TWO: AVIAN FLU
The nightmare continues.
The pandemic of 1918 killed 50 million people worldwide. My grandfather had that flu but he got over it, obviously, or you wouldn't be reading this, duh.
Preserved tissue samples of World War I soldiers -- what the hell? Who decided to store old soldier bits in a bunch of shoeboxes at the CDC?
So they take the WWI tissue samples, reverse-engineer the deadly 1918 flu virus, give it to some mice, and watch them die three days later.
Keep your hazmat suits on, ladies!
Most flu viruses attack the upper respiratory organs and stay high in the lungs. Good to know. But the 1918 flu virus went down deep in the lungs, effectively suffocating the victims.
Avian flu does the same thing.
Does that hazmat suit come in a size 12?
Look at that fuzzy little flu particle! It's way too cute to kill anyone, and it only has eight genes.
Oh, he's going to eat a cloud.
QUIT MUTATING! AIIEEEEEEE!
What's with the old-timey fake Chinese font on the "Hong Kong" title? I thought we as a people had grown beyond racist font usage.
Look at all the pretty test tubes and look at all the smart people sitting around making lethal flu viruses. Look out! I bet Klaus Maria Brandauer and his henchman are already on their way.
Robots that learn the way people do? I am not sure I want the robot with human teeth, furry donkey ears, anime eyeballs, and black lipstick offering me that hug.
Oh, okay, the babylike features were intended "to draw people into a social relationship" with it. It then analyzes the emotional intent of those speaking to it and comes up with the appropriate response on its little Gremlin face.
Okay, it's genius, but this is one of those things that I can't imagine have any practical application in my own life. Which means someone will find a way to make it indispensable.
Yes, as a companion for children in hospitals, they're on it already.
This other one has skin that's sensitive to touch and temperature and understands the difference between being bounced and being shaken.
God, the woman who invented these things is so smart, I hope her life's work doesn't end up as a loss-leader at Toys R Us.
Salvaging bits of ancient papyrus, reading them. A 2,000-year-old bit of Homer's "Odyssey" found in a city dump in Egypt.
Fresh papyrus plants are very green!
Cut it into strips, layer them over each other, pound them down, and voila.
Man, some of those ancient people had gorgeous penmanship.
What are they digging up? Marriage contracts, divorce contracts, hate mail, dinner invitations, letters home.
Now it's all covered in food scraps and mummy paint.
Multi-spectral imaging, developed by NASA to see through clouds of gas in space, then a scholar at JPL decided to apply the process to reading semi-destroyed ancient texts.
I like when a man can pull off wearing a bow tie.
Ye olde ink was made of soot.
Five hundred thousand papyrus fragments stored at Oxford University -- they can't read them but they can't throw them away.
Good lord, it looks like the last scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," all those boxes piled up and being ignored. There could be another gospel in there, just crumbling to bits.
A gospel that foresees how the world ends: by crumbling to bits. After the robot-engineered flu epidemic.