Some Things to Worry About
Is it ghoulish of me to collect items like these? I suppose so. But somehow
they help me keep a humorous perspective whenever I find myself beginning
to worry about something. Here are some things which you can really
A Tornado Hitting a Hazardous Waste Site - Amy Lee Wyatt, a researcher
at the University of Oklahoma, traces the patterns of tornado debris. Accoring
to The Boston Sunday Globe, "the record is held by a sack of Kansas
flour, moved 110 miles in 1915. But pieces of paper have been carried more
than 200 miles..." Ms. Wyatt explains that "'Part of the reason behind
the research was that we may be able to come up with the fallout pattern
in cases of hazardous waste. ... We're working on articles right now that
would be of use to forecasters if a tornado were to hit a hazardous waste
site,' scattering toxic chemicals, radioactive material and medical waste..."
November 26, 1995, p. 10 More...
Falling Airliner Debris - "Like cars losing hub caps and mufflers
on the freeways, airplanes periodically shed objects such as aluminum skins,
access panels, fuselage doors, hot turbine blades, frozen sewage, cowlings,
engine cones and even whole engines. Hurtling towards earth at hundreds
of miles per hour, such fallout has punched gaping holes in roofs, crushed
cars, plunged into crowded swimming pools, smashed school desks, showered
people with human waste and set houses on fire." The Boston Sunday Globe,
November 26, 1995, p. 24.
Strange Matter - "If you have trouble sleeping, you don't want to
know about the physicist's worst nightmare: an atom smasher produces a
new form of matter even more stable than everyday protons and neutrons,
thereby triggering a cataclysmic, self-sustaining reaction that consumes
the earth." There is believed to be no risk of this from any existing accelerator,
however, because conditions more extreme than the ones they create already
arise from cosmic ray collisions. Scientific American, August 1993,
p. 17. More...
Killer Bees - "Africanized bees (Apis mellifera scutellata)
are descendants of a group of queens that were brought to Brazil in 1956
from South Africa... Moving north at a rate of many tens of miles a year,
they have totally displaced European bees in their path. They have already
reached Texas, and it is believed that they will reach a northern limit
in mid-California in the West and North Carolina in the East, by about
1997." Unlike European bees, "an Africanized colony will explode into hundreds
or thousands of enraged bees at the slightest provocation. Such attacks
killed 100 people in Venezuela in 1978. In one incident in Costa Rica in
1986, a hiker evidently disturbed a colony, then caught his foot in a crack
in a rock while trying to run away. His body was found later - with 8,000
stings." The Boston Globe, March 12, 1992. The first person killed
by Africanized bees in the U.S. was an 82-year-old rancher named Lino Lopez,
according to a Globe story on July 20, 1993, p. 3. More...
Radioacticity from Burning Coal - "In 1982 ... U.S. coal-burning
power plants .. released 801 tons of uranium and 1,971 tons of thorium
into the environment... Roughly 11,371 pounds of the uranium was U-235.
Ironically, in 1982, 111 U.S. nuclear power plants used 540 tons of nuclear
fuel to generate electricity. Thus, 'the release of nuclear components
from coal combustion far exceeds the entire U.S. consumption of nuclear
fuels.'" So concluded researcher W. Alex Gabbard, in work reported in Science
News, October 1, 1994, p. 223.
The "Moth Effect" - "In 1988 in the state of Illinois, more than
54,000 drivers collided with cars parked legally on the side of the road.
Such roadside collisions occurred, on average, once every 7-1/2 minutes
- and most happened during good weather on straight, dry roads, with drivers
not impaired by alcohol or medication." The reason was the so-called "moth
effect" - "the tendency of drivers to focus on an object outside their
intended path of travel and steer involuntarily into it." AAA World,
April, 1992, p. 6.
Terrorism Using Stolen Russian Nuclear Material - "Roughly 800 to
1,200 tons of highly enriched uranium and another 200 tons of plutonium,"
enough to make 100,000 nuclear weapons, "are held in a vast nuclear 'archipelago'
of several hundred sites, including storage depots, navy bases, and abandoned
civilian research labs--most of which have less security than any major
U.S. airport." So say Graham Allison, Owen Cote, Richard Falkenrath and
Stephen Miller in Avoiding
Nuclear Anarchy: Containing the Threat of Loose Russian Nuclear Weapons
and Fissile Material (MIT Press 1996). The book contends that stolen
nuclear material will sooner or later become the terrorist weapon of choice,
unless the United States buys the material (for $30 billion) before it
Fake ATMs - In 1993 a group of computer-literate thieves set up
a bogus automatic teller machine in a shopping mall in Manchester Connecticut.
The machine dispensed money for a time, but then ran out. "While customers
were using the machine, the ATM recorded their account numbers and personal
identification codes... The thieves then made counterfeit bank cards encoded
with account information and used them to withdraw money" from other ATMs.
Boston Globe, May 12, 1993.
Rogue Weather Balloons - "Rogue balloon nearing Norway.
Oslo - A balloon
as tall as a 25-story building moved toward Norwegian airspace last
night, after jet fighters from three countries were unable to bring it
down. The balloon, which if deflated would cover an area equal to
five football fields, broke out of control after being launched last Monday
from the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, to measure ozone levels.
Commercial air traffic over the North Atlantic had to be rerouted to avoid
the helium-filled balloon. Two Canadian CF-18
fighters fired more than 1,000 cannon rounds at it off the coast of Newfoundland
on Thursday. Two Nimrod
aircraft from Britain's Royal Air Force shadowed the balloon on Saturday
before a US Orion
plane took up the chase. (Reuters)" The Boston Globe,
August 31, 1998, p. A8.