Adventures in Learning #4

1 Jun

My last stop on The World Without Us learning express! These facts blew my mind grapes:

– There are entire cities hollowed out beneath the Cappadocia region in Turkey, dating back to Biblical times. One underground reverse skyscraper goes down at least 18 stories and could hold 30,000 ancient people. Short people, obvs, but still. And horses!

– Vulcanized rubber creates a tire that is actually made out of one single molecule (yeah, I’m still having trouble grasping this one). That’s why they can’t be melted down into something else – they have to be physically shredded or destroyed.

– Ever heard of the WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) In New Mexico, where the U.S. stores its deadliest nuclear waste? The toxic materials are locked away carefully, but as Weisman writes, “A century, however, would make little difference to uranium and plutonium residues whose half-lives start at 24,000 years and keep going.” Translation: this stuff has life destroying potential for what may as well be forever in human terms. “The U.S. Department of Energy is legally required to dissuade anyone from coming too close for the next 10,000 years.” Try saying that with a straight face. And:

After discussing the fact that human languages mutate so fast that they’re almost unrecognizable  after 500 or 600 years, it was decided to post warnings in seven of them anyway, plus pictures. These will be incised on 25-foot high, 20-ton granite monuments and repeated on nine-inch discs of fired clay and aluminum oxide, randomly buried throughout the site. […] The whole thing will be surrounded by a 33-foot-tall earthen berm a half-mile square, embedded with magnets and radar reflectors to give every possible signal to the future that something lurks below.

Well, we’ve had a good time together, Weisman. You managed to discuss the most depressing topic ever in a surprisingly non-terrifying way. Hell, I was almost rooting for us to disappear so that cats can rule Manhattan and aliens can find our biohazard symbols.

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4 Responses to “Adventures in Learning #4”

  1. Buried In Print June 1, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    I hope you’ve scared a few people into wanting to read this one; I’m not usually so engrossed by a non-fiction book but I read this one compulsively and your having reminded me of so many fascinating bits only makes me want to re-read (because, sadly, I forgotten most of them).

  2. Lija June 2, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    Thanks for stopping by on my periodic love-ins for this book! It definitely got me onto a bit of a non-fiction phase (mostly sciencey though). I even subscribed to Wired, for God’s sake. Who do I think I am?

  3. Tom C June 4, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    I am definitely intrigued by the reverse sky scraper. However did they get ventilation and waste disposal to work? Fascinating facts indeed

    • Lija June 9, 2010 at 11:00 am #

      Seriously. I probably should have included Wikipedia links to things here, since that’s where I ended up every time I read something as unbelievable as this.

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