Monday, May 23, 2016

We are all Louis Slotin

 An award--and a few months later, a fatal slip.
"At 3:20 PM on Tuesday, May 21, 1946, Louis Slotin's hand slipped-- a small, practically insignificant blunder, except that Slotin was the chief -bomb builder at Los Alamos, and at that fateful moment he held in his hands a plutonium bomb core named "Rufus".  The slip caused a chain reaction that in turn released a deadly "prompt burst" of radiation.  Slotin and others saw a blue glow and felt a momentary flux of heat on their faces.  Slotin flung the shell to the floor but it was too late. The damage was done.  In the milliseconds it took for the plutonium to spit its deadly neutrons, Louis Slotin became a walking dead man."  -Paul Mullin
Slotin was 35 when he saw that blue flash, the beginning of a long few day as he burned from the inside out.

Hubris, confidence, arrogance, laziness, cleverness, humanness.

We are all Louis Slotin, pushing edges, trusting our senses, our muscles, over the power we coalesced. It is why we are the dominant species, and also why we will not be on this planet much longer than the wink of a stegosaurus's eye.

We name plutonium bomb cores.
We worship dead humans.
We forget who we are.

You are no more (or less) gifted than the earthworm a few yards away from you, churning through the soil, eating, fucking, being.

If you teach science, technology, marksmanship, political science, or anything else that entrusts humans with power, remember Louis Slotin in your prayers, if you still pray.

The earthworm will be here long after we are gone.

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