Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Thoughts at 4:33am

As an adventurer I spend some time on internet forums dedicated to outdoors activities. Invariably someone on one of these forums always makes a statement about how, "Mankind is the only creature that poisons his own environment.". Being the scientist that I am I have to correct this person and point out that three billion years ago the anaerobic bacteria managed to wipe themselves out after they excreted enough oxygen to screw up their cellular functioning. The usual response is, "That doesn't count, it was way back then. Only man destroys his environment now!". To which I respond, "What about beer or wine?". The alcohol in beer and wine is a by-product (aka doo-do) of yeast breaking down sugar (aka fermentation). The alcohol content of these drinks can only get to about 14% (28 proof) before the alcohol kills the yeast. In other words, the yeast excreted enough poison to destroy its environment's ability to support life (and at the same time  it made a tasty beverage!).

Okay, so I'm thinking these about these arguments while driving into work at 4:30am when suddenly I had a thought. What if the Earth was just a fermentation vessel for some super-being and us human are just its yeast? Perhaps this super-being finds the mix of Styrofoam and carbon dioxide to be a delicious and intoxicating drink? You know what? For some reason I'd be okay with that.

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