(Two pots of coffee later,)
We say a microwave "nukes" food because we can't see how it happens. We understand heating elements because they're like hot rocks, but microwaves are voodoo and they take engineers to understand and maybe they can kill you if you take them apart. Like by melting your brain. Just by plugging it in. You don't even have to touch its guts.
So it's like anything Atomic. See how much the world changed when we entered the atomic era with the Bomb and the promise of cheap unlimited energy? All because tiny things you can't see are suddenly really important in daily life, and they're housed in very large concrete buildings with high security and national secrets.
We had been doing pretty well up to this point. Under Francis Bacon's tutelage we had been beating back superstition with reasoned discovery. Everyone had a car and a telephone and a radio, and anyone who cared could figure it out on their day off. Now suddenly magic was back, and at the heart of science. Scientists went from being obscure engineering types to being a priesthood of alchemy again. Saying "nuke the coffee" shows we still think that way. What's changed is now we deal with it by cynicism, since we can't make it familiar by knowing.
I think I just said a society's cynicism is proportional to how little it understands how things work.
We're in trouble.
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© 2000 Owen Briggs
last modified on 21 June 2000