Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Unobtainium, got any?

In his expose, "The Doomsday Scam", C.J. Chivers  does a superb job of showing how the tenacity of magical thinking is nothing deterred by its attendant absurdity. His subject is a precious, albeit — fortunately — non-existent substance called "red mercury" which would allow those who possess it to construct a "neutron bomb small enough to fit in a sandwich-size paper bag."

As Chivers puts it:

To approach the subject of red mercury is to journey into a comic-book universe, a zone where the stubborn facts of science give way to unverifiable claims, fantasy and outright magic, and where villains pursuing the dark promise of a mysterious weapon could be rushing headlong to the end of the world.

The villains Chivers discusses belong to ISIS and its suppliers, as eager for a red mercury apocalypse as fantasy sports addicts are for mega-payouts.  

He writes:

When hopeful sellers were caught, substance in hand, it reliably turned out to be something else, sometimes a placebo of chuckle-worthy simplicity: ordinary mercury mixed with dye. The shadowy weaponeer’s little helper, it was the unobtainium of the post-Soviet world.

Unobtainium it is, and must will be. (You got any?)


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