Nuclear semiotics

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Do you want to read an entire paragraph about people staring at flowers? Thought so.
Do you want to read an entire paragraph about people staring at flowers? Thought so.
====The Pragmatic Approach====

Revision as of 03:12, August 12, 2011

Imagine this: you are a hungry scavenger desperately searching for food, water, and shelter in the crumbling ruins of an advanced civilization. Do try to ignore the urge to picture yourself as attractive in this hypothetical situation. You scan your environment, smelling the air with your freakishly large nose, to sense if there's any danger nearby. You sense nothing out of the ordinary, and you and your equally brutish friends continue to wander the wasteland, studying the horizon for any sign of a safe haven. After many hours, you almost give up when a strange shape appears from afar. You and your compatriots decide to walk towards this strange shape, and after awhile, the small dot from far away becomes larger until you realize the shape was actually a door. Unlike other doors, this one was large and metallic, and wasn't connected to a building, but the face of a large mountain; this confuses your primitive brain, and you begin to grunt and yelp. You eventually realize that the door is not a living creature, as it did not respond to your mating call. Scrutinizing the door, you see a mysterious symbol. Though faded over thousands of years, you can still see it, and some strange markings from long ago beneath it.


This place is a message… and part of a system of messages… pay attention to it! Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture. This place is not a place of honor…no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here… nothing valued is here. What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger. The danger is in a particular location… it increases toward a center… the center of danger is here… of a particular size and shape, and below us. The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours. The danger is to the body, and it can kill. The form of the danger is an emanation of energy. The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.


You stand next to the message, perplexed by the unusual sign. You try to decipher the meaning of the triangular symbol, but to no avail. You think to yourself in an alien tongue, "Why is the man running away from the giant, disembodied skull, and why is there a faulty propeller above them?" The text below the sign poses an even larger challenge to you: you know that the text was the language of the advanced civilization that died off thousands of years before, but no one in your group, much less in the entire world, can understand it. Using your freakishly long tongue, you signal one of your compatriots to the front of the door and ask him to read the ancient text beneath the symbol, in case he might be a time-travelling linguist. He studies the exotic words carefully for several minutes, touching it, and at one point, licking the letters. He nods at your direction, and you motion the rest of your gang to open the metal door. Your friend says the writings tell of a delicious buffet hidden on the other side of the door, and he can almost smell the aroma of roasted turducken.

Enticed by his descriptions of delicious rice pilaf and stuffed mushrooms, you order the group to push the door with all their might. The massive metal door doesn't budge despite your group's best efforts. Exasperated, you think to yourself, "I guess I should've pulled the lever". You find the lever to the side of the door, push it down, and, with a satisfying 'clack', it goes into place. Suddenly, the door starts to move on its own, pushing your friends backwards. You wait anxiously for the door to open completely, and you hear the whirring of machines and clashing metal. After waiting for thirty painful seconds, the door grinds to a screeching halt. Peering into the now revealed room, you are disappointed to find not food, but large drums with the same propeller insignia at their sides. Disappointment turns into curiosity as you ponder the contents of the drums: maybe the builders of this room hid their food in the containers to hide them from hungry scavengers! "Clever. But not clever enough!" You say in an alien language, as you take your crowbar and start hacking into one of the drum's metal hull.

After much whacking, you manage to pierce the metal hull, but instead of a delicious treat, all you find are glowing green fuel rods. Curious, you take a hearty bite, only for your teeth and jaw to fall out. Wordplay at its cruelest. Your friends, who had gathered around you, scream in terror before experiencing adverse effects as well. One of your companions' arms horrifically mutate into massive pincers, and another one of your men begin to horrifically mutate, their skin peeling away into strips before revealing an unearthly, sponge like frame. You, now jawless, try to crawl out of the room, but your giant, alien head impedes your movement, and you spend the final moments of your agonizing life in a hole. Congratulations! You've just killed yourself and all the ones you loved and inadvertently mutated them into horrific monsters. You should be given a medal for your service to the gene pool.

Now, imagine yourself as a scientist working with others to keep the previous hypothetical you from opening the door and endangering yourself. Try not to think about that too much. You envision the previous hypothetical situation as you brainstorm ways of stopping humans in the far future from disturbing radioactive waste depositories, and for some reason, you (and everyone involved in this enterprise) think that future humans are complete and utter morons. Others around you think up of other ideas of telling descendants of the dangers of the past, but each solution brought up gets shot down by possible and/or probable misunderstandings. Rubbing your forehead, this conundrum confuses you, and expresses loudly the difficulties of Nuclear semiotics. The thought experiment involving the scavengers from the future opening the door isn't realistic, but it does bring up important issues that need addressing. Over the past decades, man has accumulated tons of radioactive waste, whether it be from bombs, bomb testing, or plants to make bombs, and since radioactive waste refuses to stop unashamedly showering everything near it with unwanted photons, our descendants will have to face the mistakes of the past, lest they threaten the future. Sadly, we cannot predict what will happen thousands of years into the future, and we cannot be sure whether our descendants can properly deal with the radioactive baggage that their idiotic ancestors have hoarded. As such, nuclear semiotics is needed to warn future humans of the dangers of radioactive waste, and why they should avoid it.

Nuclear semiotics was created in 1981 by a group of "engineers, anthropologists, nuclear physicists, behavior scientists and others" hired by the U.S Department of Energy and Bechtel Corp. The Human Interference Task Force as they were called, were hired to figure out ways to tell of the dangers of radioactive waste to descendants, and they had to face several problems involved with communicating messages through long time spans. No one can guarantee that any institution would still exist to preserve scientific knowledge of nuclear radiation, and languages and writing spoken today could already be illegible thousands of years into the future; the language of the Sumerians has yet to be fully understood, as it existed many years ago. Three main ideas had to be expressed in the message sent to the future:

  1. That it is a message at all
  2. That in a certain location dangerous material is stored
  3. information about the type of the dangerous substances

The Human Interference Task Force formed several ideas that could be implemented to spread the message of the dangers of nuclear waste depositories, such as...

The Atomic Priesthood


One idea proposed by the task force was the Atomic Priesthood. No, it wasn't a crime fighting team of mutated Bishops, but a panel of experts that would tell future generations of the dangers of radiation. Over the years, the experts (or "priests") in the Atomic Priesthood would be replaced by others, passing the knowledge of radiation over many thousands of years. The Priests would gain popularity and prominence for their secrets of the ancient past, and would tell others mythical stories about the dangers of nuclear waste. Religion has existed for thousands of years, and converting Radiation safety into a religious magistrate espousing the dangers of Gamma rays makes perfect sense as a means of assuring longevity of the message, but not so much as a means of preserving human dignity.


High Lord Sir Röntgen the Fourth, perched in a balcony, surveyed the crowd as he was preparing to begin the timeless daily ceremony that had been performed for thousands of years. A massive crowd had gathered beneath him as he did the ceremonial dance, wildly trashing his cleansing stick whilst his arms flailed about in a ragdoll fashion. Euphoric, the crowd joined in the elderly man's dance. The worshipers wildly flailed their limbs while the priest performed his daily aerobic exercise routine; he wondered why they always joined him in his exercise, but it mattered little to him at the moment. After much dancing, the priest started the Holy Cleansing ritual. Taking the Holy Stick of Saint Geiger, he waved it around for the whole world to see. The crowd cheered in ecstasy as the they began the purification: the people would chant an ancient phrase of an ancient tongue, jump up and down to mimic the actions of a mutated antelope, and inject several doses of Rad-Away into their bloodstreams. Then, the priest preached in the sacred language of the Holy Split Atom Gods: English. The crowd turned silent as they listened to olden words. Though they knew every sound of the sermon, they didn't have any idea what it meant; they were not worthy, as only a priest of the Atomic Priesthood could possibly understand its words. The priest proclaimed, in a solemn tone, fitting of a holy man, "Nuclear waste depositories are located at these coordinates: 36° 56′ 24.76″ N, 116° 29′ 6.02″ W; 32° 22′ 18″ N, 103° 47′ 37″ W. Avoid areas at all costs! Dangerous radioactive materials stored there." The massive crowd was enthralled, cheering and yelling, knowing that they have pleased the Split Atom Gods once again.

Green, Glowing Cats!


Cats have been humans' no.2 animal companion for hundreds of years, and hopefully for many more hundreds of years to come. Excluding a disastrous cat pandemic which causes a massive cat genocide, these furry felines will be with humanity in future generations. Another idea (which uses the species' longevity) proposed by the Human Interference Task Force is to use the humble cat as a means to spread knowledge of dangerous radiation, rather than just annoying ticks. Other than the possibility of recreating a feline version of A Boy and his Dog, cats also have the startling advantage of being cute, cuddly, and genetically modifiable. The cats' DNA could be changed to glow when near radiation, and act as a sort of living Geiger counter. Mimicking Egyptian mythology, the "powers" of the cat would be revered through rituals, myths, songs, and carefully orchestrated dance.


Mr. Cuddlesworth always followed his master, Al, wherever he went. Every adventure, tragedy, and journey Al endured, his faithful cat Mr. Cuddlesworth was sure to be by his side. Ever since the village chief gave Al her cat during the coming-of-age ceremony, the two had been inseparable, facing the new world with wide hopes and a curious glint in their eyes. Cuddles was (yet again) with Al, this time on a daily visit to the local water pump, which has always been inconveniently infested with giant, mutated spider-crabs. Though this journey was fraught with danger, Cuddlesworth and Al weren't afraid, for they knew they had each other, and their High-Powered Overcharged Laser Phasers. Today seemed like any other as they traversed the bug-infested wasteland, when Al spotted a strange structure about a mile away from them. she always noticed the unusual structure in the horizon every time he traveled this route, but she wasn't allowed to venture there; this only made her curious nature grow ever more unsatisfied. Seeing another opportunity to blindly loot food and ammo, and ignoring every warning from the village chief, Al diverge from her path and headed straight towards the building. Reluctant, Mr. Cuddlesworth followed his owner, but not without complaining. The cat started to glow a bright shade of green

"You know what happens when you get sidetracked, right?" said Mr. Cuddlesworth to Al telepathically. Al was shocked until she remembered that Mr. Cuddlesworth was a telepathic cat. The first time the cat "talked" to him, she nearly fainted.

Exasperated, Al replied, "You shouldn't surprise me with your mind tricks, okay? The world is strange enough as it is!" sHe noticed that his cat had turned into an unhealthy shade of green, but this didn't deter him from continuing with his new path towards the strange structure. "Now act like a good housecat, and don't question where I'm going. If I followed your advice all the time, we'd still be stuck doing errand works for slavers."

"Don't call me housecat. You know what happened last time you called me that." Mr. Cuddlesworth snarled. "Don't you notice my glowing green fur? It's obviously a sign of danger. The village chief told us that-" Al quickly interrupted the cat's thought process.

"What does the chief know? All he does is eat the best food and lounge about while the rest of us do the heavy lifting! Maybe the whole 'glowing cat warning' is merely a ruse to hide the stuff he hides from us! Probably goes there at night to fill his stomach." Al's stomach growled. She knew he hadn't eaten a full meal in weeks, but she also knew that curiosity and hunger was a dangerous combination (many a man has died from the promise of rice pilaf). Ignoring the risks of his venture, Al and her cat continued on their their DOOM!

Atomic Flowers

Now this is just getting ridiculous.

Since man discovered he could grow plants without using the spilled blood of wanton sacrificing, flowers have remained in humanity's heart as a symbol for whatever he sees fit at the moment. In different cultures, flowers represent life, death, fertility, the ideal Japanese woman, birth, enlightenment, girl power, private parts, unrequited love, or anything else that has little to nothing to do with actual flowers. Exploiting the flower's penchant for unnecessary symbolism, we can stuff even more meaning into the humble flower using genetic engineering. Genetically modified Flowers would be planted around nuclear waste sites, and their DNA would contain encoded data about the location and the dangers of radiation. The flowers would reproduce and multiply, as would its message trapped deep inside its genome. Or, you could hang a sign.


Do you want to read an entire paragraph about people staring at flowers? Thought so.

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