Nuclear semiotics

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DANGER
RadiationSymbol

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.

Lab Coat

Would you be so interested as to talk about the apocalypse with me, young sir or madam?

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 can't stop unashamedly showering everything around 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 our 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: that it is a message at all, that in a certain location dangerous material is stored, and information about the type of the dangerous substances stored there. 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...

edit A Sign!

RadioactiveDrum

So that's where fast food comes from! Stop groaning, damn you...

The first idea thought of, and the most obvious, is to throw up a sign and call it a day. Surely our inept descendants will be dissuaded by a giant "bugger off" sign? Unfortunately, this is almost never the case. Language has evolved over thousands of years, and despite the clamor of condescending pilkunnussija, language will continue to evolve. It would be foolish to assume that the English we speak will be the same as the English our descendants will, or that English will survive at all. Even worse is the subjectivity of symbols and signs in our modern world. We all know what the sign above the intro paragraph means, as these symbols have been constantly hammered in our receptive minds for years, but what of our descendants? A radioactive symbol would look only like a circle surrounded by three trapezoids to our future descendants, nothing more, nothing else. Who today will teach humanity the meaning of these symbols that we use to repel to future humans? Unless someone pioneers a sign that automatically kicks someone in the groin for getting too close, the usage of giant signs will have to be rejected for Nuclear semiotics.

...
A hungry scavenger desperately searches for food, water and shelter in the crumbling ruins of an advanced civilization. He scans his environment and smells the air with his freakishly large nose to sense for any danger nearby. Sensing nothing out of the ordinary, he and his equally brutish friends continue to wander the wasteland, studying the horizon for any signs of a safe haven. After many hours, the scavenger almost gives up when a strange shape appears from afar. He and his compatriots decide to walk towards the strange shape, and after awhile, the small dot from afar becomes larger until they realize that the strange shape is actually a door. Unlike other doors, this one is large and metallic, and isn't connected to a building, but to the face of a large mountain. This confuses his primitive mind, and the hungry scavenger grunts and yelps. He realizes that the door isn't an animal or living creature of some sort, as it doesn't respond to his well thought out mating call. Scrutinizing the door, he sees a mysterious symbol. Though faded over many many years, it is still visible, along with some strange markings beneath it.

He stands next to the message, perplexed by the unusual sign. Trying to decipher the meaning of the triangular symbol, he thinks to himself in an alien tongue: "Why is this man running away from the giant disembodied skull, and why is there a faulty propeller above him?" The ancient text below the sign poses an even larger challenge to him. He knows that the text was the language of the ancient civilization that died off hundreds of years ago, but no one in his group, much less in the entire world, can undestand it. Using his freakishly long tongue, he signals to one of his compatriots to the front of the door and asks him to read the words beneath the symbol, in case he might be a time-travelling linguist. His compatriot studies the exotic words carefully for several minutes, touching it, and at one point, licking the letters. He signals the scavenger to motion the rest of the gang to open the metal door. The man tasked with translating the text says to the scavenger that the writing tells of a delicious buffet hidden on the other side of the door, and that he can almost smell the aroma of roasted turducken.

Enticed by his descriptions of delicious rice pilaf and stuffed mushrooms, the scavenger orders the group to push the door with all their might. The massive metal door doesn't budge despite the group's best efforts. Exasperated, the scavenger thinks to himself, "I guess I should've pulled the lever." He finds the lever by the door, pushes it down, and with a satisfying 'clack' it goes into place. Suddenly, the door starts to move on its own, pushing the scavenger team backwards. The whole world seems to get enveloped in the cacophonous sounds of whirring machines and clashing metal. After thirty painful seconds of waiting, the door grinds into a screeching halt. Peering into the now revealed room, the group finds not a waiting buffet, but endless rows of metal drums, all with the same propeller symbol. Dissapointment turns into curiosity as the hungry scavenger ponders on the contents of the drums. "Maybe the builders of this room hid their food in these containers to hide it from people like us! Clever, but not clever enough." he thinks to himself. He takes his crowbar and starts hacking into one of the metal drums.

After much whacking, he manages to pierce the metal hull, but instead of a delicious treat, all the desperate scavenger finds are glowing fuel rods. Curious, the man takes a hearty bite, only for his teeth and jaw to fall out. His friends, who have gathered around him to observe, scream in terror before experiencing adverse effects as well. One of the group member's arms horrifically mutate into massive pincers, and another one of the scavenger's team begins to mutate, his skin peeling away into strips before revealing an unearthly, sponge-like frame. The hungry scavenger, now jawless, tries to crawl out of the room, but his giant head impedes his movement. He and all his friends have died, spending their last agonizing moments on Earth in an irradiated hole.

edit The Atomic Priesthood!

MutatedMitre

Fashionable headgear for the aesthetic-conscious death cults of the future.

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 many hundreds of years. A massive crowd had gathered beneath him as he did the ceremonial dance, wildly thrashing 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 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-Be-Gone 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.

edit Green, Glowing Cats!

GlowingCat

Future humans must be wary of the risk of ravening radioactive cats prowling the wastelands.

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 she went. Every adventure, tragedy, and journey Al endured, her faithful cat Mr. Cuddlesworth was sure to be by her 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.

Exasperated, Al replied, "You shouldn't surprise me with your mind tricks, okay? The world is strange enough as it is!" she noticed that her cat had turned into an unhealthy shade of green, but this didn't deter her from continuing with her 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 her venture, Al and her cat continued on their path...to their DOOM!

edit Atomic Flowers!

A rose

As sensuous as a passionate romance, and just as vain...

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. Much less complicated than arranging codons to code for a protein that when deciphered says "go away".

...
Flowers have always looked pretty to me. I look at them all the time, with all their colors in an otherwise bleak world. Always shades of brown or gray or gray-brown, never any saturation. I wonder what secrets these resistant little creatures have for us to share. Maybe they could tell me what lies beyond my little compound. Grandfather says never to leave, and I have believed in him. He says that the world outside is just cold and gone. "Forever gone it will be" he says. "Forever gone". He also tells me a lot of the old world people, how they watched moving pictures on tiny big screens, how they wandered the face of the Earth just to look at pretty places, how they did blow themselves up with great weapons of mass destruction. Sometimes I don't believe what he says, they always seem so exotic, but he's my grandpa, and he is one of the few who knows of the old times. Maybe if I could take a peek out of this sanctuary, maybe I could be satisfied. Become a scavenger like some of the guys do. Me, I'll probably get stuck doing agricultural stuff instead of exploring.

It's dangerous though: Al and her blasted cat were passed out outside that strange building old folks say not to go to, and they had to be dragged down to the clinic on a pickup (chief got angry and screamed at the two for exhausting half of their supply of Rad-Be-Gone on their sorry hides). Whole scavenger team got killed near another place when they opened some great big door, pa says. Damn fools they were, 'specially the head of the bunch. That dumb twit. According to the chief, he says that knocks down our population of our little community to one-thousand two-hundred and fifty-three, and any lower will "reduce genetic diversity and create an even worse bottleneck for human society". I have no idea what that means, but it sounds sciency. Maybe outside this hole they got more pretty flowers to gawk at. If only I could scale the wall and be free, but ma says no also. "Creepy radioactive priest guys might try to convert you and draw you from the path of the Lord." I am very scared of those atomic priest weirdos with their shiny masks, pulled a few good workers from our settlement to, but pa says they're harmless folk. Anyways, what all the old folks says is true, but I still want to know the secrets of the flower, and maybe even the entire gorran world.

edit In Conclusion!

Bouncywikilogo9
For those without comedic tastes, the self-proclaimed experts at Wikipedia have an article about Nuclear semiotics.

Through the years, as man advanced technologically and sociologically, the dangers of his creations have still lingered below the ground. Humanity, great and triumphant our species may be, is still foolish when examining its history. Countless wars and decades of brutal violence have ravaged our planet, yet what do we have to show for this? Toxic sludge held underneath the Earth? A landfill of the consequences of human error? Perhaps, nuclear semiotics could be a way for us to warn our future selves of our errors, or maybe just a way to redeem ourselves in the eyes of our hopefully more enlightened successors. The radioactive graves we have made could at least signal a simple "we fucked up your world, don't make our mistakes". Either way, we must protect our descendants from the blunders of the past, yet trying to do so is going to take some time; we don't have much of an idea of a way to communicate to our future descendants that isn't batshit insane, as you probably already know. But, if you think of it in a very cynical manner, we have till the end of the world to find out. Thank you for your time.

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