On the dangers of exploding fruit

I’m unsure whether what follows could be termed a parable; it is a cautionary tale, to be sure, regarding the importance of health and safety, among other things.

Now, as it happens, microbes (don’t ask me to be any more specific than that), excrete a significant volume of gas as part of their digestion process. It’s a thing they do. It’s why cellophane wrappers on sort of inflate slightly as the food nears its sell-by date. I was dimly aware of this – but I didn’t put two and two together. Not until it was too late.

It turns out that if you leave something on the side for long enough, this process goes on. And on. And on. Pressure builds. Ultimately something as innocent as a fruit smoothie could become so volatile that even a very slight disturbance, such as the New Girl taking a seat nearby to commence her break, might trigger something spectacular.

I watched Horizon from the other week last night. They were talking about the Longitude prize, which is a worthwhile topic deserving further investigation. As host Alice Roberts puts it:

“If you had ten million pounds to make one change to the world, what would that be?”

Before you say anything, it’s worth pointing out that this is a multiple choice question. All of the land’s traffic wardens can sleep soundly awhile longer. There are six big problems that need solving, which are: Antibiotics, Food, Water, Paralysis, Dementia and Flight. If you want a detailed description of all of these things, you can find it here; rest assured, they are all jolly well serious.

A public vote will determine which serious problem the prize will be dedicated to solving. I suspect that the mere fact that votes are being collected via text message puts paralysis and dementia at a distinct disadvantage. Advocates of those causes had better hope everyone’s predictive text is up to snuff, otherwise they will surely lose out.

“Paralasis…parilasis…paralisys? Fuck it. Food.”

I’m not sure how long the fruit smoothie was sitting there, by the way. Might have been weeks, more probably it was months. Months in which we pottered around, addressing our business, oblivious to the steadily-building explosive potential of the fruit beverage sitting mere inches away. I like to imagine that it was biding its time, but perhaps that’s my poetic licence running out of control. What I can say with certainty is that it’s time did come.

Ten million pounds strikes me as a pretty measly sum of money. Is it me, or is science and technology in general a grossly underfunded business? That is, unless some military incentive dictates otherwise.   Human beings are largely unconcerned at the prospect of apocalypse, provided it isn’t inflicted by some other humans, since that would be too much like losing.

It seems as though rather more money should be invested in combatting something that could feasibly set back medicine several centuries. Not only should more money be invested, but more time should probably be invested as well. Leaving aside the financial cost of the prize, it did get me thinking about the amount of news coverage and commentary devoted to these issues. It’s rather small, isn’t it?

Instead, we mostly concern ourselves with the correct way for Ed Milliband to eat a bacon sandwich, or whether or not a Romanian lives next door, or whether or not Jordan’s boyfriend is sleeping with the next door neighbour who is probably also Romanian.

The eventual rise of a strain of invincible super-bugs strikes me as something that isn’t quite so trivial. I suspect it really should be of greater concern, and therefore prompt more enthusiastic discussion, than all of those things. (And yes, I hereby acknowledge the irony of my pointing this out via the medium of this reliably trivial blog.)

The problem with discussion serious sciencey issues is that most of us really don’t really get it, do we? Even sciencey people don’t get it as much as they ideally should, unless they happen to specialise in the particular branch of science concerned with the cataclysm under consideration. My comprehension of global warming is about equivalent to my appreciation of the dangers of exploding fruit smoothies. To paraphrase Palpatine: only now, at the end, do I understand.

With hindsight, the fruit smoothie should have been binned a long time ago. But that didn’t happen. What happened is that the fruit smoothie was dumped on the side, and no further thought was spared for it. This is the temptation that most of us succumb to. “Whose fruit smoothie is it, exactly?” we ponder. “Is it really for me to throw it away? I’ll leave this decision to someone else!”

I was unaware that a fruit smoothie could erupt with quite such force. Every surface, be it wall, ceiling or window, is now spattered with saccharine purple psuedo-viscera; the ceiling is a good ten feet above the counter, and yet remnants of fruit still linger there, like something from some Tarantino-inspired Um-Bongo advert. Ka-blammo, indeed.

I am sure that all of this reveals a great deal about human psychology, and that if I were a far cleverer person than I already am, I would be able to explain what it all means. But I’m not that person. Oh, no. And so instead, having presented the tale, I shall leave the reader to draw whatever conclusions they may.

Until next week.

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