Mythbusters' Lesson: Things Really Are As Good as They Can Be (For Now)

If you watch enough Mythbusters, a basic truth slowly emerges (or suddenly, if a big bang is involved): things are as good (for now) as humans can make them.

There's a good reason why people buy candles rather than making their own out of ear wax. There are very good reasons why gunpowder is still the option of choice when it comes to making bullets fly and why metal is still the best go-to substance for building stuff like cannons. There's an excellent reason why we don't try to burn our enemies with mirrors like ants.

In fact, there are many excellent reasons why solar power is not a useful alternative to more common forms of energy. People still use batteries because, hey, batteries are surprisingly useful. And gasoline is just about the best way to power anything out there that anyone can currently think of.

In the episode where Adam and Jamie try out different ways to power cars, Jamie remarks cynically but accurately that the only plausible alternative--used corn oil--would undergo similar regulations to gasoline and end up costing the same in the long run. The only way it would ever remain "cheap" would be if only a few people did it. An industry is an industry is an industry.

Me--I'm a maverick. I don't consider gasoline expensive. Twenty years ago, I spent $10 to fill up my little Dodge Colt. Now I spend $20 to fill up my little Toyota Yaris. In terms of comparative expenses, I'm spending almost exactly the same amount of my paycheck on gas now as I did then (and I drive more now).

Gas is still far, far, far, far, far cheaper than, say, horses. Horses are incredibly expensive to maintain--and talk about pollution! Horse dung doesn't just smell bad in some cute bucolic way. It contaminates sewer systems, spreads disease, etc. etc. etc.
I don't talk about sharks in this post: I just like the episode!

Truth is, Americans don't know how clean and uncontaminated they are.

Back to gasoline: I am also not worried that it is "running out!!!!" (Cue dramatic, scary music.) Things run out all the time, yet here we still are. There is no evil conspiracy keeping humans from running their generators on water. Neither is there any reason to doubt that new discoveries will occur in the future.

Every era believes that it has discovered all, figured out all, seen all, developed all. The Victorians did (no kidding) and see how wrong they were:

The technological revolution changed the world. It's easy to see it coming in hindsight but really, truly, nobody saw it coming beforehand. The same thing will happen again. It already has--how many people light their lamps with whale blubber? 

1 comment:

FreeLiveFree said...

The use of corn oil would also mean there is less corn for you know eating. That would probably not mean much to an American, but Third World Countries that buy from us will have to pay more for less. This in fact actually happened when the government subsidized corn for this purpose.

One of the lessons in life is that you can not see every outcome of your actions and your intentions have little or anything to do with those outcomes.