Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 19:37:06 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: gleanings: secondary meat?
The Guardian Online this week holds little of striking interest for us, or
at least for me, except for a book review of David Bodanis, The Secret
Family: 24 hours inside the mysterious world of our minds and our bodies
(Simon and Schuster). The striking bit is a quotation on the air quality of
"In Los Angeles 'what's humorously known as fresh air is loaded, in addition
to the well-known car fumes, with stupendous numbers of floating
greaseballs.' These are generated by 3,000 tons of meat fried at fast-food
joints in the city: four percent of air pollution is made up of this stuff.
It represents 46,000 lb of flying hamburger bits every day. This is more
than just food for thought.... [A] lot is breathed in, so the human tracheal
lining is also a burger-rich environment."
I'll let you extrapolate this fact with the rhetoric of medico-political
correctness. A mathematician would say that this is trivial.
What's striking to me apart from the irony of the situation is its coming
together in my daily tube-reading with an important book for those of us who
need distancing from our devices, Edward Tenner's Why Things Bite Back:
Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences (Random House, 1997).
This is essentially a book about system-wide consequences of what we do,
i.e. socio-political ecology. I have been thinking on and off recently about
the systemics of electronic publishing, which might be a subject for
economists if they were not paid so much to analyse the economics of sports
arenas and other such highly remunerative subjects. They are, so the big
thinking falls back on us, it seems, and Tenner's book is a valuable
addition the smallish library on the subject. I've just begun it so cannot
say much more other than I've picked up the scent of real food and am
In England we breathe fish and chips, an altogether better junk-food, I
would think, than hamburgers. Enjoy.
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Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
Humanist Discussion Group
Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>