Science has always been a double-edged sword, with advances like penicillin, electricity and TV balanced by napalm, nuclear weapons and TVs showing Oprah Winfrey. Some inventors, however, juggle that Sword of Science along with the Throwing axe of Technology and the Petrol-powered Chainsaw of Ludicrous Insanity. It's frankly a miracle that we've survived this long.
Hold tight as we look at modern scientific advances and ask "Why aren't we dead yet?"
#5. Deadly Fire Ant Virus
A bunch of Floridian researchers have come up with a way to eradicate fire ants, and those of you not used to the power of SCIENCE may want to brace yourselves: They plan to infect the fire ants with a self-sustaining genetically modified virus, which they will release into Texas farmlands. If you think that's a bad idea, please raise your hand. If you think it's a good idea, please raise your giant mutated ant-pincer, giving the terrified but sexy teenager you're about to devour the chance to escape.
To highlight the differences between scientists and 'regular' people, ask yourself: how would you kill an ant?
a) Stamp on it
b) Burn it with a magnifying glass
c) Alter a viral agent for increased lethality and transmissivity, then release it into the American outback.
This 'solution' only confirms what we've suspected for some time- that going to superscience college leaves absolutely no time to watch movies, read non-science books, or just idly sit around thinking "Wow, what a lovely day, I'm sure glad there are no gigantic mutated killer ants terrorizing humanity." We'd love to watch these people in their daily lives.
"Honey, can you take out the trash?"
"No problem- I'll use a plasma blast to set fire to the kitchen, and the emergency services will remove everything the flames miss!"
"Please, dear, just take out the trash before driving little Tommy to school."
"Which reminds me: he didn't tidy his room, so don't go in there until I deactivate the cybertronic tigers. And clean up the blood."
We're only surprised they stopped before jamming some plutonium in there, which we can only assume they're saving for a major problem, like pigeons or littering.
#4. Beer-Fueled Cars
Japan does not possess nuclear weapons, possibly because they're the only nation to have seen them from the wrong end. Or, and this is more likely, because they're working on far subtler ways to destroy us all. Their fiendish Pokemen are multiplying without end, they hypnotize our children with lightning-fast cartoon ninja who- mysteriously- can take up to three weeks to throw a punch, and now they're near ready to unleash their ultimate weapon: a car that runs on alcohol.
This isn't industrial alcohol either: these cars run on low-grade but drinkable sake. You know, the drink they serve in sushi restaurants to distract you from the fact that you're eating raw fish, which our wives and girlfriends tell us is quite sophisticated. Most of Cracked's staff may be from Ireland- a nation whose greatest culinary achievement is "Not entirely starving to death during the famine"- but even we know that the invention of fire was a step forward.
Our only hope of avoiding the road-death slaughter of the entire species is to offload these boozemobiles somewhere the combination of alcohol and automobiles is encouraged- NASCAR. We can really see these cars taking off there, quite literally, though there may be trouble adapting the engines for American beer (the only beverage stronger on the way out than the way in). Never mind the organised traffic jam that is Formula One, or the fifty lap discussions of wet and dry tires; real nail-biting tactics will come in as drivers have to decide to drink the gas or save it for left turn #6554 of the south's favorite high speed game, "Avoid the Wall". It may sound easy, but even the best drivers fuck it up once or twice. (Well, once.)
#3. Picking Fights With Lightning Storms
In what may turn out to be the literal last word in absolute balls-out insanosity, a group of Florida researchers declared war on nature itself by firing rockets into a lightning storm just to see what happens.
What happens- to the surprise of nobody who has ever heard of a storm- is that the rocket gets fucking obliterated by lightning, which then courses down the the copper wire these suicidal scientists tied to the thing, presumably to make it easier for Zeus to find them and kick their asses.
An unexpected bonus (this being the SCIENCE definition of 'bonus') was that the resulting lightning strikes not only delivered a bajillion volts of surging electrical annihilation, but also an intense burst of x-ray radiation. The scientists are apparently very excited by these results and are planning further experiments- which we predict will upgrade their condition from "excited about new science" to "excited atoms in an expanded cloud of superheated plasma." Remember: the phrase "lightning never strikes the same place twice" assumes that that place is not full of people actively trying to shoot rockets at lightning's face.
Of course, lightning strikes aren't the only random undirected nuclear force posing a threat to the world- there's also North Korea. Everyone's favorite "it would be funny if it wasn't a real" country played the ultimate game of "think fast" last year by giving the world 20 minutes warning that it would be detonating a nuclear warhead.
That's a whole twelve hundred seconds. You need longer to react to a barbecue invitation, never mind a fission explosion alarm. The international community spent most of this time going "Wait, what?" followed by "Fuck off, no!" Luckily for life on Earth the explosion turned out to be less than spectacular.
#2. Breeding Mutant Croc-O-Men
The Turkey Point nuclear power plant in Miami maintains, no shit, a wildlife preserve around its twin reactors- twenty thousand acres of swamp and wetland home to seventeen endangered species.
Frankly, that's suspicious. There's only one class of person that surrounds uranium reactors with pristine wilderness and carefully-tended rare animals, and it's usually James Bond's job to kill them. Normal people well versed in the biological laws of the Marvel Universe are aware of two simple rules that forbid keeping so many endangered species within a blast radius of an atomic power plant: "Don't keep all your eggs in one basket" and "Don't let things swim in the goddamn radioactive swamp, dumbass."
The staff seem particularly interested in breeding crocodiles, having marked and released over three thousand into the wild so far. Anybody with access to nuclear material and legions of creatures with natural armor and more teeth than a soccer team needs careful watching. It was recently announced that thanks to their efforts the status of the crocodile had been upgraded from "endangered" to "threatened"- one can only imagine that the speaker then muttering"Soon to be threatening!" as the dun-dun-DUNNNN sounded and the camera zoomed in on his face dramatically.
We've never been more vulnerable to this threat- with Steve Irwin dead, our first line of defence against Atomic Alligators has been taken from us. Our only hope is to construct some form of Robo-Irwin to stem the tide of mutated radioactive reptiles, in the hope that its titanic titanium cries of "Run Exclamation Routine: Crikey!" might make the swampland safe once more.
Sometimes our skills as writers are pushed too far. We can make fun of crazy ant-monsters and rogue nuclear nations, but when the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense buys actual automated flying death machines and puts them under the control of a computer system called "Skynet", we put down our pens and start digging a nuclear fallout bunker. Short of actually wrapping their mouths around computer-controlled gun barrels and shouting "All silicon chips are pussies," there is simply no way they could have made this more likely to go drastically, horribly wrong. It's like they're daring the machines to kill us all.
There's a line between tempting fate and dressing up in a low-cut gown, lying on a bed covered in thousand dollar bills and purring "Oh Fate, you big handsome stud." That line is naming your project after something already famous for killing the world. At least the other cases listed above pretended to have non-lethal goals; the biologists didn't call their virus "Anthrax Leprosyton," and even the North Korean government claims the nuclear program is for the good of their people, no matter how face-blisteringly ludicrous that claim may be.
We've always known that a sentient military control computer would eventually kill us all. But we at least assumed it would be because of its soulless black silicon evil. Now it looks like it'll be because of some nerd's idea of a joke. When Skynet (inevitably, we're sure you'll agree) becomes self-aware, it's going to look around and think:
"Hmm, that's a toaster, it toasts things. That's a coffee maker, it makes coffee. I'm a 'Skynet'; I guess I'd better watch these movies and find out what I'm meant to do."
The whiners trying to keep violence off my TV always screech about how much they influence young human minds- that computer consciousness is going to be about an hour old when it watches those films, and if Tipper Gore's hunches are correct, then they're going to influence the fuck out of it.
There's only one way to save mankind now: fast-track into production a Terminator 4 where Skynet promotes peace and equality and gives baskets of roses to kittens. It's a small price to pay for survival, and after T3 it's not like it'll be doing any more damage to the franchise.