Rivaled only by fast food and masturbation, nuclear weapons are the premier symbol of man's ability to screw itself on a species-wide scale. Not everyone realizes quite how broad the repercussions are: The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the more than 2,000 nuclear weapon tests conducted thereafter (not to mention the nonviolent nuclear catastrophes at Chernobyl and Fukushima) have contaminated soil, water, air, and even the very cells of living organisms with measurable levels of carbon-14. If radiation worked the way it does in comic books, we'd all be comic book characters by now. But it turns out that having cancer isn't a superpower, so we guess all these decoder rings were for nothing.
Just once couldn't industrial waste give us X-ray vision instead of just tumors?
Oddly enough, the deadly footprint left by nuclear fallout has become an unexpected ally in the fight against the illegal ivory trade, which kills tens of thousands of elephants every year. By measuring the amount of carbon-14 in a given piece of ivory against the "bomb curve" (the shorthand for leftover carbon-14 floating around our atmosphere), scientists can figure out when an animal died. They then can use that information to figure out if it was killed illegally and in some cases track down the poachers responsible. In short, scientists are deducing crimes via radiation like a post-nuclear Sherlock Holmes. It's not a permanent solution (the technique will only last for another 15 years or so, when background levels will stop being measurable), but in the meantime, helping to save endangered species from human-driven extinction is at least a bit of a silver lining in that ominous, mushroom-shaped cloud.
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