Tech Vs. Nature -- Who Is the Winner?
This past July, Bill Gates announced his intention to do battle with one of nature's most destructive forces -- the hurricane. Thankfully, Gates has no intention of donning a wrestling singlet and cape, and defending the Gulf Coast. Instead, the Microsoft founder is putting the power of human ingenuity to perhaps its greatest test in the protracted war between science and nature. Of course, this is just the latest conflict, so we thought we'd bring you up-to-date as to where the balance of power between nature and science currently lies.
Here is a quick seven round battle royale, in which we pit the forces of technology against the impervious will of Mother Earth.
Round 1: Real Worm Kills Man's Computer
We've all heard of computer worms, but unlike the ones that steal data and ground planes, Mark Taylor found an actual earthworm inside his laptop. The worm crawled inside the PC, jammed the cooling fan, and caused the whole thing to overheat and come to a grinding halt.
That's not the end of the story though. The heat inside the laptop killed the worm, and after a quick trip to the repair shop, it was fully functional again.
Winner: Technology, since the laptop lived to download porn another day.
Round 2: Turtles Ground Planes at JFK
In early July, a group of almost 80 turtles clambered on to the runway at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport and delayed flights for an hour and a half. The grounds crew was able to quickly round up the turtles and return them to the water, further from the airport, but clearly the damage was already done.
The turtles came out, it seemed, to remind us that man was not meant to fly, and that we only get away with it because nature lets us.
Winner: Score one for Team Earth.
Round 3: Sonar Deafens Dolphins
Dolphins may use echo location, also known as sonar, to help them navigate the ocean and locate prey, but it turns out they're quite sensitive to the sonar used by military vessels like submarines. Reports from around the world tell of dolphins and whales becoming stranded and even dying as a result of deafness and ruptured ears.
Winner: Technology wins this round by turning nature's own tools against itself.
Round 4: Houston Overrun With Electronics-Killing Ants
Ants can be a royal pain in the behind, since they're usually invading your kitchen or ruining picnics. No surprise, then, that a town in Texas was a little confused when millions of electronics-chewing arthropods started destroying gas meters, fire alarms, and computers. Worst of all, they proved to be invincible in the face of over-the-counter bug sprays.
Winner: That's another tally mark for Nature.
Round 5: Geese Crash Plane in the Hudson
The turtles grounding planes was a rather tame way to show us who really holds the cards when it comes to the world of flight. Apparently, geese in New York City had enough of our soaring around, willy-nilly, and decided to mount a kamikaze mission against our commercial airline industry.
Everyone was awed by the emergency landing of U.S. Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River. Of course, the impressive landing wouldn't have been necessary if a flock of geese hadn't decided to jam itself into the engines shortly after the passenger jet took off from LaGuardia Airport. The pilot managed to successfully put the plane down in the Hudson and everyone survived, relatively unscathed, but we're sure they won't take the idea of human flight for granted ever again.
Winner: Nature wins, again!
Round 6: Wind Turbines Killing Birds
Geese may have been able to bring the smaller turbines inside a jet engine to a grinding halt, but it turns out our feathered friends don't stand up so well against the super-sized wind turbines that pump out (sort of) environmentally-friendly electricity. Eagles, hawks, owls, and other flying animals apparently have a tendency to fly right into the wind-catching blades and put premature ends to their avian lives.
Winner: Determined to prove there's something to the idea of being "bird-brained," nature hands this round to Technology. Which ties us up at three apiece. So it's on to the seventh and deciding round.
Round 7: We Make it Rain
We've defied gravity, conquered hostile environments, and flattened formerly hilly lands, but if there is one thing we can't control, it's the weather... or can we? While we can't ensure beautiful, sunny days at the beach, we can combat drought by seeding clouds to stimulate or increase rain. In some cases, downpours start within 20 minutes of seeding. Cloud seeding isn't a one-trick pony, either; it can also be used to suppress hail and fog.
Consider, too, Bill Gates's plan to pull cool water to the surface of the ocean, thus weakening hurricanes, and we may well soon take control of the weather. Assuming Gates succeeds, we can give this round to Technology.
Overall Winner: Eat it nature! Tech triumphs: 4-3.
Now, let's just hope the Earth doesn't extract its revenge on us by dropping a freak tornado on the Switched offices.