With summer past, I remember the flies and other assorted citizens of bugdom at my house. Some were silent like models of mathematical motion, and some buzzed loudly, almost as if you could see their pursed lips – air forced through their invertebrate skeletons. All seemed pervasive, as if to target my children endlessly whilst they play. And I remember my paternal instinct kicking in, deciding that I must do something about these flies. Nasty flies.
So in my efforts to learn more, I came across images of my enemy. Images like this one below:
And looking closely, even as a scientist and a follower of the empirical, I could marvel at the inherent beauty of such structures, drawn as if guided by fluid lines, swaths of colours for effect. But it was when I stepped back and glanced distractingly upon the picture, that it hit me – that I’ve seen this fly before – looking a little cleaner, simplified, but no less the same.
This, by the way, is a picture of carbon dioxide (CO2 for short) in standard chemical modeling nomenclature (black is carbon, red is oxygen).
Currently, it is estimated that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hovers just below 400 parts per million. In comparison, the numbers of flies sharing that same air space is decidedly less so. Both represent scourges of some manner that inhabit the sky. What’s interesting to me, apart from the obvious visual similarities, is how the two are perceived in public light.
Of course, people’s opinions (my own included) on flies are generally not good. As alluded to earlier, the distain often crosses into the need to remove them altogether. And folks have been ingenuous indeed with the use of traps that use ultraviolet light, phermones, toxic baits, sprays, surface applications, electric zapping, and (ironically) carbon dioxide. Really, it seems that there is little mercy in this regard.
In contrast, the reaction against carbon dioxide, though apparent, appears otherwise muted and at times in conflict with itself. How else do you explain the wincing over the Kyoto Protocol or love affairs with SUVs?
The point, I suppose, is that this is not good. Those 400 parts per million should actually be scaring the shit out of people. And even if you do disagree with things of the global warming nature, there is the reality that one still shouldn’t take the chance. Weather, after all, is not a pest.