These twelve items have two important things in common:
(1) They're important and valuable things, and
(2) They have absolutely nothing to do with autism.Lead
is a heavy metal which melts at low temperatures. It's used in large batteries like the ones in your car, as well as as a stabilization weight and radiation shield. It can be poisonous if you ingest it, though, so be careful! (The #1 safety risks in most radiation labs is actually accidental lead poisoning from the shielding equipment)Fluoride
is an ion of the Fluorine molecule. It's critical for human health: without it, your teeth will decay and fall out. In some places, it's found naturally in local foods and water, but in other places, it gets added to reservoirs or table salt instead. Water fluoridation is considered one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century, and is a major reason why people today have healthy teeth. It was also believed by some to be part of a Communist plot to corrupt the Purity of Essence of our Precious Bodily Fluids. (And yes, people describing the plot Liked to Capitalize Things)Antibiotics
are probably the single greatest public health improvement of the twentieth century: they're drugs which can give our immune system the capability to fight off bacterial infections. Without them, common diseases like strep and TB will simply kill you. However, antibiotics do nothing against viruses. In fact, if you don't
have a bacterial disease, or take only part of a course, antibiotics are dangerous: they'll kill just the bacteria which were most vulnerable to them, leaving behind the strongest and most resistant ones to breed! Overuse of antibiotics has resulted in the development of many strains of bacteria which are resistant to even very powerful antibiotics, leading to the fear that we may soon be vulnerable to these diseases again. The most important things you can do are (a) don't ever pressure a doctor to prescribe them when they aren't appropriate, and (b) fight their overuse in ranching, where they're given as prophylactics to otherwise healthy animals -- thus breeding deadly resistances.Vaccines
are antibiotics' competitor for greatest public health victories. They're small doses of dead or weakened viruses which are injected into you, letting your immune system learn to recognize and destroy the real ones when they come. They're the reason that so many of the deadliest diseases of the past -- smallpox, measles, pertussis, and the like -- are things of the past. However, unscrupulous folks have tried at times to convince the public that these are dangerous (generally as part of a scheme involving lawsuits), and as a result, some people are avoiding them! This can cause many other people to die, because of what’s called herd immunity.
You can learn more about vaccines from this great comic:https://medium.com/the-nib/vaccines-work-here-are-the-facts-5de3d0f9ffd0Pesticides
are chemicals which kill pests which destroy crops. These are a dangerous, but important, tradeoff: their residues can be poisonous, especially if they accumulate in groundwater; they can kill insects which are not just beneficial, but critical, like bees; and their misuse can lead to monoculture,
which we’ll talk about in a moment. On the upside, they greatly increase crop production, and have been a major factor in ending starvation. They can also kill insects like the tsetse fly and malaria mosquito which are major vectors of disease. Together, this makes them a powerful lifesaving tool which has to be carefully managed.GMOs
are any sorts of organisms whose genes have been modified. This is a blanket term for a wide range of things, from corn that produces additional nutrients, to wheat that can grow in a wide range of climates, to goats which can produce antibiotics in their milk (!), to crops which are immune to certain pesticides and herbicides. “GMO” is a term for the technique which produces all of these. Some of these are huge benefits, but some of them are dangerous: for example, herbicide-resistant crops can be doused with huge doses of powerful weed-killers. In addition to their normal risks, this creates what’s called a “monoculture,” where only one species of plant can survive. This can make an entire crop vulnerable to a single blight, so it’s extremely
dangerous for food security. Also, many companies who make such products are known for unethical business practices, so many people hear “GMO” and think of them. But don’t be led astray! GM is a technique which saves lives, too.Balloons
may make you think of things at birthday parties, but they’re also the best way to get high into the stratosphere. Weather balloons, made of modern materials like mylar and kevlar and filled with Helium, can fly over 100,000’ above the ground fairly cheaply, making it possible to understand weather patterns in places where satellites can’t be. They were also the way the recent record-breaking skydivers got up: you can watch +Alan Eustace
's record-breaking jump at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsftfzBrVko
. In the process of doing this, he and his team invented several new technologies which should make flight safer, balloons cheaper, and more.Tubesocks
are long socks which can protect your shins. More important than protection, they wick moisture away from your feet, which are some of the heaviest sweat-producers in your body: they can produce as much as a quarter-pint of sweat each day. By moving the moisture away, they can protect you from frostbite in the cold, and fungi like athlete’s foot in the heat.Testicles
are the organs in which sperm is produced in male animals. They’re also important glands, producing hormones such as testosterone which help regulate bodily function. They hang outside the body in most land mammals in a sac called the scrotum,
because sperm production works best when the testes are kept below body temperature. Because your body considers them pretty important, they’re therefore covered with nerves to quickly tell if something’s wrong. That means that you don’t
want to hit them, but that they often enjoy gentle touch.Bunnies,
also known as rabbits, are small mammals with big ears. They’re shy herbivores, depending for their survival upon their ability to hear and quickly run away from prey – but also on their ability to reproduce quickly, so that their groups can sustain losses and keep going. Most species of rabbit live in burrows, often networked together to form a warren. People’s opinions of them are split: some people raise them for food or fur, while others love them as pets. They can also turn into a plague, as happened when they were introduced into Australia: feral rabbits caused tremendous damage to agriculture and local species. You can see many pictures of bunnies at http://goo.gl/FVlVJD
are a kind of sex worker. Most famously, they perform erotic dances (often using a fixed pole as a prop) for an audience. But most of their work takes the form of one-on-one interaction with patrons, performing individually for them in settings from the public (such as table dances) to private rooms. Strippers will create one or more personas for this, working to create a fantasy environment for the patron in which they feel aroused, appreciated, and at the center of attention. Many strippers travel from city to city around the year, as the best business is often found in different places at different times. The most important thing to remember about strippers is that, while they may be playing any number of roles that seem different, they are professional entertainers and should be treated with respect.Dromedaries
are the famous “one-humped camels” of the Sahara and Arabian deserts. Their two-humped Bactrian cousins live further east. Dromedaries are known for their incredible ability to store water in their bodies, allowing them to travel across the entire desert. Unlike horses, they have paws rather than hooves, which gives them excellent traction on difficult terrain. As a result, they are highly valued as pack and riding animals, and camel racing is a major sport. Dromedaries were what made the Spice Road and the western part of the Silk Road possible, and they continue to be an important way to transport people and goods across the desert to this day.
So next time someone shows you a list like this, think through all of the various items in them and realize all of the ways in which they’ve made our world a better place. Some of them, like pesticides and bunnies, involve tradeoffs which you need to manage carefully; others, like antibiotics and vaccines, simply need to be used correctly to make the world a better place.
To learn more:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoride
Thanks to +Robyn Miller
for the image!