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Sunday, February 05, 2012

This Is Not a Place of Honor

Here's a little memento mori for Superb Owl Sunday. It's from the Expert Judgment on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Project, an early-1990s report grappling with the problem of explaining to future generations who are likely not to share our language or culture why they should leave buried nuclear waste alone. This is the group's summary of the non-linguistic messages the site should convey to visitors, and it reads like a post-apocalyptic Lord's Prayer:

This place is a message ... and part of a system of messages ... pay attention to it!

Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.

This is not a place of honor ... no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here...nothing valued is here.

What is here was dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.

The danger is in a particular location ... it increases towards a center ... the center of danger is here .. of a particular size and shape, and below us.

The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours.

The danger is to the body, and it can kill.

The form of the danger is an emanation of energy.

The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.

Posted by James Grimmelmann on February 5, 2012 at 01:17 PM in Science | Permalink


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