Please welcome today’s guest writer, Tony Ditta. Tony graduated in 2012 with majors in mathematics and economics. He now lives in Chicago and is pursuing graduate study in economics. He lives with regular Post Calvin contributor and all-around good guy Bart Tocci.
When you say fear of the unknown, that is the definition of fear; fear is the unknown … and it’s genetically within us so that that we feel safe. We feel scared of the woods because we’re not familiar with it, and that keeps you safe. Over the course of history, the people who are not scared go into the woods and are mauled by a bear, are not going to survive.
– M. Night Shyamalan (Filmmaker and Occasional Evolutionary Biologist)
Steam is technically invisible. One of my housemates taught me that a few years ago. The stuff that people call “steam”—the stuff you can see—is condensation from steam rising into the air.
As with all invisible things, steam is trying to kill us.
This is you right now: “Yeah yeah yeah, we get it, steam is hot and it can hurt, but is that such a big deal?”
Just you wait.
Steam burns (FACT ALERT: water can burn you) are “substantially more injurious” than having boiling water poured on your skin because when steam has its phase change back to water, it releases additional energy.
Now you’re like: “‘Substantially more injurious’ than boiling water? That sounds pretty dang injurious.”
Yes, now come with me on this journey.
“But surely steam is the only invisible thing that’s trying to kill us, right?”
You numbskull—did you not read my thesis statement? All invisible things are trying to kill us!
Have you ever seen a virus? No? That’s because they’re invisible. And guess what? They’re trying to kill us.
What about bacteria? Invisible. Deadly.
UV rays, alpha particles, beta particles? Invisible, invisible, invisible. Deadly, deadly (if eaten), deadly.
The “invisible stuff” apologists out there will be like “there’s good bacteria, too; they’re not trying to kill us.”
FACT ALERT: Anything invisible that doesn’t seem to be trying to kill us is just one major breakthrough away from being found out as a villain.
And the “vision stuff” apologists will be like “I can see bacteria with a microscope; it’s not invisible.”
I’ve looked in microscopes, too, and here’s all I have to say about that: maybe I did see bacteria or maybe I saw nothing, and I and everyone else in the class just said we saw bacteria because that’s what the teacher told us that we were supposed to see (FACT ALERT: as it is a concept and not a material object, “social psychology” is invisible, and is, in fact, trying to kill us.)
Now you’re beginning to understand the gravity of the situation (like wind, gravity is invisible even though its effects are visible; both wind and gravity are trying to kill us).
You may be panicking.
Lighten up; you don’t know the half of it.
You see, all the stuff we’ve talked about so far is invisible and terrifying and deadly, but it all shares another common theme: we know about it. We know viruses exist. We know where alpha particles come from. But what about the stuff we don’t know about?
It wasn’t until like the nineteenth century that we figured out that tuberculosis is caused by bacteria, and tuberculosis has been around since before the English language existed to allow people to say things like “Ow my lungs and throat ow ow ow.” What else are we missing? One has to assume that we’re missing a lot.
And why are we missing it? Because the enemy is literally invisible. That’s right: all invisible things are trying to kill us, and we can’t find them precisely because they are invisible. DOUBLE WHAMMY!
So, where do we go from here? Ideally nowhere.
If you’re reading this on a computer, the odds are good that you’re inside. Stay there.
Your hands are covered in invisible things. Wash them.
Every breath you take is full of invisible things. Breathe sparingly.
Best of luck.
Tony graduated in 2012 with majors in mathematics and economics. He now lives in Chicago and is pursuing graduate study in economics. He also has a very good cultural trivia podcast called “Here’s My Number, So Call Me Ishmael” available on Libsyn, iTunes, and Google Play.