I’m not sure what bacteriologist Edward Durham was thinking back in 1897 when he put a vial of intestinal bacteria in a time capsule, but whatever it was, he should have thought it over.
Not only do we have to worry about new diseases from birds and barnyard animals, now they’re coming at us from 114 years in the past.
Time capsules are designed to be opened in the future, and the future arrived last week when a building at Bellevue Hospital in New York was demolished, exposing a time capsule including the scientist’s little gift and a note asking future generations to “let us know how long these spores last.”
Well, Ed, we’ll get back to you. I might add we’re lucky they weren’t active and belong to a type of bacteria that has been successfully treated by antibiotics, a post-1897 invention.
Which leads you to wonder: What else is out there buried in a box from the past that could have interesting consequences if opened before Christmas?
Here’s just a partial list from time capsules buried in various cornerstones around the world: Silk condoms, false teeth, bikini bottoms, Life magazine, a kewpie doll, various grain seeds, messages from Albert Einstein and even a car. Not toxic, per se, but what are they supposed to make of all that junk in the year 7000 AD?
Still, we continue to bury our civilization’s flotsam and jetsam in structures that don’t last 50 years, never mind 5,000. Or we shoot them into space, needles in a cosmic haystack. We do it because we hope that someone will be there, and if they are, they need to get it right, dammit.
It’s a way of bestowing immortality upon ourselves. And certainly the only way any of these Just Sayin’ columns will ever survive is to slip them in a time capsule between the bikinis and false teeth.
LOL if you must, but what goes into your time capsule? Downloads of Two and A Half Men? DNA from your dog? An Ikea catalogue? The iPod or the iPad? Both?
Let’s say this stuff actually survives 5,000 years and is dug up. Will our descendants be able to decode our little blasts from the past? The origin and meaning of an 8-track could be as obscure as a cave painting.
Anthropologists, when they don’t have a clue, always play the religious ritual card.
So in 7011, when they open up the Charlie Sheen Violent Torpedo of Truth Tour Video, it’s possible a new religion will be born.
That’s if God still has a sense of humour at that point.