Likens: America hops on billion dollar drill project bandwagon
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 01:10
Seeking to extract fresh samples from the earth’s mantle, international scientists have designed an enormous drill they hope is capable of plowing deeper than any man has ever gone. Undoubtedly, Sigmund Freud is laughing in his grave.
Project co-leader of The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program claims that the $1 billion experiment is “the most challenging endeavor in the history of Earth science,” officially putting himself on the shit list of every other billion dollar project currently operating.
Upon hearing of this operation, I was appalled. Somewhere, there was something unsavory about this project. Perhaps it was the fact that the project is to be conducted aboard a Japanese vessel named Chikyu, which, mind you, is pronounced suspiciously similar to Cthulhu. Perhaps it was because, like all men who were once children, I feared for the citizens of Fraggle Rock. Or maybe it was those two simple words: international scientists.
Here in America, we have a tradition of doing things a certain way. By “things,” I mean everything. Therefore, the history of America’s scientific ventures is no exception and can actually be explained in a single sentence. More or less, the only reason Americans have ever been interested in doing anything about anything is because we heard the Russians were going to beat us to it.
For example, a similar attempt to reach the mantle, dubbed Project Mohole, was previously orchestrated back in the Kennedy years. However, upon finding that the Russians didn’t really care what was in the earth and were much more concerned about what might be on the moon, the project was dropped. Three years later, Americans would land on the moon, marking the success of the Apollo 11 mission, aka project “Anything You Can Do…”
Unless the Russian and American heads demand to be quartered on opposite ends of the ship and leave anonymous, passive-aggressive notes to each other on the mini-fridge in the break room, I would ultimately be cynical of American involvement in the IODP.
But upon visiting the IODP website, I was shocked to find that there are, as of now, no Russian representatives leading in this project. Not even so much as a single alcoholic. The question then arises: what purpose does American involvement in this experiment serve?
Although the scientists involved are individuals going of their own accord, and the Japanese government is the foremost invested, the U.S. National Science Foundation is the second leading contributor of funds. While we may not be leading the parade, we are certainly helping with the check.
We seem to now be running in a pointless race, investing millions in a war with nothing but our own ignorance of geology. Self-described, the mission of the IODP is “to provide vital information of the Earth system with which humankind has increasing interaction, through exciting expeditions to ‘inner space’ realized by multiple-platform scientific drilling.” While this is noble to say the least, the fact that absolutely no one will be left shaking their fist at our backsides as we descend into the earth somewhat destroys the romance. Altogether, this is about as sporting as a Master’s degree in philosophy--yes, you have it, but what does it matter?
Let it be known that there is no guarantee this will work out as planned either. The science behind the drill is extremely complicated and I personally find it hard to believe that mankind can drill a 30cm hole four miles into the earth, yet no one has thought of a way to make shoes that are both comfortable and waterproof.
The project is not expected to render results until roughly a decade from now, given all things go correctly. Hopefully, this will give the Russians plenty of time to launch their own IODP clone, after which the possibilities will be truly endless.