Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Blaming the fuel supply for the combustion?

A pretty catchy headline -- Ninety flatulent cows start fire at dairy farm in Germany -- ill reflects what happened: an electric spark set off accumulated inflammable gases. It is well known that ruminants of the sort produce methane as their cud evolves. The setting suggests a venue where such natural carburation is expected and normal: a dairy farm. Was the density of cows suddenly increased, the ventilation reduced, the composition of the cud changed? Not said. Was the "static electric charge" as expected and as normal as the presence of methane? Not said, but one can doubt: it seems unlikely that the cows suddenly began producing dangerous levels of methane in a sparking environment.
This is a story I'd love to find amusing, but the framing bothers me. Much as blaming the "dangerous crude" for exploding after careless train accidents, blaming gases produced by a human-regulated process (a dairy farm, in this case) for an explosion triggered by human recklessness seems a bad habit to encourage.

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