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Science To The Rescue

August 27, 2010

Rheanna Sand

Well, it's happened again. Profit-hungry industry executives have traded human lives for dollars, and science is left to clean up the mess. Except this time, the lives are not yet lost, but remain trapped 700m down the San Jose copper-gold mine near Copiapo, Chile.

The accident occurred on August 5th with a collapse, trapping 33 men in the mountain. A second collapse happened two days later when rescuers were attempting to reach them through the ventilation shaft. This shaft was supposed to have ladders installed after a previous accident claimed a life; the company neglected to install them, turning this from a 48-hour rescue into one that may not see the men emerge until Christmas.

 


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While industry is doing what it can to bore a rescue shaft, science has stepped in to save these brave souls. For 17 days, the men survived not through a miracle, but by using their heads. They carefully rationed a two-day supply of food, with each man receiving two bites of tuna, a sip of milk, a taste of a cracker and a morsel of peach every second day. They organized their relatively roomy shelter into areas for medical attention, for playing games, and for having daily meetings. And now that they have been found, they send notes back and forth to loved ones via capsules shuttled to the surface, and receive fresh food and water.

So now, not only is science helping the men stay trim enough to fit through the rescue hole, it is also helping the men stay sane while they wait for months in that hot, dank shelter. NASA is the most important consultant in this psychological rescue, since this problem really only happens during long space missions.

But the question remains: when will industry stop experimenting with human lives for profit? Just this year, the West Virginia Massey coal mine disaster killed 29, and the Deepwater Horizon explosion claimed 11 lives and the health of the Gulf region.

Just what will it take to put some brakes on unbridled greed?

 

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