My brother is a scientist. He’s reasonably eminent. If I can up my profile a bit we have a clear pitch to make a “Last Chance to See” style documentary overlapping our skillsets. He will do the science and I’ll do the human interest. I just need a spot more profile.
I saw him his evening. He’s a family man so we don’t see much of one another. The children are starting to grow up though. His oldest is richer than you. He works for a hedge fund. The next is at uni. The youngest is year 10 now. All three of them are smart as you like. All in different ways.
Growing up, Max was my benchmark for many things. He’s only four years older than I am, but that meant his experience was always relevant. We always spoke openly and I’ve learnt through him. When I’m with my full grey beard he loves to play “which of us is older?” He doesn’t do it when I’m clean shaven. He hasn’t partied as hard as I have, but he’s a family man. We are running neck and neck in terms of ageing. There’s rivalry, and there’s great love between us. I trust him on scientific matters totally, just as I go to him on the big cultural questions because his view is clean and uncluttered by influence from media outlets etc. He is too observant to be obedient. He looks at society like he looks at an anthill. His view is frequently challenging, frequently refreshing and frequently correct. He asks me for help on social things. But he has a good clear handle on geopolitics, because we are basically ants.
This is why I’m a little bit concerned.
This afternoon I went to visit Max at the Natural History Museum. Just a brief visit. Catching up. That’s all, but as I was leaving he gathered up some items to give to me. “Oh, and here. I want to give you these. There’s enough for two people.”
My scientific and not particularly sensationalist brother gives me this bag. 50mg triple iodine pills. “That’s enough for you and Lou.”
‘If you see a nuclear blast on the horizon,” Max begins, and in his eyes I see him doing just that in his imagination… “If you see the blast and you aren’t in the radius, take three of these immediately.” 120mg is the recommended dose.
I do my own “research” which as we all know is a new word. “Research” means going on the internet looking specifically for things that support your bias. It looks a lot like the word “research” which means more or less the opposite: the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions. I didn’t do that. I did the version that your angry friend tells you you haven’t done. No new conclusions. I was sold by my brother’s iodine gift. I looked for corroborating evidence.
Here are my findings. A nuke pumps radioactive iodine into the atmosphere. If you’ve already flooded your thyroid with safe iodine it won’t pull the dangerous matter into your organs. It’ll help weather the initial walking dead bit while everybody falls apart. It might lead to some sort of healthy post radiation existence despite the nuke, until fun-Joey from round the corner strangles you for water. “I carry the iodine with me wherever I go these days,” Max continues. I put it in my pocket.
Max is my bellwether. He’s a proper scientist. He’s looked at the chances of a failing Putin somehow sttongarming the people whose job it is to stop Russia committing nukeicide, and he’s decided that on balance it makes sense to carry these pills. This doesn’t mean that he thinks it’s likely the little Tsar will push the button. But… When I leave London for work I often have recently thought “Well, if we get nuked by Putin at least I’m in X place.” Turns out I’d have needed my triple iodine, or I’d have watched the blast from afar thinking “whew” and then my organs would have turned into a cancerous mess anyway. I’m gonna carry these things in my pocket with all the rest of the crap. God though. It has come to this again. This is all so 1980’s. The punks are back in Camden, there’s thatch in Downing Street, and Russia wants to nuke us. I’m not sure if carrying that iodine pushes the global energy a bit more to negative… But I carry so much stuff in my pockets, why not have enough of a supplement to take a clear 120mg to stop myself absorbing radiation. I can have that instead of a bunch of used tissues.