Ever since reading the NYTimes article on the details of the BP blowout, the phrase, blind shear ram, has been reverberating inside my head! I love the sound of it. So powerful, macho-mechanical, almost apocalyptic! The last resort…that failed! The failsafe mechanism. We must…ac-ti-vate…the blind-shear-RAM!!
The last time I heard a word like this in the news was probably when MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction was in vogue among the nuclear wargame crowd. Or perhaps it was in 1980, during the summer transit strike in New York City when the term Gridlock, with all of its ominous and terrifying connotations of complete urban dysfunction, made its way into public consciousness. (I was told at the time by a former classmate, that a magazine of critical theory had devoted an entire issue to the term! If anyone has a citation, send it please!)
Bind shear ram. I just realized what other association was lurking there. I read a novel by Stanislaw Lem many years ago, Fiasco! Is that appropriate, or what! In the beginning of the story, a mining engineer is working on Venus, sitting in the top of a gigantic robotic ‘man’ hundreds of feet high. He gets stuck, is going to die, so he activates the last resort safety mechanism. His body is rammed into a cylinder and immediately supercooled to preserve him for a future time when they may have figured out how to unfreeze him without turning him to mush.
Memory does funny things.