Chernobyl birds:
Among the merrier coincidences (in the context of a tragedy) is the name Chernobyl.  This was picked up by the Laplanders, who customarily memorize the Bible, and thus – as humans are in reality far superior to any supercomputer when it comes to sensing a pattern – hear nothing without at some level relating it to scripture. 

So brace yourself:

The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.

Of course the reactor at Chernobyl burned and a lot of people got radiation sickness.  And the Ukranian word “chernobyl” means “wormwood.”  When I first leaned this I was so skeptical that I drove half way across the state to consult my mother’s old Encyclopedia Britannica to be sure that the name was older than the reactor.  After all, somebody might have named the place after the prophesy.  A moment with Google will suffice now. 

They regularly go in to see what the radiation has done to the environment.  Recently they took a closer look at birds.  (Chernobyl Birds Adapt to Radiation NATURE vol. 509 no. 7498 May 1, 2014 page 11 reviewing work by Ismael Galván et al.  Funct. Ecol. The birds in the areas most contaminated with radiation have higher levels of anti-oxidant, presumably as it helps them repair radiation damage.  They also found that animals in the contaminated areas had better body condition and less DNA damage from oxidation.

My first reaction is, “Sure the animals look better.  They don’t have to cope with people.”  After all, people are hard on animals.  There was a wonderful TV show not many years ago where a man got permission to go to a body of water right next the reactor and fish for catfish, hoping to get a really big one.  His primary problem was that when he dropped a baited hook other fish got all the bait before the hook got down to where the catfish were.  I once was having lunch on a little dock in a lake and tossed a pinch of bread in the water.  It was immediately snatched by a bream.  So I made it a habit frequently to go there for lunch and to feed the fish.  I found that they much prefer sausage to bread.  Then one day as I passed I saw some teenage boys coming up from the lake with strings of bream.  The boys were positively glowing with joy.  The next time I went to feed the fish there were no takers.  The bream bed was gone and for months when I checked occasionally they never returned.  If the boys had been more thoughtful, they could have taken only what they needed and had bream indefinitely.  People are hard on animals, as I said.

But that bit about less DNA damage where the radiation was strongest, that one puzzles me.  I really don’t want to believe that high radiation is good in the long run.  It would be nice if it were true, but I am most skeptical.  

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