6 Appalling Things I Would Do If I Ran Famous Scientific Institutions

Admit it — you've had mad science fantasies where you're put in charge of a multi-billion dollar scientific institution. Especially one that has destructive capability. I've always wanted to use a great scientific facility to do something appalling. Here are my six favorite ideas for twisting legendary scientific institutions to my own nefarious ends. Mwahaha!

1. The Global Seed Vault Becomes Thunderdome

The Global Seed Vault is on the archipelago of Svalbard, in Norway. It's built into the side of a mountain, and hosts the back-up copies of seeds in case of an global catastrophe. Governments worldwide fund it, and gene banks donate precious seeds to it in order to make sure that the richness of life, and the makings of human nourishment do not end if the worst should happen. If I got it, I would build a big fort around it, staff it with a group of fanatically loyal cultists, and do my best to make sure the worst happened.


And then they'd come crawling to me. Oh yes. They'd all come crawling to Esther. To get a picture of what I'd be like, think Tina Turner in Thunderdome, but with a snow theme. I'd make world leaders battle to the death, then dance for my pleasure. I'd force leading scientists to make misshapen animal creations to satisfy my palate and terrorize my enemies. I'd have people sing deep-voiced songs at my gate like the Wicked Witch of the West. In fact, I'd probably use the very theme she did. What's anyone gonna do about it? I have all the seeds. I have all. The. Seeds.

2. The Large Hadron Collider's New Physics Mercenary Division

I would actively attempt to use the LHC to create a black hole. But this is just a technicality, since I absolutely believe that the scientists at the LHC are doing that right now. How could anyone not? Every time I go to youtube I find a video in which people have used the technicalities video game to create things like car catapults and giant group dancing sequences. Every day I find people using PVC pipe and hairspray to make potato cannons. Don't tell that a bunch of physics nerds with easy access to both Oktoberfest and Amsterdam aren't trying to make a black hole. The difference between me and them is this - from the moment doomsday nutjobs started saying the the LHC might create a black hole, I would have been craftily trying to get more information out of them. "Oh I don't think it'll make a black hole. What operations, for example, do you think would be the most risky? Really? Well what if we modified it?"

Sure, they could have caught on, but if they did, all I'd need is a good team of mercenaries to kidnap them and a few months. Then, when they'd done their work for me, I could throw them into the black hole. I don't know which I'd like more, the science or the irony.


3. The Scourge of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures

There are some things that do not lend themselves to easy fantasies, and some things that do. The International Bureau of Weights and Measures is one that does. Perhaps that's a function of its being in France. I like to picture long strolls on the Seine, eating croissants and drinking chocolat chaud, and then, perhaps, in the afternoon, before dinner, changing the length of the meter just that little bit. The next morning I would wake up and glance at the papers to see if there were any more problems on building sites, or whether the BMI for the world had gone down. Or up. I haven't quite decided how I want to skew pounds and kilograms yet. I'd probably scale kilograms down and pounds up, just to get under the skin of the countries that are metric. That'll show them for using a sensible base ten system of measurement and eating more vegetables.


4. The Environmental Protection Agency Has a Posse

Not all of my ideas for what do with these agencies are through-and-through evil. For example, I'd like the EPA to continue monitoring the environmental status across the nation. That's important. It's just that, instead of having them work for environmental protection through legal and administrative channels, I would want them to have an Old West style posse. No, not an Unforgiven-style posse. A Paint Your Wagon style posse, with pastel shirts and neckerchiefs. I can't describe how much fun it would be to just cut through that legal stuff, ride in somewhere, call the director of a certain company a "varmint," and make him ride out of town on a rail. There would be so much more than that, though. There would be lassoings, and tar-and-featherings, and shoot-outs in corrals. Come on. This is the one agency where it's your job to yell things like, "Somebody's poisoned the waterhole!" If life gives you an opportunity like that, you have to set the stage around it.


5. International Space Agencies Get Napoleonic on the Moon

Here's my position on running space agencies: we're going to live on the Moon, and then on Mars. That's what's going to happen now. And if I'd run the EPA like a 1960s western, I'd run NASA, and the rest of them, like one of the more brutal movies about British naval service during the Napoleonic wars. If you got too drunk in a bar, you'd wake up in a biodome, or working on a hydroponics laboratory, or swabbing a shuttle. If any space agency resisted us, we'd attack and plunder them. If anyone in the agency protested, there would be floggings. On the other hand, there would also be rations of rum, and plenty of limes. So there would be balance.


I like to think that I would then hurl people towards distant space rocks without any respect for human life, because that's the kind of thing that sounds great in an obituary, especially if it's followed by, "but she got results!" Still, I think that if I did something like that I would get to the obituary without having the necessary time to get results. Maybe, though, I could go the societal scapegoat round. Lunar penal colonies. Martian religious separatists. Greedy meteorite speculators. It's worked before.

6. The International Space Station and Supervillainy

Oh there are so many possibilities! For one thing, I'd want to check out what I'd learned about fires in space. On Earth hot air rises, leaving space for fresh oxygen to rush in and keep the fire going. In space, the used up oxygen just expands with the gas around the fire and often chokes the fire out. Then again, Mir was once almost destroyed by a fire that was aided by a faulty oxygen canister. I'd like to see different fires under different conditions. Plus, I think Space Arsonist is probably the best job title ever.


Then again I might use the station to aim killer lasers at the Earth and start a career in supervillainy. Or just to draw my name on various things.


But I think my favorite plan involves kidnapping Jim Lovell and Tom Hanks — the astronaut in the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission and the actor who played him. Both did their jobs in zero effective gravity - Lovell in space and Hanks on a swooping aircraft. This is a condition I could only recreate for long stretches on the space station. First I'd have Lovell watch Apollo 13, the movie, and recreate the performance. Then I'd have Hanks recreate that performance. Then I'd get Lovell to recreate that. The hall of mirrors of performances would get stretched and distorted forever, melding the three disciplines of the day, the arts, the sciences, and the remakes. It might seem like a waste, but hey, that's why I'm not in charge.



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