Jewish World Review Sept. 24, 2002 / 18 Tishrei, 5763

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

An airbag, humanity's salvation? | Offering further proof that you should have paid more attention in science class, an American researcher has suggested that the Earth could be protected from destructive comets by inflating a giant airbag.

Hermann Burchard of Oklahoma State University, which is apparently directly beneath a giant hole in the ozone, told New Scientist magazine that an airbag would be a safer alternative to nuclear warheads should the Earth encounter a comet with our number on it.

While some people might be tempted to scoff at Burchard's idea as impractical, ill-conceived or just plain stupid, I think he is on to something, and not necessarily something illegal. There are a lot of non-comet airbag applications that have yet to be explored.

My pug dog has a bad habit of jumping onto my lap just as I'm bringing that first succulent forkful of Hamburger Helper to my mouth. An inexpensive lap-mounted airbag could solve this problem quite effectively.

Just as Porkchop was descending onto my plate of Chili Macaroni, a small airbag would inflate, bouncing him off into space. After ricocheting a few times off the coffee table or bookcase, I believe his lap-leaping habit would be broken.

But there are many other uses for an airbag other than sending your dog pinballing around the living room like a furry ball of Flubber. Take the office environment, for instance. I can't count the number of times that the exhausting labor of creating a 500-word column has caused me to fall asleep, resulting in a painful dent to my forehead when I whack it into the keyboard.

A small airbag, perhaps inserted underneath the little-used "Z" or "Q" keys, could spare me a lot of unnecessary abrasions and would also save the company a fortune in damaged keyboards.

Manually deployed airbags would also be useful in deflecting pesky co-workers and snippy editors who always seem to show up just as you're settling in for a quick nap on your keyboard. A gentle touch of a foot pedal and FOOMP! - away they sail, not stopping until they crash into the newsroom refrigerator.

In these nervous times, advanced airbag technology could also be useful in preventing airline hijackings or protecting buildings. A 3,000-mile wide, federally funded titanium airbag would give a whole new meaning to the term "homeland security."

Clearly, airbag applications go far beyond those of the automotive industry. If we can protect our planet from a rogue comet, we can certainly figure out a way to keep our dogs out of our mashed potatoes.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


09/06/02: Come listen to a story about a man named ... Bill
09/03/02: You're not in preschool anymore!
08/30/02: A charming idea from a brutal, whacked-out, megalomaniacal dictator-for-life
08/26/02: Blubber water? How to put on the pounds by gulping H20
08/21/02: The latest evidence that Mother Nature is out to kill us
08/13/02: Computers, airplanes and Canada don't mix
08/06/02: The sky's not falling? Dang it!
08/02/02: Some fond memories of worst TV shows
07/30/02: Pay my credit-card bill, please?
07/25/02: Something to celebrate
07/22/02: Baseball needs to ban the fans
07/16/02: Hasbro should consider new inaction figure
07/11/02: Decline in trash-talking is harming our mental health? Well, #@%&!
07/08/02 Americans retain right to fork tongues
07/01/02 These laws were made to be broken
06/18/02 Watching enough commercials?
06/03/02 Throwing your vote to the dogs
05/08/02 Hey, Mom, could you spare a dime?: Parents' obligations unending

© 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune