Jellybean Roulette – Put a Price on Your Life

Three cheers for the human race:  risk-takers whether we want to be or not.

Exploring space, making love, brushing your teeth – all are fraught with degrees of risk. John Glenn has done all three. Three cheers for him.

Because risk takers fascinate me, I invented Jellybean Roulette. Here’s how it works:

First you get a poison jellybean, one that will kill you the instant you swallow it. Then you hide the deadly jellybean in a bowl of harmless but identical-looking jellybeans.

To win the game, simply pluck any jellybean out of the bowl and swallow it. If you live, you get a billion dollars. If you lose, I get the prize. Tough luck for you. Three cheers for me.

The person who selects his or her jellybean from the smallest quantity of jellybeans goes first. For example, I could say I elect to choose from 50 jellybeans but if you choose from 49 and I was afraid to go any lower, then you would get to select a jellybean, pop it in your mouth and if you did not kill yourself, you would win. Tough luck for me. Three cheers for you.

Half the people I explain Jellybean Roulette to are horrified that I would come up with such a concept.

These people assure me that under no circumstances would they play my game. It wouldn’t matter how much money was at stake. And it wouldn’t matter how many jellybeans were involved. Life is too precious and they simply would not play my mad Jellybean Roulette.

The rest of the people I talk to would play my game. Many claim they would risk eating one jellybean out of a 1,000 for a billion dollars.

Of course, Jellybean Roulette is hypothetical. To my knowledge, no one has ever played it.

I readily admit that Jellybean Roulette is a silly way to spend a Friday evening. But the hilarious thing is that, whether you know it or not, you’re soon going to be playing a version of the Jellybean Roulette on a grand scale.

Over a year ago, NASA launched about 25 kilos of plutonium in their Cassini Mission. They hurled it at Venus and, fortunately, the deadly cargo did not explode during liftoff.

Plutonium to Saturn

That lethal package boomerangs back to Earth on August 18, 1999. The idea is for the plutonium to barely miss the Earth, then, using our gravity, swing around and slingshot off to Saturn. This is so we can predict sunspots or some such darn-fool thing. Three cheers for the NASA rocket scientists.

If the package hits us during its 70,000 kph fly-by and explodes, plutonium will rain down on our little planet.

What could cause it to hit us? Hmm. How about a loose screw from one of the hundreds of satellites tumbling around Earth? Or a clump of space dust? Or one of John Glenn’s jettisoned toenail clippings? You’d be amazed how easy it is to deflect something traveling at 70,000 kph.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, says that plutonium “is so toxic that less than one-millionth of a gram, an invisible particle, is a carcinogenic dose.” Half a kilo, if uniformly distributed, could hypothetically induce lung cancer in every person on Earth, she says. Then we would all die horrible and lingering deaths. And that’s from half a kilo.

We’re talking 25 kilos of plutonium with the Cassini Mission.

Three cheers for the human race:  risk-takers whether we want to be or not.


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