Clams to the Rescue is a story of simpler ways often being better and more efficient. We have been indoctrinated to believe that newer is better, in virtually all aspects of life. Old people can be discarded and ignored, we must have the latest cell phone when the old one had ten-times more features than we could ever use, and we constantly fall victim to advertising that claims newer is better.

     I wrote a blog some time ago about swamp coolers, and how much more efficient they are in terms of power, maintenance and operation than air conditioners. This story falls into the same sort of category.

     A walk through 300 meters of slimy tunnel under the Vistula River in Warsaw, Poland will reveal a water pumping station. Gruba Kaska, as it is known, is a local landmark. When you get there, you will see eight clams hooked up to computers. Hardly a normal pumping station!

     Professors at the University of Adam Mickiewicz have developed an early-warning system for the detection of toxins in the town’s water supply. Clams to the Rescue.

     The system involves attaching electromagnets to the clams. When the clam opens or closes the change in the magnetic field sends a signal to the computer. There are eight clams deployed in this way.

     Clams close when they detect toxins. If a sufficient percentage of the eight close, the computers shut down the city water supply, and send an alarm to the control center.

     Obviously the clams can’t tell the system what toxin they detect, but the early-warning shut-down prevents mass contamination. It gives the human scientists time to investigate, and take appropriate action. It is a real-time solution, which is simple, virtually maintenance free, apart from replacing clams, and very cheap.

     The lead scientist in the development of this system has become so enamoured with clams that he has begun a campaign to stop people eating them. He has even gone as far as to suggest that eating them reduces sex-drive – a questionable attempt to protect them.

     I’m sure that some enterprising company will develop a technology to replace the clams. They will claim increased efficiency of reporting and the ability to identify the toxin. City administrators won’t think it through, and will fall into the trap of buying new. The cost will be high, and the maintenance budget will skyrocket. Inevitably, the system will break down just when it’s needed…Sod’s Law.

     Perhaps we should learn that simple is often better, but that would probably be branded as backward thinking or even anti-capitalistic.

     THINK CLAMS!……and remember, if you want a good sex life, don’t eat them!

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