406 Matching Annotations
  1. Last 7 days
  2. May 2020
    1. If it’s a live pet, you do a little threat modeling: is the cat cute and cuddly, or will it scratch the kid’s face off?
    1. While somewhat modest in size, the literature on chronic tolerance to nicotine in humans is reasonably consistent in showing clear evidence of tolerance to subjective mood effects but little or no tolerance to cardiovascular, performance or other nicotine effects

      This is what I'd expect for tobacco, but it tells me little about nicotine. Most of the subjective effects are not from tobacco, so It's still plausible that nicotine does not develop tolerance. Indeed, the effects that don't go away are the effects expected from nicotine.

    1. Drew, D. A., Nguyen, L. H., Steves, C. J., Menni, C., Freydin, M., Varsavsky, T., Sudre, C. H., Cardoso, M. J., Ourselin, S., Wolf, J., Spector, T. D., Chan, A. T., & Consortium§, C. (2020). Rapid implementation of mobile technology for real-time epidemiology of COVID-19. Science. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abc0473

    1. alphabet of death:

      By ending her poem with the "alphabet of death," Kostenko establishes that society's fixation on scientific progress at the expense of human lives has divested language of its ability to articulate the conditions of the present and imagine a future. Any attempts at linguistic representation must culminate in the "death" symbolized by the nuclear power station. As such, language itself collapses in the face of Chernobyl.

      As Jean-Luc Nancy writes in After Fukushima: The Equivalence of Catastrophes, "We live no longer either in tragic meaning nor in what, with Christianity, was supposed to transport and elevate tragedy to divine salvation . . . We are being exposed to a catastrophe of meaning." [1] In other words, Chernobyl is disastrous not because of what it represents, but because it defies representation of any kind.

      [1] Nancy, Jean-Luc. After Fukushima: The Equivalence of Catastrophes, translated by Charlotte Mandell. Fordham University Press, 2015.

    2. no longer have the forest nor the heavens.

      Kostenko represents Chernobyl not only as an environmental catastrophe, but also as the cause of total alienation from spirituality and heaven. It is possible to read this poem as engaging with one well-known reading of Chernobyl, which interprets the disaster as an inevitable apocalyptic moment predicted in the Book of Revelation:

      Then 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 water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter. [1]

      In Ukrainian, the world "Chernobyl" is derived from two separate roots that combine to mean "black plant." The word "Chernobyl" refers to a specific species of Artemisia, which is a type of weed. [2] In English, Artemisia is translated as "wormwood," which has led many people to link the Chernobyl catastrophe to the "wormwood" mentioned in the Book of Revelation. However, as Michael Palij and William Fletcher note, "The coincidence is not quite so striking in the Ukrainian translation of the Bible, for there the name of the star is Polyn, the genus wormwood, rather than chornobyl', a species of wormwood." [2] Although the etymological relationship between Chernobyl and the Bible does not align perfectly, the religious reading of Chernobyl continues to resonate.



      [1] The Bible. King James Version. Christian Art Publishers, 2012.

      [2] Palij, Michael & William C. Fletcher. "Chornobyl: An Etymology." Ukrainian Quarterly, vol. 42 Spring-Summer 1986, p. 22-24.

      Image Credit:

      "Redstem Wormwood" by Moxxie is licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0. The image has not been modified in any way and falls under fair use.

    3. Later we will determine: Who is to blame;

      Compare the beginning of this part of the poem with the beginning of the first part of the poem, in which the speaker asks humanity to forgive him personally for the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. In contrast to the plea for individual forgiveness that we saw previously, here the question of responsibility for Chernobyl is left unresolved. The use of the word "We" implicates the reader in a continuous and collective process of reevaluation and renegotiation of blame. The centrality of the word "we" in Lina Kostenko's poem achieves a similar effect.

    4. The contemporary of Hiroshima, the man who flew into Russia.

      By representing Doctor Gale as the man "who flew into Russia," Voznesensky depicts the international medical response to Chernobyl as equally as heroic as the sacrificial contributions of the Ukrainian and Soviet first responders. However, as the contextual note about Dr. Gale mentions, Soviet radiation specialists like Dr. Angelina Guskova questioned the legitimacy and ethicality of the bone marrow transplant procedures he conducted. That being said, both Soviet and American newspapers presented Dr. Gale as being motivated purely by humanitarian concern and goodwill, which drew attention away from the important work and needs of doctors in the Soviet Union.

      As the biographical note about Andrei Voznesensky states, he spent a lot of time in the United States. Due to his travels, befriended a great number of politicians, artists, and writers abroad, which may help to explain the prominence of Dr. Gale as a representative of the American response to Chernobyl in this poem.

    5. Is it the fault of science     or of humanity?

      This verse marks one of the first instances in the poem when the speaker distances himself from Chernobyl and interrogates who else can be held responsible for what happened. The distinction between "science" and "humanity" here is especially significant, because it presents two ways of interpreting and responding to Chernobyl. Chernobyl can be understood as an isolated scientific tragedy unique to the Soviet political and scientific contexts, or, as Kate Brown puts it, as an "acceleration on a timeline of exposures that sped up in the second half of the twentieth century . . . connected to many other events," such as war, environmental degradation, and political corruption. [1]

      Read this annotation in conversation with these other important moments throughout the poem that deal with guilt and accountability:

      "Forgive me, / a human, / Humanity"

      Who is to blame?


      [1] Brown, Kate. Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future. W. W. Norton and Company, 2019.

    6. They did not share it, we had to question it.

      Unlike Voznesensky and Kostenko's poems, which utilize the word "we" to encourage the reader to reflect on their own complicity in the conditions that allowed for Chernobyl and its subsequent memorialization, Hernán Urbina Joiro represents the Soviet Union's "Iron Curtain" as the clear antagonist of the "West." On the one hand, Joiro's poem clearly demonstrates how the environmental and political effects of Chernobyl transgressed international boundaries. On the other hand, the dichotomy between "East" and "West" that structures the poem does not facilitate reflection on the question of whether it is possible and/or necessary for people within and outside of the former Soviet Union to reflect on their responsibility for their own responses to Chernobyl and nuclear power.

  3. Apr 2020
    1. God is in     He who went to the contaminated object;

      To learn about a potential link between Chernobyl and an apocalyptic moment referenced in the Book of Revelation, visit this annotation.

      In this section, the speaker represents Chernobyl not as responsible for a profound spiritual rupture, but instead as the catalyst for a renewed relationship between humanity and God. He emphasizes the presence of the divine in the actions of the first responders to Chernobyl while simultaneously reiterating that the "heroes" of Chernobyl "simply acted like a human."

      This spiritual/religious symbolism of this poem is also reflected in its structure, which from the beginning takes the form of an extended plea for forgiveness, and in the references to iconography.

    2. Where is the poisoned fruit of knowledge?

      The "poisoned fruit / of knowledge" can be interpreted as a reference to Adam and Eve's decision to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, which is a key foundation of Judeo-Christian theology. This reference to original sin builds upon the religious symbolism in the poem, by implying that the people and systems responsible for Chernobyl repeated this irresolvable transgression.

      Other examples of religious symbolism in the poem:

      "Forgive me, a human"

      "God is in . . ."

      "Theophanes the Greek"

    3. He stares uninterruptedly,     like Theophanes the Greek.

      Read about Theophanes the Greek and the tradition of icon painting in Russia for context.

      Here, Voznesensky links the "heroic human" of Chernobyl to the memory of a famous icon painter and the practice of viewing and venerating Russian Orthodox iconography. Engaging with the gaze of the icon is recognized as an essential aspect of the ability of the faithful to communicate with the divine. In this way, Voznesensky relates the act of bearing witness to Chernobyl with the holy ritual of icon veneration and meditation.

    4. Life alone     is not an unfathomable parsec.

      See this annotationfor a definition of the scientific term "parsec."

      This verse expresses the speaker's skepticism regarding the capacity of a purely scientific framework to represent "life" and provide a viable framework for understanding reality. That is to say, science cannot adequately explain the Chernobyl catastrophe and its long-term implications for humanity. It is productive to read this line alongside Lina Kostenko's poem, which represents scientific progress as a trap that alienates humanity from language, environment, and faith alike.

    5. He simply acted         like a human.

      Throughout this poem, the refrain "because he is a human" emphasizes that the "heroes" who responded to Chernobyl acted in accordance with their basic humanity. However, at the beginning of the poem, the speaker identifies himself as a 'human' and asks for forgiveness for the Chernobyl catastrophe. As such, the language that the speaker uses to assign blame to himself (as a "human") is paradoxically the same as the language he uses to draw attention to the sacrifices of others.

    6. Forgive me,     a human,         Humanity – history, Russia, and Europe – that the monstrous test     of the blind forces happened to fall on my land     and my era.

      See this link for information about the usage of the words "humanity" and "human" in this poem.

      Who and what can be held accountable for Chernobyl? From the beginning of this poem, Andrei Voznesensky engages with the question of blame and forgiveness in the aftermath of catastrophe. The speaker self-identifies as a "human," who is asking for forgiveness from "humanity" as a whole. In this way, Voznesensky structurally separates the "human" who accepts blame for Chernobyl from the "humanity" that was affected by the disaster.

      However, reading this introduction in conversation with the rest of the poem complicates the relationship between personal responsibility, forgiveness, and collective guilt that develops throughout this poem. Consider the following annotations in conversation with this one:

      Humanity versus science

      Who is to blame?

    7. Wasn’t there a way to put concrete and yellow steel in a radiation-proof sarcophagus that would not put an Iron Curtain in control?

      Again, Hernán Urbina Joiro's poem chronicles the Chernobyl catastrophe as a battle for control that highlighted and worsened Cold War tensions between the "East" and "West." Consider the following annotations about this reading of Chernobyl and its role in the ongoing discourse about blame and responsibility:

      They did not share it

      The radioactive cloud

    8. 500 times more than in Hiroshima.

      While this quantitative comparison between Hiroshima and Chernobyl helps to communicate the gravity of the Chernobyl disaster, many scholars have questioned the extent to which it is possible and productive to compare catastrophes. For example, Peter Gray and Kendrick Oliver write that "The resistance of the Holocaust to narration and other practices of historical sense-making provoked a broader intellectual deconstruction of the established modes by which meaning could be imposed on human affairs." [1] That is to say, catastrophes cannot be described in relation to established temporal, linguistic, or historical frameworks. Thus, Chernobyl requires us to question whether it is possible to fully represent, interpret, and respond to disaster through narrative and analysis.

      [1] Gray, Peter and Kendrick Oliver. Introduction. The Memory of Catastrophe. Manchester University Press, 2004.

    9. The radioactive cloud ran circles around your Curtain, and caught up to Europe

      In this verse, Chernobyl's radioactive cloud symbolizes a disaster that "escaped" the Soviet Union and reached Europe, thereby portraying Europe as the victim of Chernobyl accident and the Soviet Union as the perpetrator. Consider this discussion of the potential problems of enforcing this strict conceptual divide between European innocence and Soviet responsibility.

    10. The announcement was made. Minor setback, Solution in progress. Full stop.

      The narrative of this poem is repeatedly interrupted by these "telegraphic" sections, which mimic the process of sharing information about Chernobyl with the public, as you can see in the "Gorbachev speaks" contextual note. This technique effectively simulates the disjointed and often contradictory dissemination of information about the Chernobyl disaster, both at the time of the accident and in our contemporary context, in the form of the inconclusive studies of Chernobyl's long-term effects and ongoing contests over its memory.

    11. atomic hostages to progress,

      By writing about "atomic hostages to progress," Kostenko defines scientific progress not as a gateway to understanding, but as a barrier to comprehension and representation of the world around us.

    12. We

      The word "We" is central to the structure and content of this poem. Kostenko's repeated emphasis on the word "We" prevents the reader from separating herself from the poem's engagement with nuclear disaster and the legacy of Chernobyl. It is helpful to read the usage of this word in conversation with Andrei Voznesensky's work.

    1. Jefferson, T., Jones, M., Al Ansari, L. A., Bawazeer, G., Beller, E., Clark, J., Conly, J., Del Mar, C., Dooley, E., Ferroni, E., Glasziou, P., Hoffman, T., Thorning, S., & Van Driel, M. (2020). Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. Part 1 - Face masks, eye protection and person distancing: Systematic review and meta-analysis [Preprint]. Public and Global Health. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.30.20047217