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Saturday, May 30th, 2015 07:59 am
I saw it again last night and I have LOGISTICAL THOUGHTS. Please note that the second cut includes some pretty detailed stuff about pregnancy hazards, so do not read that if you should not read that!

Okay, first: I was extremely curious about the question of where warboys come from. I definitely don't think that the Wives or the Milk Mothers give birth to them - the numbers are just all off. But if you watch closely when the pit peasants show up, a lot of them are dreadful-looking but under the sun damage and sores a lot of them are definitely women who could be of reproductive age. Plus we know that the Citadel steals children - they stole Furiosa in a raid, and didn't manage to keep her mother alive. So my theory is that there's not a separate, unseen reproductive pool somewhere within the Citadel's control - the entire logistics of trying to maintain protected breeders are devoted to the Wives. The Citadel just takes babies who are born down in the pit and supplements that by kidnapping boychildren, possibly supplemented with some kind of formal slave trade. This would, among other things, make that pool of boychildren more disposable to Joe - their environment hasn't been particularly protected, they've had all kinds of prenatal and childhood exposures, they're going to die young. Plus Joe is very determined to pass on his own personal genes. He could not give two flying fucks about the overall survival of humanity, I think.

This doesn't answer the question of where the girlbabies are. Answers could include: boys are preferentially raided, girls with exposures are traded out, or that they're down in the Pit but we just didn't see them.

I was also confused because I thought that the graffiti in the Wives' quarters said that their children wouldn't be warboys, but it said that their sons would not be warlords. So that makes more sense.

I'm also of the opinion, personally, that if you're a warboy and manage to live long enough to be useless to Joe there's the threat that you're going to go back into the Pit. I'm not sure if that holds up - on the one hand, there's definitely no retirement plan for warboys. On the other hand, that might be too much for even them to take from Joe. But I do like the idea that in their cosmology, the Pit is where Hell is, and Joe has raised them from the damned. (A note for vocabulary: in his initial speech he does call himself The Redeemer. I wonder if the script is out there somewhere yet.)

I got a better look at the Wives' Quarters, too, and: like a whole lot of what Joe's set up, it makes a whole lot of sense if you leave human rights out of it. They aren't just locked up, they're also behind a blast door that may well be an airlock, on the far side of a hydroponics farm that probably catches and filters a lot of air. There's glass between them and the contaminated air outside - and Joe and Rictus both breathe from private air supplies, as does Colossus. They could have crap lungs, or they could be trying to avoid some exposures too. And my theory for the Milk Mothers continues to be that breastmilk, at least in-universe, kills cancer cells and is therefore is kind of a wonder drug the upper echelons have access to that keep them from getting so sick. (While googling this I found a LOT of people who consume it as an alternative remedy - I was already aware that there are a couple of women in my area who overproduce and sell breastmilk on Craigslist and are clearly expecting that adults will be among the people buying and drinking it, but I didn't know it was such a widespread thing among some alternative-health communities of cancer patients.) (I also googled to see if radiation concentrates in breastmilk like other classes of pollutants do, and the answer seems to be that iodine-wise, you're still basically fucked. Stupid iodine.)

ANYWAY. Given how serious prenatal radiation exposures can be, finding people who seem like they probably have minimally-scrambled chromosomes and then sticking them in a shielded room for the entire gestational period ... makes sense, for certain values of "makes sense". (My working theory continues to be that the Milk Mothers were an earlier round of Wives who did not produce adequate results, so Joe tried again, even harder and with even more complicated logistics, but of course he didn't introduce anyone else's sperm to the equation so everyone was still contending with his ion-battered testes and it probably took forever for anyone to actually get pregnant). Like, honestly, continuing to use the Wives' Vault as the place where pregnant women go ... seems sensible. Except that in a world that is not full of human rights abuses, they'd get bored, it's very restrictive, and of course who draws straws for who goes up there?

I guess as with all of these issues, the best solution is to disperse commodities and technologies such that most people do a little better. (For example, water spigots would make a huge difference for most people including pregnant people - apparently in general fetuses are pretty well-shielded from radiation by the fact that there's an entire person outside of the fetus shielding it, but the uterus is right by the bladder, so stuff getting excreted through there does pose a risk).

(One nice thing if we're discussing reproductive politics for the future Citadel - apparently the second trimester is the tricky stage when it comes to radiation exposures and the health of any resulting infant, so people would have a little while to be like OH. Despite the nuclear odds, I am pregnant! What choices would I like to make for my safety and my potential future child's safety? instead of needing to hie themselves into a cave at the moment of conception. In the first trimester, it tends to be all-or-nothing - you miscarry or you're still pregnant and everything's fine? say a couple of different websites - so Joe's ladyvault makes sense as someone whose goal is to get BABIES, ANY BABIES, and people who really want kids might still want to lock themselves down in that fashion? But people who are just living their lives and get pregnant don't need to go to those extents.)

Anyway, the Vuvalini seemed to be moderately successful reproducing while living in free conditions. I'm trying to find out right now if that was partially to do with being able to get enough non-radioactive iodine because of eating lots of plants, instead of living at the top of a food chain where other organisms (lizards, beetles) are concentrating them? That does not seem to be accurate, but I want to say that the topic has been very well-researched. Plants take up plenty of radioactive isotopes, but as far as overall food safety, it seems like it could addressed/mitigated through some very careful agricultural practices - avoiding certain parts or ages of plants, washing/steeping other parts of plants in clean water. Plants with shallow rooting systems like grasses drag less crap up from the subsoil than plants with taproots. This seems like the kind of thing that would give rise to a cuisine - like, in five generations, post-post-nuclear foodies are going "why do we steep yucca roots for-fucking-ever? It makes them bland and mushy! Just lightly steam them!" because they no longer remember/need all those precautions.

It also occurs to me that this is exactly the kind of situation where you could use a bug farm - not just because bugs are efficient to farm in warm temperatures and full of healthy protein, but because the extremely fast generational turnover with bugs means that radioactive elements wouldn't necessarily have a lot of time to concentrate in their bodies. Cricket farms! The Dag and her creepy cricket farms. I really like [personal profile] byzantienne and [personal profile] thatyourefuses' ideas that The Dag will be a creepy farming priestess and no one will want to bother her because they're faintly afraid she'll stab them with her pruning hook and then use their bones to make fertilizer.

So I've blogged before, I think, about incredibly stupid and contrived show that I watched on Netflix when I was sick a year ago. The second season is moderately okay, up until one of the women got kidnapped and then I was like ENH THIS ISN'T FUN and gave up. The first season is everything that can be wrong with the postapocalyptic genre - the editing spent absolutely no time on the women who were trying to feed everyone and focused entirely on this one super-obnoxious, horrible dude who was making increasingly stupid war vehicles and screaming at everybody. At one point the nurse in the group actually refused to treat a scrape he got because she was hoping that the producers would say "in a real disaster, you would have gotten blood poisoning and died" and pull him so that the rest of them could get back to actual practical survival, which I thought was one of the few moments of actual believable human drama on the show. (The producers gave him some iodine and band-aids and he was fine).

ANYWAY. This group of people are getting their water from a sketchy drainage ditch and filtering it through a bucket full of charcoal; because there are "raiders" in this scenario, every run out of the compound and down to the ditch is very very dangerous, so they're rationing water very intensely. At one point, the producers send a bedraggled band of 'refugees' to knock at the door and ask for clean water, and the people in the colony turn them away because of the water rationing in the most boneheaded display of basic economics failure that I've ever seen. The water in the ditch is basically unlimited and their filters are in good working order and aren't about to crap out; the limiting factor is the labor/danger to go get the water out of the ditch and bring it to the filter. The fake refugees are already outside dealing with that danger! Just give them some buckets and tell them you're keeping 10% of what they bring back, and set them to hauling! PROBLEM NOT JUST SOLVED: GREAT NEW BUSINESS PLAN FORMULATED. You're a water factory now! You help your neighbors and get trade goods! People need you, which changes the politics of the landscape a lot! ARGH. It has been a year and I'm still furious about how dumb that was. Look at the situation. Figure out the limiting factors. Address the limiting factors.

The limiting factors in Mad Max are finite resources, though, combined with the fact that territories seem to be very, very small and you have to spend a crazy amount of resources to keep the resources which you need to protect your resources. (I mean, you can see the Citadel on the horizon at a point when you're already "in hostile territory", according to Joe et al.) I feel like what they really need, frankly, is a combination of logistical and cultural technologies. A religion would help create social organization to use those resources - Joe definitely succeeded in organizing resource access through religion. A religion that told you how to soak your yucca root and build a solar still to capture water at night would help a lot. Take the limiting factors and work to disperse the means to make them as much as possible to decrease the pressure on the aquifers and the oil wells. Build an agriculture that can survive in trickier and trickier outlying areas. (That's a multigenerational project, but it's a good one. I saw a lot of surviving sedge grasses on that desert. Sedges have edible seeds. Do the thing people do.)

(I have a lot to say about what the internet thinks is and is not possible as far building stills and water filters that can deal with radioactive contaminants. The upshot is that iodine - again, fucking iodine! we'd be fine if iodine wasn't a factor - is tricky and can't be removed by distillation but it can be reduced through mechanical filtration. I'm working on figuring out if the clay filters you find on Google are hippie bullshit or not. One nice thing about a postnuclear canon is that there's a lot of creepy cold war stuff from Real Scientists about the logistics out there on the internet.)

Anyway, this is longer than most actual fanfiction that I have ever written, so I hope someone wants to talk to me about it. I also have new thoughts about who's going to have what job in the new Citadel, but I should save something for tomorrow's Mad Max of the day.

... I need an icon, probably.
Saturday, May 30th, 2015 05:47 pm (UTC)
Awesome entry! I'm bookmarking this as an apocalypsefic resource.
Monday, June 1st, 2015 01:49 am (UTC)
Hi I am interested in sedges et al. and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
Sunday, June 21st, 2015 03:45 am (UTC)
I was going to say, I'm really interested in why iodine can't be distilled off, but then I remembered how low its boiling point is. Can you get it with fractional distillation? Is the boiling point far enough off from water that the first or last fractions could just be tipped out? I wonder what kind of iodine compounds you can precipitate out of solution... Then again, the cure might be worse than the disease. *goes to look up insoluble compounds*

Aha! AgI (silver iodide) is very insoluble, per my I-Chem textbook. So if you could 1. figure out and 2. produce a series of washes that started out with I(aq) and wound up with, for example, NaCl(aq) or other nontoxic dissolved salt, and then you could just distill off the water and carefully contain and discard the AgI precipitate. Do you know if dissolved iodine is usually neutral or ionic?
Sunday, June 21st, 2015 09:20 pm (UTC)
"Wash" isn't really the right word, I shouldn't have used it - when you're washing a solution you're... here, example: Compound A, water, hydrocarbon B. B and water are immiscible; like oil and water, they will stand apart. Compound A is soluble in both, and can be easily separated from (say) the water, but not easily separated from hydrocarbon B. A is currently dissolved in B. So! You takes your solution of B + A, you puts it in your specially designed funnel which probably has a fancy name, but basically it has a valve at the bottom and a stopper opening at the top, and you adds your water. Then you shake them around and let the water (only the water) out the bottom. The water carries with it a bunch of Compound A, now dissolved in the water. You can keep doing this, to extract more and more of A in a larger volume of water, and then you perform whatever magic you want on the water (distillation, whatever) to get A out of the water. So that's washing.

The safety of the water - that would be the trick. When you react a thing with another thing, you can put in a lot of one thing and pretty much guarantee that all of the other thing gets reacted. So if you had a nontoxic thing to use a lot of, then all of your toxic other thing could get reacted. If the toxic thing is then being bound up in a precipitate (an insoluble reaction product, so you pour two liquid solutions together and BAM white flakes appear at the bottom of your container) then you can pour off the remaining solution and have a nontoxic solution of water + whatever was left behind by the reaction, and a pile of damp toxic powder.

You might well need to do this several times to get a final, totally nontoxic result. So, like,

I2(l) + H2O(l) <- -> OI-(aq) + 2H+(aq) + I-(aq)

So then you would do something like

Ag+(aq) + NO3-(aq) + I-(aq) -> AgI(s) + NO3-(aq)

The nitrate is a spectator ion, you're left with nitric acid in water, basically. Also, please note that I'm just tossing this off, please don't actually depend on my napkin chemistry for your personal survival.

You let the solution sit for a bit so the AgI(s) precipitates and settles, and then you pour off the nitric acid solution and... distill it? Find some nitrate compound that's insoluble (iirc, those are few and far between)? Something like that. You definitely don't want to drink nitric acid. But, actually, if you can get it back then you just need a source of silver, because the nitric acid goes over the silver and then you've got your silver nitrate again.

Fillings might be useful in bulk, but there's just not that much silver in them. You'd be better off with a mine or jewelry workshop or something.

The internet also thinks I'm overthinking this, mostly it looks like activated carbon will take iodine out of water.

Which doesn't rule out your water cult! You can still take a bucket of murky, ticking water, pour it in a thing, light a fire under it,

OH ALSO I wonder if you can heat iodine off? Because it's a dissolved gas, basically distill it rather than the water? You would need to keep it below the boiling point of water for a long time, probably, and the water losses would be enormous if it even worked...

Anyway, light a fire, mystery bubblings! *jazz hands* (distillation) + mystery dribblings! *jazz hands* (activated carbon filtration) -> clean water, like magic. Wow! So cult. Many follower.

This site was useful for the iodine in water reaction and the recommendation for activated carbon filtration.
Monday, June 22nd, 2015 01:35 am (UTC)
The water cult would become a power, for sure, but because they require certain resources to make water... if someone managed to get control of those resources, the water cult would still be a black box of evil water in -> pure water out, but outside of that black box they could be controlled, to some degree.

So, they'd want to make sure they had a fairly strong defensive arm. Or you can build a society around a bunch of different cults, water cult, guzzolene refinery cult, greening-the-desert cult, the glassblowers guild cult, plus all the sort of general manual labor which supports and is supplied by the cults. The more self-sufficient a group can be, the better. And then you have the guilds of medieval and renaissance Europe! Hurray!
Sunday, June 21st, 2015 09:37 pm (UTC)
Nitric acid was known to the alchemists as Aqua Fortis. From Wikipedia: Aqua fortis was prepared by mixing either sand, alum, or vitriol, or the last two together, with saltpeter, then distilling it by a hot fire. The gas collected from this condenses into aqua fortis.

We know they've got saltpeter if they can still trade with the Bullet Farm, and boy are they ok for sand. Alum is terribly useful for all kinds of things, and I think can be mined or created by reaction. Oil of vitriol is sulfuric acid, which can be made from any sulfur they happen to have lying around (again, probably a mining operation).

There are of course laboratory methods for making nitric acid, but it's doubtful that the Citadel has the capacity for them yet.

Also, separately, but speaking of water quality: In the movie, we see Immortan Joe, Corpus Colossus, Rictus Erectus, and a couple of imperators up on his stone balcony, which is open to the air. Behind him, also open to the air is a large pool of water with working pumps. WTH? Why wouldn't that be closed off? He clearly knows that breathing dust is not good, why would he be ok drinking it? Also, I've wondered this for a while, why would you bother pumping the water alllllll the way up there? Store it lower down! Water is heavy and pumping it is hard!
Monday, June 22nd, 2015 01:44 am (UTC)
They don't look especially sedimentary, but we know that the pillars started life as outcroppings of the Blue Mountains and then were totally re-textured by computer, so they don't really exist as such. The actual Blue Mountains, from Wikipedia, are sandstone bedrock, which is pretty porous, but that could lie on top of an impermeable clay layer or something.