It has been called “the great destroyer” and “the evil.” The Pentagon refers to it as “the pervasive menace.” It destroys cars, fells bridges, sinks ships, sparks house fires, and nearly brought down the Statue of Liberty. Rust costs America more than $400 billion per year—more than all other natural disasters combined.
Journalist Jonathan Waldman traveled from Key West, Florida, to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to meet the colorful and often reclusive people who are fighting our mightiest and unlikeliest enemy. He went into an abandoned steelworks with a brave artist, and then he nearly gets kicked out of Ball Corporation’s Can School. Across the Arctic, he followed a massive high-tech robot that hunts for rust in the Alaska pipeline. On a Florida film set he meets the Defense Department’s rust ambassador, who reveals that the navy’s number one foe isn’t a foreign country but oxidation itself. Through all of these adventures, Jonathan (Jonny) uncovered more about the destructive nature of rust and the implications on our society than anyone ever has, and in this episode we ask him all about it! His newest book is titled, Rust: The Longest War.
Jonathan has written for Outside, The Washington Post, The New York Times, McSweeney’s, and the Utne Reader, and also worked as a forklift driver, arborist, summer-camp director, sticker salesman, climbing instructor, and cook. Before landing in the book world, he put in time at a newspaper, a website, a magazine, a radio show, a TV production company, and a couple science museums. He studied writing at Dartmouth and Boston University’s Knight Center for Science Journalism.
“We need to re-engineer engineering. Engineers are busy fixing all of the problems we don’t have, but they’re ignoring all of these problems we do have.”
– Jonathan Waldman
Quotes from Jonathan:
“There’s only so many things you can do to try to fight rust. You can either coat the material, you can galvanize it, you can electroplate it, you can use anodes, or you can use cathodic protection.”
“The nature of plastic is that there’s something about the shape of those molecules that our body confuses them and thinks that they are hormones.”
“Building a can is more precise than anything that is built on a spaceship – it is the most engineered object on earth.”
What we learn in this episode:
- Why is a soda can the most engineered object on earth?
- What are the dangers of plastics and why are they used in almost everything?
- Why is rust one of the most costly items in our national defense budget?