Unless you've been horrifyingly oblivious to absolutely everything happening around you, you know that the government has been in a state of shutdown since Monday. Other than the confirmation that, yes, congress is just as inept and impotent as we all thought, you probably haven't noticed much of a change in your daily life. But don't let that fool you. This period of stasis could have some major detrimental impacts, particularly in the fields of science and tech. Here are some of the shutdown's worst potential scientific casualties.
We won't know if Armageddon is coming.
In the event of government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account. We sincerely hope to resume tweets soon.— Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) October 1, 2013
Resources are being spread thin, and one area they can no longer cover is the a-giant-meteor-is-plummeting-towards-Earth-and-we're-all-going-to-die task force. So as long as this goes on, make sure to keep one eye on the skies—because NASA certainly won't be.
There will be one less T. Rex in the world.
Just this June, the Natural History Museum acquired one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex specimens to have ever been found. But first those tired old bones had to be shipped from Bozeman, Montana all the way to the National Mall, where the 38-foot-long, 7-ton skeleton was supposed to arrive on October 16. Not anymore though; thanks to the shutdown, the people will be deprived of one badass T. Rex skeleton until next spring.
Hope you weren't looking forward to a flu vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention usually start running in full flu mode around this time of year, monitoring the spread of influenza and figuring out where to send what vaccines. Not this time, though. Best start stocking up on Vitamin C, cause as long as this government stays shut down, the CDC won't be providing "support to state and local partners for infectious disease surveillance."
Kids with cancer will be turned away from treatment.
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 200 patients will be turned away from its clinical research center—yes, even children with cancer.
The $100 million BRAIN initiative won't make its 2014 deadline.
One of the Obama administration's biggest projects in terms of advancing the sciences and medicine has been the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative, in which the nation's top neuroscientists would be attempting to map the entire human brain for the very first time. Now, though, it seems all those months of research, acquiring funds, and scheduling speakers has been for naught—because all their work had to come to a total standstill, throwing everything off course.
Bye-bye efforts to develop cleaner emissions standards.
Although the Environmental Protection Agency had a 2014 deadline to propose new emissions and reusable fuel standards, any hopes of making it in time are nothing but distant memories by now.
No more food inspections or foodborne outbreak tracking.
With 45 percent of the Food and Drug Administration's staff sent home, the ones who are actually still working (without pay) have to focus on things that rely on user fees—you know, things that aren't routine health and safety inspections. Dine vigilantly, friends.
Many if not most of the rodents used in experiments will be euthanized.
The animals used in experiments have been meticulously treated and maintained for the sake of furthering human knowledge. So since scientists are no longer allowed to work, simply keeping them alive is absurdly expensive, and without funds, bringing in an army of caretakers just isn't possible. Unfortunately, the only remaining option isn't a pretty one—but euthanasia will be the harsh reality for many of these abandoned rodents.
No funding for countermeasures against chemical and nuclear threats.
The Office for the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response would be the one to turn to in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear crisis. While the government's shut down, though, we're on our own. Let's just pray for smooth sailing.
Your dangerous products won't be recalled.
"Routine defects and recall information from manufacturers and consumers would not be reviewed," according to the Department of Transportation. So, uh, have fun with that one.
And of course, our dear, beloved pandas are hidden from our watchful eyes.
It's always the innocent ones who get hit the hardest. With funding tight and our future up in the air, such blessed luxuries as the PandaCam at the National Zoo are no more. We have no way of knowing what is happening to those pandas right now, and anything is possible with the country being in such a state of flux. Let's just hope they haven't gone all Donner party on each other yet.