Fat Man & Little Boy

On a sunny spring day, I craved for steak and went to see my good old barbecue on the patio. But I found it ill-conditioned. The rain in Bergen had finally taken its toll on the rusty little boy: the price of storing and using it outside during winters now had to be paid. So I questioned myself whether to buy a new one a larger and better one. Filled with ambivalence, I went to the retailer and found a big fat man. Upgrading is a bliss. Ka-ching.

Some years ago I used to work for an oil & gas company. In that context — I visited a site we had some cross-business activity with — located in Houston, Texas. Upon arrival I was told to settle in the empty cubicle of another engineer on vacation. On the cube wall I noticed a drawing showing a comparison between two versions of the site’s main product: the legacy 15k psi ram BOP (Blow-Out Preventer), and the next 20k psi generation. Let me add that the size of such equipment does not grow linearly with the pressure rating, so the next version was a fat man compared to the little boy.

Typically, when bad oil spill disasters take place, the BOP is likely to be in the spot. The BOP acts as the main security system resting on top of the very well head. They are used to seal wells under normal conditions, as well as in emergency situations. In case of the latter, the BOPs have strong hydraulic shear rams fitted with sharp steel blades. They can cut through any solid obstacles (e.g. drill pipe) situated — intentionally or not — in the bore. The aim is to seal the well and prevent oil spill, or even blow-outs on the rig deck — usually leading to fire, havoc and death.

I noticed, printed with small letters beneath each of the two drawings; “Little Boy”, “Fat Man”. It took me a couple of seconds before I realized the meaning. Call it irony, sarcasm or blasphemy — the reference was to the respective nukes detonated by US over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

It also got me thinking about the two I now have on the patio back home.

Fat Man & Little Boy