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The Pit of Hell: New Homely Planet science tourism guide reviewed

Since Nepal opened up to tourism many decades ago, a continuing stream of hitherto reclusive destinations have been opening their doors to tourism.

Tibet had been something of a hold-out due to negative early experiences with a 1903
British tour group, who behaved like soccer hooligans of a later generation and generally made a lot of noise and smashed up the local infrastructure.

In contrast, several decades ago, East Berlin took down the wall that they had constructed to keep out alien neo-fascist influences. More recently Myanmar has become more open, achieving such popularity with the British upper classes, that some have taken to
impersonating Myanmar's diplomats. Bhutan has also been allowing a carefully monitored tourist intake.

Finally even North Korea
(a.k.a. Naughty Korea) is moving towards positioning itself as a tourist destination.

If North Korea is opening up to tourism, few can be surprised to find Hell following closely behind.

Hell has long been noted for its immigration program but has had little in the way of transient tourism. Various Greeks such as Theseus, Orpheus and Hercules made quick visits for various forms of adventure tourism. More
widely recounted is the three-day visit by one Jesus of Nazareth, but on his return, he devoted his energies to world domination, and failed to write an account of his travels.

Until now, the main tourist guide to Hell was one written by
Dante Alighieri and new Homely Planet guide draws heavily on his geography. Beyond Dante's detailed geographical and environmental descriptions, he on concentrated on recounting re-unions with political opponents friends and associates.

These days, the main interest in tourist visits to Hell (apart from family re-unions) is science, now that Hell is being recognised as a great intellectual centre that rivals Edinburgh or London in the 18th and 19th centuries and Boston and the San Francisco Bay area in the 20th century.

Unlike chauvinistic past, where all significant scientific advances were identified as coming from
Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the USA, acknowledgment of the pivotal role of Hell shows a generous new spirit of internationalism.

In the USA, this new recognition of the scientific importance of Hell has even been acknowledged by
Congressional science committee through its spokesperson Paul Broun who identified the Pit of Hell as the source of such important scientific advances as Darwinian evolution, anthropogenic climate change and the Big Bang theory.

Mean-spirited critics such as Paul Krugman have tried to cling to an outmoded past and tried to claim that such
openness is a threat to America.

The overall geography of Hell is a pit that runs though earth from Jerusalem, and then through the earth to the antipodes. Since Dante's time, this antipodal point has been named Easter Island, to commemorate that day on which Jesus of Nazareth made his departure, by this route.

Within hell, researchers for the Homely Planet guide were able to use Dante's guide with only minor changes to the job descriptions. The primary focus of science-based tourism is to the 6th circle, at the top of the nether hell reached by passing through the City of Dis (a.k.a. Satan) onto the plain of burning tombs of
heretics scientists, where, as described by Dante:

strewn among the tombs tall flames burned fierce
heating them so white hot as never burned
iron in the forge of any artificers
the grave slabs all were thrown back and upturned
and from within came such fearful crying
t'was plain that here sad tortured creatures mourned
[canto ix]

This is just above the precipice that descends to the "river of boiling blood", the "wood of suicides" and the "abominable sands". Other scientists can be found in the upper circle of Limbo with the unbaptised and the virtuous pagans (Dante recalled encountering Euclid and Ptolemy).

A more select group, the
sowers of discord IPCC authors can be found in the ninth trench of the ninth circle of hell where

so gaped as one I saw there from the chin
down to the fart-hole split as by a cleaver
his tripes hung by his heels, the guts and spleen
showed with the liver and the sordid sack
that turns to dung the food that swallows in
[canto xxviii]

Touring science buffs might however be disappointed. The announcement by the congressional science committee may mean that the USA has already acted to recruit the scientific talent from Hell in the same way that
Operation Paperclip recruited SS offices such as major Werner von Braun at the end of WW2.

Andrew Nut
Religious affairs correspondent Waikikamukau, NZ