August 30, 2008

Dish of the Day

Novah reminded me of this clip from the original Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
At the 5:30 mark we meet the "Dish of the Day" a genetically engineered animal that's intelligent and actually wants to be eaten.

August 29, 2008


Meat, good tasty meat. I tried going vegetarian once or twice but seriously meat is awesome. There's nothing quite like biting into a half-pound beef/buffalo bacon burger with pepper jack cheese and maybe a slice of ham for good measure. Heck, throw in a side of hot wings too.

But there's a problem with meat. Not only is meat getting expensive, but it's also energy inefficient. A grown cow will eat 2 percent its weight in grain per day. That doesn't seem like much until you realize this is almost 30 pounds of grain a day. That could make 35 loaves of bread. Over a week you spend 245 loaves of bread to keep that cow alive.

In the course of one cow's life, 31,937 loaves of bread could have been made.
If you got 31,937 pieces of steak off the cow that'd be great, but unfortunately, you only end up with about 700 pounds. If you're lucky.

Then you start dealing with being humane... everyone knows that's a can of worms.

More evidence is surfacing that animals are smarter than we think. Many birds are self-aware, elephants mourn for their dead, and many animals are emotional. Many scientists agree that animals are capable of feeling depressed, angry, or happy.

So what does a cow or a pig feel on an animal farm on its way to the slaughterhouse? Is it scared? Is it suffering? It's almost a chilling concept. I really don't want to think about my half-pound bacon burger as once a living creature crying and reflecting on it's life. How horrifying humans must seem to the animals we consume.

There are even more problems. Animal farms contribute to CO2 emissions, they're prone to spreading disease, and they take up a lot of space.

Soon we will have to address these problems.
But how? Compulsory Vegetarianism?
That might work... but only if a World Government made it illegal to raise animals for meat. Which means there would be an underground and black market for meat. Which would lower the standards for sanitation.
And then there's the fact that it could destabilize the food chain. Humans may be screwing the planet but we're a very important piece in the food chain. We're the most widespread predator on the planet, and arguably the most efficient predator in history.

You can't remove the biggest predator on the planet and not expect widespread consequences. We would have to use population control as non-native herbivores ravage the world. Then what do we do with the carcasses?

Compulsory Vegetarianism won't work. What we have to do is create a new supply of meat that is cheap, efficient, eco-friendly, and doesn't suffer.

Luckily, scientists are way ahead of us.

First on the menu of the future is Vat Grown Meat. Scientists are working on a way to grow animal muscle tissue in petri dishes. Once they perfect it, they can work on producing it in a larger scale.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, meat isn't just muscle cells. It's nerves, blood vessels, fat, and stringy gristle things that you spit out in horror. Plus, muscles cells don't just kind of float around in a soup, they're connected to each other in bundles of tissue.

So far, all attempts at growing meat in a petri dish have resulted in a slime of muscle cells that look nothing like a hamburger. One scientist tried adding an artificial network for the cells to grow on, but when he cooked the meat he found out the network didn't dissolve. So he basically ate slimey cheesecloth. Yum.

So far it's really expensive too. Larger models are only bound to get more expensive. They will be bacterial cesspools if they aren't sanitized, and we'll have to figure out a way to exercise the tissue, and as it grows to bigger sizes we'll need to circulate nutrients, oxygen, process toxins, and before you know it we've created a Vat Grown Organism.

So if vat grow meat will eventually just create a tank filled with slabs of muscle and organs, why not just use slabs of muscle and organs in the first place?

The second dish on the menu of the future will be Animal 57. Scientists have been working on genetically altering animals to produce more meat for awhile now. Most of the meat we eat [and even our vegetables] have been altered in some way or another.

There was a rumor awhile back that KFC had invested money in researching a way to create chickens with four legs. It turned out to just be an urban legend... but just the KFC part. Scientists have indeed figured out how to grow legs in the place of wings. Don't believe me?
Not a digitally altered photo. This is real.
There's your chicken for you, KFC. Notice how deformed the back legs are? I'm guessing those are the 'fake' ones. They don't really look functional so I wonder how much meat could really be scraped off one of those.

And how would you market that part of the chicken? It couldn't look like your typical 'drumstick'.

That's not all, check out this article. Animals getting depressed at the prospect of slaughter? Maybe a little to unruly? That's okay, soon they'll be emotionless anyway. We're one step closer to creating an animal brain that's sole purpose is to keep the animal alive.

Plus scientists want to make it so cows start producing human breastmilk instead of that pesky cow milk. They say it will be better for us, but I'm sure they're overlooking the fact that you can't make cheese out of human breastmilk. Sure drinking chocolate milk will finally be really good for me, but at what cost? Healthy Chocolate milk or Chedder Cheese? That's tough.

I imagine in the future they could just continue down the same path. We'll be left with some beast unnatural to earth. It will have no eyes or ears so it can't see or hear what's going on around it. Of course it won't care because it mentally can't.

It won't have teeth, just a cone shaped head with a mouth on the end to suck nutrients through a straw into its belly. It can't scream because it's been altered not to have a voicebox. It's hairless skin is tight with rippling muscles, thick pulsating veins distribute nutrition throughout the body in a perfect symetrical pattern.

As it's led to the slaughter with a leash, it has no tail to tuck between its legs. The beast has only used its overdeveloped legs a few times in its life... shortly after birth, and now on its way to death. A quick cut across the neck drains the blood. After a few cuts in the muscle around the neck and a good tug the head comes off, pulling the entire spine and most of the organs with it.

Then it's off to be chopped up and distributed.
It's like this. But no eyes and no teeth.
Also, get rid of that pathetic excuse for a tail and snip off those ear things.
Great, now make it 50 times bigger and stronger.

August 24, 2008


The Olympics are fascinating. I like to watch not just to cheer for my own country, but also to marvel at the powerful people that compete. It's amazing seeing people with almost perfect bodies flipping and morphing in the air before gracefully sliding into water, or run for two freakin' hours in a race and be nearly a mile ahead of the guy behind you. I can barely run for 15 minutes without coughing up crap and wheezing for air, but they make it look like a brief jog to the supermarket.

Then my mind begins to warp and the little mad scientist deep inside starts to get out his perverted toys.

I begin to wonder... what powerful brutes could we produce if all of these athletes bred? Obviously the athlete's workouts don't mean they've improved their DNA - that's not evolution. But I bet they've got some sort of genetic bias that makes them better than their peers...

Of course, the Olympics aren't just for sweating and showing off how great your are in sports... it's also about sweating and showing off in bed. During the Beijing Olympics, free condoms were given out to the athletes by the handfuls. Nearby markets found themselves completely stripped of condoms - they became the fastest selling product.

Is it wrong for me to hope that every one of those condoms broke or had a leak?

Perhaps in the future most of those competing will be genetic Olympians... those who's ancestors all competed in the Olympics.

Maybe that's not fair, but I still cling to the idea that steroids should be allowed. It'd be awesome watching hulk-like monsters lifting several-ton weights and running for days without a break.
I want the Olympic athletes to look like the guy on the right... and maybe green.

Of course, I don't have to rely on horny athletes to usher in an era of genetically enhanced humans. You can help me too

Today, you can choose the gender of your child and remove genetic defects. It's also not illegal to... y'know... tell the doctor how much you'd really really like it if the baby had blue eyes.

If another genocidal dictator moves into power in a few years, instead of killing everyone with an undesirable trait, he could simply make it mandatory to remove those traits. It would probably look better if a dictator encouraged breeding instead of slaughtering lesser people. The baby's genes could just be tweaked and voila, blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin born from a family of Hispanics.

Not that I'm saying my superhuman race would have blonde hair and blue eyes (I was actually thinking straight black hair and green eyes?). People are already opting to screen out genetic defects to encourage a healthier child.

We are conquering diseases faster than ever, and humans are even evolving faster than before. There are even rumors that some people in Africa are developing genes that are resistant to HIV.

According to one scientist [and the many that agree with him], we are heading towards becoming Unihumans. Homo Sapien Sapienter, as it's called, is an amalgamation of all the human races on the planet. As time goes on we will evolve into other branches of humans just as our mammalian ancestors evolved into all the branches we see today. Oliver Curry, of the London School of Economics believes we will branch into two different races. A goblin-like underclass and an elven-like graceful upper class. Sound too much like Lord of the Rings? Read the scary scenario for yourself.

Personally I think Mr. Curry has seen the Time Machine one too many times.
...though from the sounds of his description of women he may have just been watching too much anime...
The Women of the Future

August 5, 2008

Alone on Earth?

My friend Novah, from Visualizing Evolution linked to my blog so I guess it's time to start updating more frequently.

Whenever there is something in the news about intelligent life on other planets, there is usually the comment of not being 'alone'.

Can we even really consider ourselves alone? We're on a planet that is literally teeming with life all over the surface and even under it. We can't really say we're alone because there are other life forms all around us. There are billions of living creatures on this planet and the notion of having a pet animal is universal.

But that's not quite the same. What we usually mean by alone, we usually mean in the form of companionship. We overlook the other living creatures on our planet, we are looking for other intelligent creatures that we can hold a conversation with. In a dark universe we are looking for a mate.
But maybe we are just ignorant. Maybe intelligent beings walk among us that aren't human.
I don't mean aliens.

There seems to be more and more evidence arising that we aren't the only sentient intelligent creatures on earth.

For example; dolphins have their own names. Here is an article with several examples of dolphin intelligence. In the article there are stories of a dolphin that tricks its human trainers into giving it more fish, dolphins using tools and other signs of their self awareness. Dolphins even seem to commit crimes.
But we've all heard the dolphin argument before right?

Don't get me started on Bonobos, my favorite primate. They're known to have highly developed lingual skills [for a chimp], and they're known to be extreme sexual deviants. Bonobos even share most of their DNA with us.

Just look at a few pictures of Bonobos and you'll realize how eerily human-like they are. They walk up-right a quarter of the time, the females have large breasts [most apes are flat chested], and they even have pink lips. Give them a few million years and some enlightenment and maybe some day we could see human and bonobo descendants getting married.
I hope my descendants find a good woman like Ari.

I'm sure you've heard those examples before though. "Sure, sure," you say, "Dolphins could be intelligent, and maybe even apes, but other than that we're alone... right?"

There is more research amounting that suggests Elephants may be as, or more intelligent than dolphins. Here's a summary thanks to Wikipedia, though it doesn't end there.

I don't think we're alone, I think we're just ignoring the other intelligent species around us. If humans don't kill off all of the intelligent species [Bonobos and Elephants are both endangered], maybe we should just leave the planet and let evolution take care of things.

Perhaps millions of years in the future after mankind has seeded the galaxy they will seek out their planet of birth. Homo Excelsior lands in the heart of Africa hoping to come face to face with their ancestors.
Instead they are greeted by something similar to humans...
An evolved Bonobo chimp offers them a tribal sacrifice while nearby, an elder of the elephants bows down to offer peace on behalf of the Elephant Empire.
Hell yeah.