We Are Who We Eat
Today in Creepy Science, two separate teams of scientists have discovered that blood transfusions from young donors can actually repair organs and tissue in older individuals. There are a couple points that need making before everybody starts celebrating/freaking out:
- The studies were performed in mice, not people, so nobody is going to come for your blood just yet, kids. The outlook seems positive, though.
- The potential for getting cancer if this is done is probably going to increase. Then again, cancer might just beat out dying of Alzheimers (I know I’d pick cancer over Alzheimers any day of the week, but that’s just me), especially since the former is frequently treatable and the latter isn’t.
- You wouldn’t be drinking blood or bathing in it or anything. It would be a transfusion. The kind you’d get from a blood donor, most likely. Maybe even one of your own kids.
Why This is So Cool/Terrifying
Blood has serious symbolic and metaphoric significance to most cultures on the planet. The idea that it might even hold some kind of key to longevity or even (maybe) immortality is a great big gift to speculative authors everywhere. Hell, this article today probably launched at least a dozen new vampire novels, each probably more odious than the last (sorry vampire fans, but you should know what I’m talking about). Even a cursory look at Christian religious ritual demonstrates our solemn fascination with blood; if you go to Church, you’re drinking the blood of Jesus every time you take the Eucharist (well, assuming you’re one of the many Christian sects that believe in transubstantiation). Why are you doing this? Well, to reaffirm your devotion to the ideals he set forth. Your reward for this loyalty? Say it with me now:
Yeah. There isn’t a story in that, no sir. No way this scientific study has seriously interesting narrative legs. Nothing to see here, folks – move along.
Fantasy and horror editors and agents across the globe better hold on to their seats. The number of blood-sucking takes of lunatics exsanguinating children to sustain their wicked lives is about to hit a pretty serious bump. Science Fiction publishers are going to start reading about dark futures where our youth are financially supported by the old while the old are physiologically supported by the young. Wild, wild stuff. Some of it will probably be pretty cool, too. Heck, I might even write some.
To me, though, this bit of news (even assuming it pans out) isn’t dystopian doom and gloom. Like all technological breakthroughs, no doubt it will be abused in various ghoulish ways. It also, though, has the potential to save people’s lives – Alzheimer’s patients, people with weak hearts, people suffering from neurological disorders, etc., etc.. I’m choosing not to be all doom and gloom about this. Like all technologies and scientific breakthroughs, this one (if it works out) will have it’s pros and cons. If this thing can help turn back the clock on a wide variety of devastating neurological diseases, I’m going to call it a win.
Of course, I’ll also be warning my kids against friendly-looking old ladies with syringes and medical tubing. You know, just in case.
The Virus that Saves the World
I wasn’t planning on writing a post today, but I seem to be reaching my limit for useful novel-editing time a bit early today, and I don’t want to leave the computer just yet, so I’m going to bring to your attention what could, maybe, possibly, be the most important thing ever.
Viruses that Create Electricity
Read the article. Read it, damn you.
Now, the article interprets the practical application of these little bugs in computer screens and iPads and whatnot. This is pretty typical of the technological culture we’ve been living in for much of the last two decades – we discover a potential new source of energy, and the first thing we think of is a way we can harness it to play Angry Birds or listen to Devo. They toss off the line ‘you could use it to power your house by jumping up and down.’ Think about that for a second, though. You could power your house by jumping up and down!
A self-powered house! No power lines. No generators. All you need are special floors and something to compress them. You have those things already – they are called feet. You might not even need to jump up and down; you just walk around, and boom, electric power! HOLY CRAPBALLS! And what happens when the viruses die or run out of power or whatever (which is bound to happen), where can we get more? Oh, that’s right, they’re viruses! They specialize in reproducing! It’s all they freaking do!
Have you started to see how unbelievably revolutionary this might be? Whole cities could be powered by just layering portions of the sidewalk with these critters underneath touchplates. Your car could run on a layer of bugs built into the tires – you only ever refuel when you get new tires! Capacitors could be built all over the place, storing up any excess energy the little buggers produce as a result of millions of feet walking around on them all day and, therefore, power the world all night long. This technology could result in the whole world, essentially, being hooked up to a worldwide hamster-wheel of electric power, endless so long as we can keep those viruses alive and cooking. This is incredible. This is beyond revolutionary, if it proves to be practical. Right now, one square centimeter is equal to .25 AAA batteries. This seems to indicate 4 cm^2 would be 1 AAA battery. A square meter, then, 25 AAA batteries. You can run a lot of stuff off that. Keep engineering the buggers, and you might get more. Set up a system by which the used-up ones can be replaced with fresh viruses, and you could keep this going for a long, long time.
Obviously there’s a lot of practical improvements to be made, and we probably will see this begin in small ways–like a touch screen or something – but this invention has enormous potential for the science fictional worlds we will continue to imagine. I know I’m building one right now. I also know I’m not alone.