Aug 3, 2023
“Instead of preventing all wars, or at least all nuclear wars, we’ve decided to focus on surviving one.”
It’s not Fuzzy-Wuzzy! It’s an eight-legged animal called ‘Water Bear’, aka ‘Tardigrade’. It’s reputed to be Earth’s smallest animal (at 0.5 mm)…and one of the Earth’s oldest (a mere 600 million years old, older even than my high school classmates, but who’s counting).
Perhaps not surprisingly, it also appears to be the Earth’s most durable animal…and that’s saying something! While its normal lifespan is only 2 or 3 years, it’s almost impossible to kill.
Not for lack of trying! Water Bears have been boiled in water for over an hour, frozen down to -200°C, and sent off into anaerobic space, all without loss of life. Like cocky miscreants everywhere, the Water Bear taunts us: “Is that all ya got?”
The life of a Water Bear is not all wine and roses, but it’s not nearly as bleak as you might suppose. Water Bears appear to be sentient; they seem to respond to environmental stimuli. They appear sociable; in fact, water bears crave physical contact with one another. Like my grandchildren when they were toddlers, they like nothing more than smashing into each other.
And they communicate with one another! In fact, given that their average age is 2, these moss dwellers are remarkably verbal. Apparently, they communicate by secreting ‘semantic molecules’ which are in turn ‘smelt’ by the rest of their gang. It’s very similar to how Uncle Harry ‘communicates’ with us after Thanksgiving Dinner.
Check out this YouTube link if you’d like to see more of your Nth cousin, N times removed (N = 10^8): https://youtube.com/shorts/aOfSlgodlTk?feature=share (and contact me offline if you’d like an audio tape of Uncle Harry.)
But don’t get too attached to your new friend; we have big plans for that ball of fur. Like kids, everywhere, we’re tired of hearing adults say, “Why can’t you be more like your cousin Smokey?” Well, if it’s Smokey you want, it’s Smokey you’ll get.
We can’t beat him…so we’ll do the next best thing – we’ll co-opt him! We’ll figure out what makes this critter tick and then we’ll splice the relevant genes into human DNA. If all goes well, and it will, Marvel and DC superheroes will be living in your neighborhood in just a few years’ time. Don’t be a NIMBY!
This is symbiosis on steroids. Few Water Bears live more than 3 years ‘in the wild’, but inside human DNA, their genes can ‘hope’ to live up to 30 times longer. And in exchange for that, they will make us – well, some of us – virtually indestructible. Meet the Bionic Man…without his hardware.
Crowds are already gathering outside #10, hoping to have a say in Water Bear policy. Their message: everyone gets Water Bear genes, or no one does! How naïve! Of course, not everyone will get Water Bear genes, at least not immediately.
Passengers with First Class tickets will still get to board first…and get a free pre-flight cocktail. And who do you think these First Class ticket holders will be? If you said 1%ers, you’d be wrong! Oh, an occasional billionaire may sneak in, but for the most part, the First Class passengers on this flight will be all military. It’s heartening to see our soldiers treated so well.
But not so fast! These troops are not headed for well-deserved R&R. They’re en route to becoming the first ever race of Super-Soldiers. These fighting men and women will be ‘treated’ with Tardigrade DNA; they will be made virtually indestructible.
That’s nice, I guess. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be invincible. On the other hand, I’m not planning on a dip in boiling water or a trip to anaerobic space or a sleep over in a room where the temperature is kept near Absolute Zero…at least not any time soon.
But there’s a darker purpose at work here. For at least 10,000 years human beings have been engaged almost continuously in armed conflict. After WWII, many thought the time had come to put an end to war. But these early ‘peace-pioneers’ were quickly branded as naïve. So the focus shifted: find ways to keep inevitable future wars survivable, i.e., non-nuclear.
Non-proliferation treaties, pauses in the arms race, various SALTs, cold war containment, the overthrow of communism in Eastern Europe, the New World Order, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – yup, we’ve tried everything!
And it’s worked…sort of. No nation has used a nuclear weapon since the end of WWII. So self-congratulations might be in order, except that almost no one expects this tenuous situation to last much longer; I’m just hoping I get to finish this article.
Russia’s designs on Ukraine, China’s on Taiwan, North Korea’s on its neighbor to the south, Iran’s on Israel and the rest of the Middle East, not to mention Hindu/Muslim violence on the Indian Sub-continent - do these conflicts not beg for a nuclear solution?
So in the face of all this, we’re apparently giving up the so-called peace process. Instead of preventing a war, at least a nuclear war, we’ve decided to focus on surviving one. Soon all the superpowers will begin breeding their own races of super-soldiers, genetically engineered to fight, win, and survive a nuclear holocaust.
Interested? I have a lot of Frequent Flier miles. Maybe you’d like me to try to get you on one of these flights?
Just let me know. I’d be happy to help.