"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."-Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008
"Seriously though, what you guys are doing right now has me tripping balls, and I've only been dead for three years." -ibid.
Let's say we had access to a time-voyage device. If we went back and grabbed Benjamin Franklin, brought him to the present, and showed him the Large Hadron Collider, here's how he would most likely react: "Dancing Jesus, you guys have toilets? That is completely and utterly fantastic." The stuff that gets taken for granted is what makes a society's tech look like magic. Which is why I saw a headline last week and wondered if I'd somehow slipped forward in time without noticing.
The article described work done by researchers at the Mayo Clinic, who were investigating how genetics could be used to build resistance to HIV. Basically, they took an antiviral gene from rhesus macaques (which Google assures me are a type of monkey) and inserted them into cats. The
maquacue macqu monkeys have a natural resistance to immunodeficiency viruses, and the researchers hoped that the cats would likewise develop a resistance to FIV — the feline equivalent of HIV. "Monkey-cat" does not present the same apocalyptic visions as certain other combos I could name, so I say go Mayo Clinic.
Which is not to say this doesn't get weird quickly.
Erudite though I may be, advances in AIDS research was not why I clicked on the article. I clicked on the article because the headline said, "Glowing Cats Shed Light on AIDS." Just so we're on the same page, they're talking about cats that glow in the dark. To track the monkey genes within their monkey-cats, the researchers also included a gene from jellyfish that produces fluorescent proteins, which are expressed throughout their bodies. So they're monkey-squidcats or whatever. And they glow.
Okay. My reaction is threefold:
1a) What in the name of all that is holy I want five of them.
1) Bear in mind that this wasn't a goal of the experiment. Nor was it seen as a complicating factor, something that could potentially get in the way of their results. This was just some random thing they knew they could do, simply because it was handy. And it looks like freaking magic! What the ... ? How the ... ? Nowhere in the abstract of the study does it even mention the glowing, unless you happen to know that eGFP stands for "something something fluorescent protein glowing cats."
(The abstract also has a series of image thumbnails, in case you're wondering whether they're Photoshopped.)
2) Waitaminute, waitaminute — if that's the case, and this is another normal day in Normaltown, does that mean we can do this with whatever we want? Glow-in-the-dark puppies? Glow-in-the-dark hamsters? Glow-in-the-dark bunnies? Oh my God, you guys, glow-in-the-dark bunnies! You're telling me you wouldn't buy ten of them tomorrow? You lie. You lie, and it's disgusting. So what if they would make sinfully easy prey for hawks? That half hour before they're all devoured by predators would be amazeballs, don't even act like it wouldn't be.
3) Come on, six months after I busted my ass for several hours in the scorching sun to catch the kitty that is batting at my hand as I type this, they release a bad-ass version that glows? Well, great. My own fault for not checking the upgrade cycle, I guess. Lesson learned. Maybe they'll release a retroactive patch?