Pushing genetic engineering to its limits, a team of Nepalese scientists are creating what will be the first “hen’s tooth”. Inspired by the classic idiom, the funding has been granted by an anonymous beneficiary who hopes to be the first, and last, collector of hen’s teeth.
“It’s genius,” says Paulo*, “We have the science. It should only take a few iterations to get it right.”
Getting it right is the problem, he goes on to say, since each new strain of chicken needs to be grown and checked for what actually constitutes a tooth. The technique involves ‘turning on’ recessive genes that exist naturally within the chicken, that have been made dormant.
Early indications are promising, although most ‘teeth’ have appeared as mere ridges on the bird’s beak.
It’s not all science, though. Paulo insists that there is a financial side to this as well, “By making the world’s only source of hen’s teeth, (the beneficiary) will have the monopoly and be able to control the number in existence. This keeps them extraordinarily rare and valuable. If it works out, he will more than recoup what he spent on the project.”
*Not his real name. Identities have been suppressed at the request of interviewees.
70% of household dust is made up of waste cells and hair. While this might come as a shock to some, researchers have established that, over the course of a lifetime, the average pair of lungs breathes in the equivalent of an entire human!
Those who spend more time in recycled air environments with a large number of mobile personages, like office buildings, aeroplanes and hospitals, have been found to have a higher count of particles in their lungs tissues, coupled with an elevated macrophage count.
Michelle Green, Senior Technician of Higher Research in Louisiana, says, “We noticed a spike in macrophages, an order of one hundred times greater, between population samples when looking at lung tissue. Simon (A fellow technician) noticed the potential correlation and we performed further analysis to find out just what they were feasting on.”
The amount of ‘foreign human matter’ found was ‘interesting’ but not ‘alarming’, she said.
“It’s not cannibalism, if that’s what you’re worried about. Sure, an amount of digested matter is absorbed into the bloodstream, but it’s not like you’re chewing off a finger. What’s more, there’s a good chance that, among the billions of particles that have entered your system, you have most likely inhaled several celebrities!”
The long, hotly debated argument of which animal makes the best pet has been settled. Once again.
In New Ireland, an island of Papua New Guinea, the chief has declared that a former ruling declaring that cats are superior as pets be overturned.
“The original law is clearly wrong. My father was right about many things, but in this he made a mistake,” says the chief through a translator, “I waited two years, so as not to disrespect him. I think I made the right decision.”
Dogs are essential to Papua’s lifestyle, used in hunting and for companionship across the mainland and archipelago while cats, he says, do nothing but “lay about all day, catching more sun than rats.”
The previous ruling had been in effect for over ten years and reportedly was made to stop bickering between feuding families. “There were too many arguments over a silly thing. A decision has to be made. Now I will make the right one,” he says.
The new ruling will see a rise in the number of dogs on the island, although the cat population is expected to remain steady.
Fads come and go: the hoolahoop, the yoyo, the frisbee. Few stand the test of time and fewer still are as esoteric and downright creepy as “Samping”.
Samping is a phenomenon whereby people collect, preserve and trade samples of celebrities. The samples are generally frozen or preserved an alcohol/formaldehyde mixture, depending on the kind and quantity sampled.
“It’s not dissimilar to keeping an article of clothing once worn by celebrity. The samps we collect are more personal than mere objects,” says a practitioner, who refused to be named, “But I can understand that it’s not a hobby for everyone.”
The advent of the internet has seen a significant number of ‘samp-sites’, web pages that facilitate the sale and trade of samples between sample collectors or “Sampers”. The practice has been common since the fifties, when cheap refrigeration became widely available, enabling samples to be collected and frozen, although proponents state that the practice is actually an extension of the ancient Egyptian’s mummification ritual.
Michael Jackson and Barbara Streisand are the most popular bang for buck, while Chuck Norris is rating at an all time high, even though there is a running joke that vials aren’t strong enough to contain his cells. While film and television personalities are popular, there are specialist Sampers who deal with requests for bits of scientists, artists, musicians and sports stars.
“I’m not going to share how I collect my samps. I will say that so long as you have documentation on the provenance, and you’ve preserved it properly, you’re onto a solid investment.”
Desalination takes an enormous amount of energy, and as the water crisis increases, the search for ways to create fresh, clean water from the vast resource of the oceans becomes more intense.
Enter Samuel Ghalan, who has plans to put pesky seagulls to good use. Seagulls have a natural ‘salt-gland’, which enables them to drink salt water. It filters out the salt, letting it run from channels in their beaks, leaving fresh water behind.
“It’s quite ingenious, really, and it makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Seagulls, and other marine animals like turtles and crocodiles, haven’t got another source of fresh water. The thing is, we don’t have many turtles or crocodiles, sure, yet we’ve got a s***-load of gulls,” he says.
His proposal includes capturing and harnessing the gulls in giant ‘rookeries’ that mimic their natural roosting environment. They would then be individually subject to an operation to insert a ‘water-collector’, a custom device to divert a small amount of fresh water from the gland to a collecting satchel. The water collected is then released while the bird is resting.
“It’s only a few mils at a time. The birds don’t seem to mind. While one or two birds doesn’t yield a lot, a couple of thousand would do it. And the best thing is it’s as cheap as chips!”
Now there’s a new way to celebrate the life of a loved one, as well as give back to the environment. ‘Cemetrees’, trees grown with their roots tapped into a decaying corpse, are the latest trend to hit the posthumous.
“We mourn the dead, and cemeteries are a reflection of the sorrow felt for the lives lost looking like a sea of granite tombstones, cold and lifeless. Once the tears have dried, the celebration of the life can begin. That’s where cemetrees come in,” says Sarah Gallagher, founder of the new concept, “Why lock the blood and bone, which is excellent fertilizer, inside a casket that will take decades or even centuries to break down?”
Not just any tree will do. Sarah has specially selected a variety of shrubbery that can be safely planted without disrupting neighbouring plots.
“We get a lot of calls for evergreens, but some people like the idea of a deciduous. Fruit trees are becoming popular, mostly dwarf pear and apple, but some citrus varieties as well. They need to be pruned once in a while, so they don’t overreach the plot boundaries.”
Asked whether there was any issue eating the fruit that came from the trees ‘grown by grandpa’, Sarah replies, “That’s a matter of taste.”
Nature has inspired town planners in an unusual way. The hexagonal pattern of honey-comb is chosen by bees for the close-packed arrangement and efficient use of space and this has led city designers to create plans for blocks to be six sided.
A new ‘hexasect’ street system is being trialed in China in a bid to curb traffic before it begins. The ‘hexasect’ design was first suggested over a decade ago, yet only recently, with the aid of advanced computer generated trials, it has been shown that congestion can be reduced by more than a quarter compared with traditional square or Cartesian based road systems.
“It’s counter-intuitive to the way we would normally plan a city,” Xian Xiao, spokesperson for the HUA group in charge of planning the new town, “Yet the simulations show that there is no better way. Roads with one and only one intersection and a clear set of rules reduces the need for negotiation. It scales incredibly well.”
The new concept also allows for tighter packing of building, reducing the strain on infrastructure, leading to a more efficient city that is cheaper overall to operate.
“The naming of streets may take some getting used to, since there are no long-running streets, however we are confident that this is a minor drawback to a very enticing prospect.”