Monday, July 03, 2006

War of the World
I have the dreaded and oxymoronic summer cold.

When I’m sick the whole world seems to fizzle and slow down - like a firecracker I’m afraid to approach. I’m not sure if it's a dud, or if it's going to blow up any second in my snotty face. Here's what I mean:

Scientists say ants can count.

Scientists trained desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis, to walk along a straight path from their nest entrance to a feeder 30 feet away. If the nest or feeder was moved, the ants would break from their straight path after reaching the anticipated spot and search for their goal.

Next, the researchers performed a little cosmetic surgery.

They glued stilt-like extensions to the legs of some ants to lengthen stride. The researchers shortened other ants' stride length by cutting off the critters' feet and lower legs, reducing their legs to stumps.

The ants on stilts took the right number of steps, but because of their increased stride length, marched past their goal. Stump-legged ants, meanwhile, fell short of the goal.

Ants on stilts? Now this is why we need controls on evil scientists.

What if those mechanically mutated ants had gotten loose? Can you imagine an army of desert ants eight feet tall and marching straight toward you? Creepy? Apocalyptic? Hell, yes.

Save me, Tom Cruise. Save me.

I have a summer cold, a Robitussin hangover, and life as I know it is coming to an end.

posted by Carl Bryant @ 9:10 AM   18 comments Literary Shirts

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At 10:51 AM, Blogger Writing Blind said...

What kind of sadist would cut an ant's legs off? Seriously. Is that what my tax money goes to cause I'd much rather it be spent to find a completely useless war or something.



At 11:03 AM, Blogger Carl Bryant said...

They also "blindfolded" them. In scientist-speak, this means "we severed their eye stalks."

I hope the ants don't count this against us.



At 12:15 PM, Blogger Writing Blind said...

Oops, I meant fund earlier. Seriously though, what kind of person does that? What purpose does it serve? Believe me, when the ants rise up and take over the world, they are definitely going to remember this.



At 12:51 PM, Blogger Carl Bryant said...

I suppose clipping the legs off of hundreds of tiny ants is simpler than using a rubber mat that can be stretched or relaxed to vary the physical length to the target.

Or maybe they just didn't think of it.

I remember reading of a study in which a guy tried to ascertain if acquired traits were genetically transmittable. He cut the tails off of several generations of mice. Of course, each batch of baby mice was born with a full-sized tail (and Jewish male children still enter the world with full-sized foreskins.)

As to cruelty - people only empathize with things we find to be cute. Ethical treatment is only questioned when we empathize with the subjects.

Unless you're a Jainist.



At 1:35 PM, Blogger michi said...

i think it should be enough for the ants that they can count to two, when they come to get us on their stilts to cut (or gnaw, or burn, or saw, or tear, or ...) our legs off: one-two, one-two, one-two ...

it won't be long before insects and bacteria take over the world. you better make friends with them while you can. buy them a beer down at the pub. or prostheses.

and you get well soon, carl.




At 2:41 PM, Blogger jenni said...

Hope you get to feeling better, Carl. I hate being sick!



At 3:41 PM, Blogger Carl Bryant said...

I actually like being sick, Jenni. It adds validity to my constant demands for attention from the wife.

She still ignores me, but I feel justified for whining.

Michi, when ants rule the world... we'll probably be no worse off.



At 4:30 PM, Blogger C. E. Chaffin said...

Dear Carl,

Have you read H.G. Wells' "Food of the Gods?" It might make for good reading while you have a cold. And I agree, summer is the worst time for a cold. When I get a really bad cold I shave off my moustache. Just can't stand the snot accumulation.




At 4:42 PM, Blogger Carl Bryant said...

Hi CE.

I love Wells. Food of the Gods is in my library. Currently reading "Life of Pi" for the second time (1st time was on a plane with constant interruption.)



At 6:15 PM, Blogger Brenda said...

I'm sorry, Darling, did you say something?



At 10:24 PM, Blogger Julie Carter said...

Okay, so I'm picturing footless ants on stilts now. Working the stilts with their little stubs. Then coming and eating my face off.

Why didn't they just put the damned things on a treadmill? Less cruel, and fitter ants.



At 11:29 PM, Blogger Rus Bowden said...

Hi Carl,

Hope you're feeling better.

I killed a bunch of ants today. They were on my counter after I had some toast.

Then I went for my cardio walk, and noticed ants on the sidewalk. I didn't try to kill them, but I think I misstepped. It was awkward. Trying to miss them sent me off balance.

Then I went for a night drive, and noticed bugs coming at my headlights. Knowing I did nore killing, I came home and parked the car.

I've had a wild day of it already, and now your post.




At 1:54 AM, Blogger lorguru said...

Hey...that's your wife, isn't it? (Brenda, of course. Not the guy who snots up his moustache!)) At least she's not totally ignoring you...she is visiting your blog after all!

I hope you are feeling better soon.



At 6:36 PM, Blogger LKD said...

Oh, I like your wife. Alot.

She reminds me of my mom.


Meanwhile, how do you cure a summer cold? None of the cold-weather cold remedies will cut it, eh? Who the hell wants to sip hot tea with lemon (and whiskey!) or hover over a bowl of chicken noodle soup when it's 90 damned degrees outside?

And, meanwhile again, who the hell are these freaks that are mutilating ants in the name of .... science? These have gotta be the same guys who pulled the wings off flies.

Feel better, Carl. If you see your wife, tell her I said hi.



At 7:21 PM, Blogger Beau Blue said...

Have you read William Tenn's 'of men and monsters'?

Perfect book for laying around while being ignored by an unsympathetic wife. Taken with brandy, tea, and a small sliver of chocolate while garumphing at anyone who comes near, your cold could become almost enjoyable.

But you have to start with the book. Have a happy fourth, Carl.




At 1:30 PM, Blogger Carl Bryant said...

Thanks for the well wishes - I feel better already.

Blue, I'll hunt that book down. The title is compelling.



At 7:23 AM, Blogger Pris said...

Feel better soon, Carl!! That ant story...god, that's incredible! Do that to dogs and yes, people would be marching and carrying placards, or worse.



At 12:51 PM, Blogger Carl Bryant said...

Thanks, Pris.

What bothers me most about the mutilation is that it was probably unnecessary.



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