10 May 2006

RPG-III was evidently biological in nature

See if you can follow this Nature logic better than I.

Researchers have concluded that a gene responsible for most cases of hereditary deafness may have an unexpected benefit: it may protect you from infection.

OK, so first you develop a genetic deficiency (i.e., not a temporary injury) called deafness, and then you somehow out-compete your undamaged peers (call them "hears", maybe, thinking of quotes like “look out for that SuperSau— oh, never mind”) because this may later provide better healing of injuries and so may (if one survives) reduce exposure to some infections.

The somewhat circumspect chain of logic expressed in the article reminds me so much of the random flag-hitting required to make programs work at all in RPG, and of course the RPG acronym (RePort Generator) has here (pun intended) proven deeply insightful.

Betcha these people wonder why skeptics remain skeptical of their pronouncements, too.

Now, an opportunity to see some serious biological overclocking... as published by no less than the AAAS:

By using an electronic ultra-high-speed camera, researchers have characterized the explosive discharge of stinging jellyfish nematocytes and show that this event represents one of the fastest cellular processes in nature. The research is reported by Thomas Holstein of the University of Heidelberg and his colleagues in the May 9th issue of Current Biology.
Nematocysts (also known as cnidocysts) of jellyfish and other cnidarians are giant exocytotic organelles of the stinging cells used for prey capture and defense. These miniature cellular weapons contain a cocktail of hemolytic and neurotoxic poisons, making some cnidarians the most venomous animals known. Injection of the toxins requires an effective release mechanism that breaks the physical barrier of the prey's outer-surface tissue. It was known already that a high pressure (15 MPa [circa 2 tonnes per in2]) drives nematocyst discharge, and that stylets can penetrate even thick crustacean shells. However, neither the kinetics nor the forces involved were known, simply because discharge is so fast that it had not been previously resolved by conventional high-speed imaging.
To clarify these issues, the researchers studied nematocyst discharge with an electronic framing-streak camera at a framing rate of 1,430,000 frames per second. They show discharge kinetics of nematocysts in Hydra to be as short as 700 nanoseconds, creating an acceleration of up to 5,410,000 g.

These numbers are typical of almost invisibly small squid, too. Ask yourself what effect a bunch of seven-megapascal impacts each at the size of a dinner-plate (a serious but not too-spectacular squid) plus claws would have on your day.

1 comment:

Leon Brooks said...

Just in case this part was unclear, the dinner-place blows carry near-sledgehammer concentrations of force (even more so because of the wider area and it’s turbulent rather than static) — and in the short term, trying to duck is pointless.

WRT the claws, think individual lion- or tiger-claws from a very large puddy tat, put them on rotating mounts attached to the sides of large, flexible, well-muscled and very fast tentacles — then enjoy the swim through resistant water amongst claw-laden and flailing tentacles flavoured with kick-in-the-head sized random shocks. Pleasant?

Ever wondered why sailors in wooden sailing ships were so worried about very large squid?

Picture a nice, gentle sailing run (think in terms of maybe 8 knots, a moderately fast walk) across a bay — and suddenly your ship springs to a vibrating halt. Long, clawed tentacles horsewhip around you as the lower decks implode with more, shorter but more-heavily clawed and majorly ensuckered tentacles plus occasionally a thrusting, snapping parrotish-beak fit to eat a kanga or two at a bite.

Feeling comfortable? Perhaps it bears mentioning that said beak is roughly the size of a small car, and is biting viciously? Attacking squid of any size are far from gentle.

Now add a few sound effects (such as shredding wood and bones, terrified and/or chopped screams, water sounds etc), plus some salt water... and then throw in a few brave/stupid but relatively less nasty Great Whites circling the scene expecting many small leftovers.

Now picture this on a weakly moonlit night.

Relaxing? (-: