With Trump’s trial in the Senate going on, it feels like a good time to talk about random news items. I want to distract mystelf from President Trump’s pending acquittal.
I spelled “mystelf” correctly. Mystelf is a legitimate word I made up yesterday to mean my stupid self.
The first news item that caught my eye was about scientists’ discovery that tardigrades aren’t as indestructible as we’ve been told. Tardigrades are those little microscopic animals — also called water-bears — who look kind of cute with pudgy feet and can survive all kinds of cold. They can survive a drought. They’ve even been subjected to the vacuum of space and lived and shown no ill effects.
But nobody — until now, apparently, thought of cooking them. Well, they don’t look yummy, I’ll admit.
Still, you’d think in all this time, someone would have wondered how well they’d do in the noonday sun on a Moroccan summer day. It turns out they can’t take it.
Good news for me. The research shows that my stupid body temperature is just the right amount of heat to kill off any tardigrades that find their way deep inside me. It would only take a week or two. Excellent. I had wondered if a tardigrade infestation was possible. I can now relax, safe knowing they could only live skin-deep in me.
My favorite government agency is DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The agency solicits and supports research of all sorts, but usually they’re looking for a defense angle. The reason we can use the internet is because of a project of theirs back when the agency was called ARPA. What was then called the ARPA-net was thought a great system for communication that could function even during a nuclear attack. That was before Russian hackers, malware, denial of service attacks, etc.
Whenever you’re bored and fed up with looking at cute cat videos, go to the DARPA website, click the “Our Research” link and browse all the projects they have going. It gets wild.
You may know some of them. Boston Dynamic Robots came out of one of their projects: robots that walk and run on all fours and can get back up when they’re down. DARPA has pushed a lot of Star Wars-ish projects like that.
Lately there’s been a rash of projects involving genetic modification of plants and animals for defense purposes. One of them is called the APT project. APT stands for Advanced Plant Technologies. The goal of the project is to genetically engineer a variety of plants that can be used as sensors to detect “chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) threats” to protect “deployed troops and the homeland.” See why I like reading these things? “Troops and the homeland.” Sheer poetry.
Another one of these is the ELM project (yes, they all get acronyms like that — it’s so precious): Engineered Living Materials. This week there was news about the engineering of a kind of living brick. It’s a brick you can use like any brick: You can throw it at someone’s head or use it as a paperweight, but its ingredients include a kind of genetically modified bacteria. The bricks are alive. When you need more bricks, you can break them up and the pieces will grow new bricks. You do have to feed and water them. They eat sand and a certain kind of gelatin, and guzzle CO2. I want one for a pet. I will call her Cyan.
The final news item that caught my eye skirted dangerously close to the Senate trial. I almost looked away in horror when I saw it concerned John Roberts, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, who is now presiding over the trial. But it wasn’t about that. It was about John Roberts dropping the phrase “OK, Boomer” in arguments in an age discrimination case before the court.
He was wondering whether saying “OK, Boomer” to a job applicant in an interview could be evidence for age discrimination later if the applicant gets turned down.
I’m glad it’s getting unpopular to be a Baby Boomer. One of the things I’ve hated all my life is there have always been too many of us. Every other generation gets assigned about 10 years. Boomers got 1945 to 1964 — 20 years. That’s not right. All you people born 1955 to 1964 (that includes John Roberts), I now proclaim you the After-Shock Generation.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
Read the full Jan. 22-28 issue.
© 2020 Real Change. All rights reserved. Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice since 1994. Learn more about Real Change and donate now to support independent, award-winning journalism.