Thursday, January 21, 2010

Story 185: Reverse Domestication

Doctor Johnson looked at the whiteboard, which was split down the middle by a wavy black line to form two columns. The GOOD IDEA side was empty other than some text that had spilled over after filling the BAD IDEA column to capacity, but it seemed like there had to be something positive to write down if only he could think of it.
"Okay, gentlemen. Let's try this again. If we want to get funding to bring Bos primigenius back from extinction we need to be able to pitch the idea on its merits." Johnson looked again at the vast, bleak space of the GOOD IDEA column. "Of which I am certain some exist."

"Well," Doctor Hastings said, "Let's take another look at the bad ideas and see if we can justify moving any over. Hmm... okay, so we have 'original attempt funded by Hitler' on here. That's not in and of itself a bad thing, is it? I mean, he did have some good ideas."
Even the lab rats fell silent. The only noise was a timid beep from the climate control as it registered a sudden drop in temperature. Finally Doctor Meyers cleared his throat and walked over to another whiteboard labeled 'MAD SCIENTIST EARLY INTERVENTION' and put another tick mark under Hastings' name. "Getting very close, Hastings." he said.

Johnson was staring again, reaching out with the slowly-drying whiteboard marker and then pulling his hand back before making contact. "I just know there's a reason we want to do this," he mumbled - and then, louder, "Well, I still say we can use the back-from-extinction angle. We're saving Bos primigenius from the grave... that's good, right?"
Meyers sighed. "No, damn it, we've talked about this. Since we're just using selective breeding from existing related stock it would only look like Bos primigenius, it wouldn't technically be the same creature. I mean, even if the genes are all kicking around somewhere we won't be able to fully re-create one."
Doctor Hastings, who had come in to the meeting late, tilted his head to one side and pondered all this. "Wait," he said, "then what are we actually getting out of this? I mean, will it provide better meat or milk?"
The others shrugged, looking down at their feet. "Probably nothing special about the meat," Johnson conceded, "and they may or may not provide milk when they don't have calves. There's... there's probably a reason humans bred cattle to be the way they are today."

Hastings nodded. "Back to the idea of moving something out of the bad list, then. Hmm. I see here they're six and a half feet high at the shoulder and have nasty tempers. That's... hmm... that's probably not a good combination."
Meyers snatched the whiteboard marker away from Johnson in excitement. "Unless! Unless..." he scribbled furiously in the GOOD IDEA area. The formerly blank space now read "GUARD CATTLE / ARMORED INFANTRY CATTLE". They let the idea settle in, tasting it the way one would a fine wine. Finally everyone nodded.
"Okay," Johnson said, "Let's also add 'Cows the size of small elephants are awesome' and we can write this bad boy up!"

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Note from the author: Don't worry, real scientists don't waste time on stuff like this. Oh, wait, they do. Nevermind.