I'm not kidding. Sure, laugh all you like. You'll be be laughing out the other side of your mouth when the Maple-Leafed Hordes come boiling across the border riding eight-legged, venomous goats!
Actually, I found horrified speculation from several angles, most of them goofy, nightmarish variations on the theme of Some Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. The real story is way more interesting: most folks know spider silk is, pound for pound, stronger than steel -- or carbon fiber. But it's kind of hard to harvest and process. (The branding alone boggles the mind's eye, let alone rounding up the young spiderlings and taking the herd to market. And the weaving, oh, the very horror of it! No Dickensian mechanized sweatshop could do it justice).
So, impossible dream? Nope. A Canadian outfit has managed to splice up a line of otherwise perfectly ordinary goats that produce spider-silk proteins in their milk. Such fancy molecules have proven impossible to synthesize in the lab, so a handy little source that head-butts and bleats is pretty amazin'.
The bad news? It's still got to be spun; the gene-modded goats haven't got spinnerets. Sorry, no goatwebs (I'm kinda relieved); they extract spiderweb proteins (and possibly add the leftover goat milk to their coffee) and then have to spin it mechanically. It turns out the spiders have us way beat there -- what a spider does about as easily as you'd flip a coin, Modern Science cannot half match. Still, halfway there is a lot farther along than we had been. Gossamer bullet-proofing for soldiers, police and you and me is still on the horizon, followed by vastly improved space suits, seat belts and -- who knows? (Or not. Website has that dead look. Or maybe that "did we say too much already?" look).
But tiny, web-spinning, eight-legged goats, we don't get. I'm almost sorry. Almost.
1. Superstition Repeats Itself: didn't one of the Norse pantheon ride in a chariot pulled by goats? (Tam: "Sure, Thor. Gaptooth and Cracktooth." No veterinary dentistry that side of the Bifrost Bridge, I see). Even spiderier, Odin rode an eight-legged horse -- and kids left their shoes outside filled with hay for the horse come Yuletide and found it replaced with goodies in the morn, so now you know how those "eight tiny reindeer" and stockings hung on the mantle snuck in.
2. If so, you'd think they'd be unknowable. Or at least there'd be a sign or a warning or-- hey! Sheesh, I knew I'd heard this one before. Tell the religious objectors they're a few milennia Too Late and give the Green ones a hankie to sob into. Recycled, of course and if they object, tell 'em it's for the good of the planet.
3. Now you have gone too far, Blogger/Google: "spiderling" not only is a word, it's a fairly old one.
4 weeks ago