Sunday, January 04, 2009

Canadian Bulletproof Spider-Goats!

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![1]

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.[2] 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[3] 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.


Home on the Range said...

"Thor has two he-goats, that are called Tooth-Gnasher and Tooth-Gritter, and a chariot wherein he drives, and the he-goats draw the chariot" -Prose Edda

In other Norse News: HeidrĂșn is a she-goat whose udders gave mead to the Einherjar.

If you can find me a goat that I can milk for mead I'll be taking two of those.

Don said...

What a coincidence! I was just watching a show on the Science channel about this subject. I, too, was kinda creeped out by it; my wife was mortified that they're splicing animals like that. No good can come of it, that's for sure.

I'll be watching for those sneaky Canucks on their spider-goats... :-)

Don said...

Since you're moderating all your comments, I figured I'd send you a quick note this way.

If you have no objections, I'd like to add your blog to my "best of" list. I really enjoy your blog and check in regularly now. Anyway, thanks for the great writing!

Anonymous said...

Giving up on the Anarco-capitalism thing already?

I like the Anarcos. Their debates conjure up imagery of a game world -

"My Randian cloak now has +8 protection".

"Oh, yeah, well, I now wield the Flaming Sword of Objectivism! Engard!"

Completely divorced from all reality but the ferocity and intricacy are entertaining.

Bring back Beck Vs Ugg!
Bring back Beck Vs Ugg!

Turk Turon said...

"Mr. President, we cannot allow a bulletproof spider-goat gap!"

Roberta X said...

D.W: Of course you can. And thanks.

Broward: A) I have not given up on it and have, in fact, a post in the works. Neither side (of the fifty-'leven) will like it much.
B) It may have escaped your notice that Mr. Beck and Mr. Og both have popular, well-regarded blogs of their own in which to hold their debates and if they choose to do so, I wish them every enjoyment. My objection to their battling here was they were, so to speak, getting blood all over the carpets while providing very little new, useful data to onlookers. Turns out they both bleed red.

George said...

Damn ... you never were supposed to know about the goats ... the eight legged ones, I mean.

At least, you don't seem to know about the snowshoe rab......

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!!!

Kneel before my Goat Hordes, puny human!

the pawnbroker said...

"Now you have gone too far, Blogger/Google: "spiderling" not only is a word, it's a fairly old one."

remove them dratted training wheels! they's a hindrance to the creative spellin's and usin's that you are known and loved for!

and that's the last time i'll be buying goatsmilk fudge at that place on us27 in clermont fl...don't wanna be pickin' f'n spiderwebs outa my toofies!


Drang said...

So, back to the blogpost...
I note that the Beeb's article is dated 2000.
Nexia's webpage lists a corporate report for FY2007. And Business Week lists them as still being "there. "there". I don't speak investor, though.

Arcadia Iris said...

Considering how Sleipnir got here... through Loki... I'm a little worried about exactly what type of breeding program was used to produce these goats.

Anonymous said...

Wait until you see what we are doing with beavers and Canada geese! Bwa-ha-ha! Tremble, Americans, tremble.


We call it the worgslin.

Roberta X said...

Kelly, whatever we suspect, the truth is far worse -- I know it involved freeze-dried spiders and a mortar & pestle and that was just for starters.