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Friday, 3 May 2013

Spider Goats, Cow Teats, Carrots and Sticks

Man, I feel like I'm so far behind that I'm chasing myself with both a carrot and a stick. I will beat myself into submission today, however, and get caught up. I have three articles to write tonight, on top of this blog, so "Whip It" will be my theme song for the evening. Thankfully the universe has created the existence of coffee, so I'm pretty hyped at the moment. I'm over my last mope session, if you want to call it that, and now I'm back in fighting form.

You're probably wondering about the spider goats from the title, though. I know I do. Ha! It has to do with an article I read yesterday about making silk. It started out with a picture of the silk moth, posted by +susan thom on Facebook (thank you, Sue). I ended up on Wikipedia, as I so often do, and through there I went to a site about making silk. I was just looking for other pictures of the adorable-looking moth, but ended up learning a few things.

Spider goats are real, yo! Pardon the slang. It just felt necessary at the moment. However, they really exist. They were genetically engineered. They're called 'transgenic' goats, actually. (They look like normal goats, by the way - they don't have eight legs or anything.) Scientists figured out the DNA chain that's responsible for spiders and silk worms making silk. They spliced this DNA chain from a golden orb weaver spider into the DNA of goats. Do not ask me what made them think of goats as being the appropriate animal to do this with, because I can't think of a single reason. I mean, honestly, do y'all think of goats being relevant to spiders in any way? I certainly don't!

So, here's what happened. The silk comes out in the milk. I'm not kidding. Silk-Milk. Kind of like that soy milk brand, Silk, I guess, but I don't think I'd want to be drinking this. The silk that is created is actually referred to by the brand name BioSteel. Silk is stronger than steel cable, hence the technical interest in it. BioSteel was created by Nexia, a now-defunct Canadian company (see, we're pretty smart up here - we're just not as good at self-promotion so we go broke). The two goats were sold to Canadian Agricultural Museum, and now there are thirty of them! Cool, huh? Canada is the only country with spider goats! It might be a bizarre claim to fame, but it's a claim nonetheless.

Admittedly this is a very simplistic explanation of the whole thing, but most people aren't as fascinated by the minute details as I am, so I've glossed over it a bit for the attention-deficit among us. I just think it's pretty cool. Sure, you can get into all your arguments about how genetic manipulation is wrong, but if I thought there was an animal suffering I wouldn't think it was so cool, would I? A couple of spiders might have died in the making of this product, which isn't something I hear people complaining about. Working with DNA isn't quite the same thing as experimenting on live animals, I don't think. I could be wrong, though, so correct me if I am. Sure, the goats are alive, but they're not being tortured. They're being milked. If you have a problem with milking, talk to the cows about it.

Speaking of cow teats, and you know I was, I remember watching the movie "Children of Men" years ago, and the pregnant girl talks about how cows supposedly have four teats removed for no reason at all. According to everything I've read, they don't. They are apparently born with four functioning teats. Any others are superfluous and do not actually work. On dairy farms they're usually removed to prevent future confusion. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would be to have a non-functioning teat hooked up to the milking machine. They don't bother removing them on beef farms, though. What would be the point? Nobody cares about the attractiveness of cow breasts. If you do have an attraction to them that's probably something you don't want to be admitting to the general public.

It's amazing how many things get bandied about in movies as little factoids, that really aren't facts at all. I posted a video link on Twitter some time ago that dispels the myths about suppressors on handguns. Often called silencers in movies, in real life they do not actually silence guns. They make them a bit quieter, yes, but you can not completely silence the expulsion of gases coming from the end of a barrel. There's no cute little chirpy sound, there's a bang. I would guess that's the reason they're officially called suppressors rather than silencers. Now, if you're a writer who is interested in getting your facts straight, and you write about shootings, this might be something you want to know about. Sure, there's artistic licence, but I'm getting awfully sick of reading crap that just isn't true.

This is one of the reasons I stopped watching all of the CSI shows years ago. I knew there was a huge difference between those shows and the realities of crime-fighting. Cops don't normally work in labs. Lab technicians do not normally chase bad guys. Pretty simple stuff. I wanted even my fiction writing to be as accurate as possible, so I chose to avoid that kind of garbage TV. Then I ended up not really watching TV at all. It wasn't really intentional. It just didn't interest me. If there's something interesting I want to see I'll watch it, such as Big Bang Theory, so I don't eschew it entirely. I just have too many other things to do that require the actual use of my brain cells to bother much with it.

Things like spider goats and cow teats apparently.