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An Alternate Human 450

Posted by Zonk
from the better-than-the-original dept.
B0b Barker writes "What has six limbs, a prehensile tail, its brain in its chest, and reproductive organs in its mouth? The alternate human designed by biologist PZ Myers in Remaking Humanity, a story in Forbes.com's package on Reinvention. It may sound fantastic, but researchers are already working to re-build DNA, proteins and cells in a new field called synthetic biology, and we may have to meet these bug-eyed freaks sometime in our lifetime."
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An Alternate Human

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Thursday April 20, 2006 @11:48AM (#15165329)


    From TFA:

    There's no particular necessity that the brain would form in the head--that's again a product of convenience, since more sensory organs were located in the front of the animal, and induced an enlargement of the local part of the nervous system to cope with their input.

    So let's meddle again, and instead put the brain somewhere near the middle of the animal. In that position, it can be better protected by the mass of bone and muscle in the chest, and also be more conveniently located relative to the heart and circulatory system. It changes our head from a bulbous housing for a crucial, delicate organ, all poised on a fragile stalk of a neck, to a flexible sensory and feeding apparatus.
    In addition to convenience, there's a good reason the brain is located in the head...in close proximity to the major sensory organs (eyes, ears, nose, mouth). This placement minimizes the time lag of neural impulse conduction, by minimizing the necessary length of nerve connecting the sensory organs to the brain. For this reason, I wouldn't expect many species to evolve with a larger-than-necessary distance between their brain and their sensory organs (unless such creature evolved a much faster method of conducting nerve impulses than we possess).
    • For this reason, I wouldn't expect many species to evolve with a larger-than-necessary distance between their brain and their sensory organs (unless such creature evolved a much faster method of conducting nerve impulses than we possess).

      The sense of touch in my feet does not appear to be having a problem with distance. Maybe I just don't notice the latency, but I definately have sensory receptors all over the body that work just fine.

      TW
      • But it does make a difference. That's why some of your reflexes are controlled from your medula and not from your brain - so that they are both uncounscious AND faster.
      • by Cervantes (612861) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:05PM (#15165492) Journal
        The sense of touch in my feet does not appear to be having a problem with distance. Maybe I just don't notice the latency, but I definately have sensory receptors all over the body that work just fine.

        The sense of touch in your feet also updates a helluva lot less frequently than your sense of sight.

        It's one thing to have a bit of latency on a low-bandwidth sense like touch... it's another thing alltogether to have high latency on a high-bandwidth application like sight... especially when reflexes determine how long a creature survives.
      • Who cares about the sense of touch in your feet? All our major predator avoidance senses...Sight, Hearing, Smell...ALL of them, are proximate to the brain. Evolution clearly favors this (since all things that actually HAVE brains, have them right next to their major senses), and common sense would suggest that traveling three inches is faster than traveling 3 feet, given a constant velocity.
        • Who cares about the sense of touch in your feet?

          Based on this theory of mine, whatever part of human skin is particularly ticklish, is (or was) an important sensory organ.

          Feet sure qualify. I explain this by the need to react automatically to stepping on a snake or a scorpion.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:17PM (#15165597)
        It does. In fact, unusually tall people often have trouble with their feet. They can't feel infections and things very well.
      • by Verteiron (224042) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:29PM (#15165729) Homepage
        Oh there's a latency, and you probably have experienced it, too. Think on the last time you stubbed your toe. You know that "oh shit" moment, the moment between when you know you've stubbed your toe, and the moment when the blinding pain makes you start hopping about and swearing? That moment begins when your sense of balance and motion tells you that your foot has stopped moving and ends when the nerve impulses from your toe reach your brain and are processed. It's not long, but it's plenty long enough to perceive conciously.

        Now if the brain were in the chest cavity and the eyes were in the head, there would be a delay, and probably a lot more blind or one-eyed individuals. Ever see something like a tree branch or a rock speeding toward your eye, and blinked or ducked to save your vision? The increased delay would make that sort of reaction time impossible, and *pow* you just put your eye out!

        I've always wondered if Niven's Puppeteers had this problem, and perhaps that's why they started to hide all the time.
      • by cmallinson (538852) * <c AT mallinson DOT ca> on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:36PM (#15165798) Homepage
        More distance between the brain and the sensory organs also presents the problem of having greater risk of damage to those (now longer) nerves. With the brain in the head, a blow to the neck can cause paralysis of the limbs. With the brain in the torso, a blow to the neck (or perhaps even lower vertebrae) would cause paralysis of the face, as well as rendering the individual deaf and blind. As bad as it would be to be quadriplegic, I'd take it over the alternative.

        As far as I'm concerned, if I'm going to lose my head - my brain may as well go with it.

    • The brain stops working when the temp goes outside a certain range; most other organs in warm-blooded critters are less temperature-sensitive. Isolating the "special needs" organ is good design.

    • This placement minimizes the time lag of neural impulse conduction, by minimizing the necessary length of nerve connecting the sensory organs to the brain.

      In addition to this, add that it puts the high-bandwidth inputs -- audio, and particularly vision -- on dedicated "buses" rather than trying to run them through the same system bus (spinal cord) that handles the low-bandwidth signals for muscles. And allows direct connection to the higher brain structures, rather than routing through all that antiq

    • I wonder if heat dissipation is a better reason. IIRC, the brain represents about 2% of your mass, but radiates about 20% of your body heat.

      Whether that's a good thing (brain needs cooling because of all the circuitry in there), or a bad thing (unneccessary heat loss), I'll leave to the biologists. Also, the question of whether it might actually be more efficient to cool the brain in the chest due to liquid cooling.
      • by moultano (714440) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:44PM (#15165869)
        This happens because you have so much blood flowing through your brain. Your brain doesn't need cooling. It's not a friggin processor. Why do you think you have hair on your head? It's to insulate all of the blood carrying oxygen to your brain so it doesn't leak off as much heat.
        • The brain needs to maintain a certain balance. Too cold and it shuts-down (killing you)...too hot and it "melts-down" killing you. On a processor - too hot and it "melts-down" too cold, well now you can overclock it through the nose :D

          The brain needs to maintain at a certain temperature...that is one of the reasons when people have fevers they put cold towels on their forehead. On occasion, if a person is REALLY under a strong fever (or say on too much ecstacy) they will submerse the person in ice to
    • Speaking of neural wiring. One very important nerve, the vagus nerve, is very likely the most important nerve in the body. It runs to the heart, larynx, lungs, and internal organs yet doesn't go via the spinal cord, it runs directly from the brainstem down the neck. This means that no matter how much damage your spine suffers your automatic functions will still work (explaining why people can be total paraplegics but stay alive). This may be an evolutionary advantage but I find it hard to believe that a
      • by CFTM (513264) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:41PM (#15165840)
        I'm no expert in this sort of stuff but my guess would be that the spinal cord is actually a newer more advanced system and the vagus nerve is the more primative of the two structures. I would guess the vagus nerve dates back to when hearts and lungs started appearing in organisms and not the other way around as your post implies. The importance of that is the vagus nerve was not something that decided the survivability of our ancestors; it was some other species a billion years ago or so who developed it to survive.

        Kinda like Windows, just keep building on top!
    • I would design something that incorporates the best of both worlds... The sensory input and auto-response can be incorporated into a small secondary brain in the cranium, while all the higher-order functions could be handled in the primary brain in the center of the body. Or you could take it even a step further and incorporate the basic/instinctive functions relative to each sensory organ into the organs themselves - so the eye would have its own neural network incorporated within or nearby.

      As a matter o
      • It's already kind of like that, except the reverse. We have a big brain in our heads that handles sensory input except for touch, and conscious action. Really, when you add up sight, sound, smell and the mechanics for managing speech, that's most of your brain.

        We have some little distributed brains too. The gut has it's own neural control and the spine takes care of a lot of reflexes itself (you can sever the spinal cord of a cat but if you support it and put it's feet on a treadmill they'll still move i
      • I believe I read an article on slashdot about some scientists making an argument to say that the bundle of nerves at the base of the spinal cord act in a brain like manner with respect to the stomach. The argument going something along the lines of the proximity to the stomach allows for faster recognition of contents in the stomach to react accordingly.

        Too bad I can't find the articles and I can't seem to find anything on google about it :-/
      • As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that we (v1.0) humans have some distributed sensory response capacity outside the brain itself already.

        I heard scientists have found a layer of tissue in the colon and stomach very similar to the brain, with neurons and all, which they think might explain the fact that when you get nervous, your stomach does also.

        It might be that in the future, the "colon brain" will process more data than it does now, perhaps relegating only main (sight/sound)

    • For this reason, I wouldn't expect many species to evolve with a larger-than-necessary distance between their brain and their sensory organs (unless such creature evolved a much faster method of conducting nerve impulses than we possess).

      Hate to dash your expectations, but our optic nerves don't exactly take the shortest route to the brain. They start at our eyeballs and go all the way around our head before connecting to the visual cortex in the back of the brain, switching left and right as they do it.

      Th


      • I don't know where you got those facts, but you ought to demand your money back...

        From eMedicine.com: [emedicine.com]

        The optic nerve extends from the back of the eye, traverses through the orbit and optic canal to the optic chiasm. The intraocular optic nerve is about 1 mm in length, the intraorbital segment 25 mm, the intracanalicular segment about 9 mm, and the intracranial component is about 16 mm long.

        Sorry, but that all adds up to about 51 mm, 5.1 cm, or about 2 inches. Hardly 'stalk' length, and certainly not lon

      • Have you ever dissected a brain? Really? I mean open it up and look at the structure?

        The optic nerve connects into the brain straight back from the eyes. Straight path, single crossover in the optic chiasm. The signal is eventually routed to the back of the brain (posterior) where the visual cortex is located, but there are several important things that seem to happen first.

        Get your physiology straight.

        Length may still not be an issue, but there is a definable cost to longer nerves. We typically don't
    • For this reason, I wouldn't expect many species to evolve with a larger-than-necessary distance between their brain and their sensory organs (unless such creature evolved a much faster method of conducting nerve impulses than we possess).

      So you're saying they should add fiber-optic nerve pathways to this new super human... I like the way you think!
    • Couple of other advantages with the brain/head: Better (and faster) cooling (brain in the chest with current body design would overheat too easily) and higher position for eyesight (see predators and food further away).
    • It hangs out of your body to stay cool. Curiously they're both hairy to.
    • Yea, that was just another scientist talking out his ass. They are constantly trying to find problems with the way things are...personally I think our designed works pretty well. He is exactly the reason genetics and stem cell research need to be closely monitored.
    • But how about redundancy or backup? Kinda like having RAID or perhaps a multiple-processor setup. Currently the brain already has multiple segments, but they tend to be specializing areas. Why not have, for example, a secondary lump 'o' grey matter in an alternate location. This one could deal more directly with the organs in that area, and/or also act as backup when #1 goes offline.

      I wonder how this would work for sleep as well. Take a 1h nap, brain #1 dumps to brain #2 and then offlines. If you've enoug
    • I seem to remember John Smart talking about "developmental optimum" that evolution settles into. The eye most people get, having one doesn't give stereo vision, and three is redudant so the extra requirements of having a third eye get pared out over time. There are also some reasons having five fingers having to do with gripping a rock so it could be thrown accurately at ninety miles an hour. Get a pack of hairy men all throwing at a single predator/prey and they've got a serious problem. Our thowing ab
    • Faulty premise (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Comboman (895500)

      From TFA: There's no particular necessity that the brain would form in the head--that's again a product of convenience, since more sensory organs were located in the front of the animal, and induced an enlargement of the local part of the nervous system to cope with their input. So let's meddle again, and instead put the brain somewhere near the middle of the animal. In that position, it can be better protected by the mass of bone and muscle in the chest, and also be more conveniently located rela

  • by eosp (885380) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @11:50AM (#15165348) Homepage
    how's that a change?
  • ...Having reproductive organs in the mouth would make my life far too complicated.
  • I hope that the first thing out of our collective mouths is not "bug-eyed freaks"!
  • Uh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, 2006 @11:51AM (#15165368)
    It may sound fantastic, but researchers are already working to re-build DNA, proteins and cells in a new field called synthetic biology, and we may have to meet these bug-eyed freaks sometime in our lifetime.
    With that sentance structure "bug-eyed freaks" clearly refers to the subject; the researchers.
  • "reproductive organs in its mouth"?

    I hate to break it to you but many, MANY people have done this already.
  • by ColdCoffee (664886) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @11:54AM (#15165389)
    ...look suspiciously like the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
  • by Apostata (390629) <apostata&hotmail,com> on Thursday April 20, 2006 @11:55AM (#15165395) Homepage Journal
    "we may have to meet these bug-eyed freaks sometime in our lifetime"

    Dare to dream. Personally, I say we drop everything and try to make the reception on cell phones better.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, 2006 @11:56AM (#15165406)
    "What has six limbs, a prehensile tail, its brain in its chest, and reproductive organs in its mouth?"

    My last date.

  • Bah at these useful applications! I want a tail, like the rest of my primate cousins! =D
    • Bah at these useful applications! I want a tail, like the rest of my primate cousins! =D

      You have one already. It's just vestigial. Some lucky buggers are born with a few inches down there... unfortunately, you just happened to get stuck with a stubby (aka tailbone).
  • by ettlz (639203) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @11:57AM (#15165427) Journal
    I guess that precludes chilli and bony fish — just cold rice pudding and hot grits from now on!
  • ..and reproductive organs in its mouth?

    Way too easy.
  • Behold!!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by gasmonso (929871) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:00PM (#15165446) Homepage

    I present you the five-assed monkey!

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
  • Why not improve (Score:2, Interesting)

    Many anthropologists, socioligist, and biologists agree that humans have essentially stopped their own evolution, or at least slowed it to a crawl. Evolution is the long-term response of continuously having to adapt to your environment. However, because of civilization, the large majority of humanity simply adapts its environment around them instead.

    That being said, wouldn't it make more sense to look at our evolutionary development and compare it with the rest of the animal kingdom. In this way, scienti
    • Good point indeed. Nature has already provided some decent design ideas to embrace and extend. My thoughts echo yours and others on this; starting from scratch, we probably couldn't do much better than what our planet has already provided.

      The design proposed by PZ Myers would probably highlight why it wasn't done that way if this new human ever manged to appear out of thin air.

      • Re:Why not improve (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Carnivore (103106) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @02:26PM (#15166962)
        I don't agree. We're the product of evolution. The take-home message about evolution that's relevant here is "good enough is fine". As long as some design is good enough, there's no pressure to improve it.

        I can think of several examples right off the top of my head:
        • Combined sexual/excratory organs
        • Inefficient use of water for waste transport/removal
        • Lack of redundancy in significant organs (heart, brain, stomach)
        • Lack of control of immune, piloerectory, etc functions
        • Limited spectral range of vision and hearing, relatively pitiful sense of smell


        There are all kinds of improvments that you could make to the regular human if we were able to. I'd love to be able to see into the UV and IR. That would kick ass.
        • We think about people getting into car wrecks and how that is bad, but I think the amazing thing is that we are able to drive cars as fast as we do in as much dense traffic and 99.9999 percent of the time not get into a wreck.

          Mammals by and large have bad eyesight -- it is supposed we evolved from tiny mole or shrew-like creatures that hid out of sight not to get snarfed up by dinosaurs; mammals only came out into the open and got large after the dinosaurs went away. Primates managed to evolve pretty OK

    • by bigtrike (904535) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:30PM (#15165737)
      We haven't stopped it, we've only altered the rules. Finding food and escaping predators is no longer much of an evolutionary influence. There are quite a few new things which can cause us to fail to reproduce. Humans will likely evolve in time to become less susceptible to cancer and asthma caused by air pollution, more likely to survive car crash trauma, be more tolerant of lead and mercury, and less likely to suffer negative effects such as heart disease from overconsumption of food. Women whose genetics prevent birth control from working well are currently far more likely to reproduce than others, so we will likely see some tolerance in the general population (although the medications will likely change at a much faster rate than we can evolve around). This is all just speculation though, I'm not a biologist.
    • For instance, if our legs bent inwards (backwards) at the knee ... we could ... sit down more easily.

      Perhaps you're talking about moving to a sitting position, on a flat surface, but I think having our knees go the other direction would make sitting on a chair extremely difficult -- where would I put my feet, slung over my shoulder?

    • You've got it backwards. Reducing reproductive pressures increases variability in the population (more gene mutations survive) so evolution is actually sped up by our ability to survive and reproduce.

      The idea you refer to is based on an erroneous assumption that we are progressing towards something, that we're being shaped towards some ideal of one sort or another.

      Evolution isn't good change or bad change or measured in aproximations towards something, it's just change over time.

      If you corner any of those a
  • by wombatmobile (623057) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:05PM (#15165488)

    There's no particular necessity that the brain would form in the head

    In modern humans the heart is positioned midway between the brain and the genitals, pumping blood to both.

    • Not only that, but notice the proximity of the eyes, ears, and nose - our most important sex organs - to the brain. A 3 inch nerve works a lot quicker than say, the 5' one from your brain to your big toe.
  • WTF? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thebdj (768618) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:05PM (#15165494) Journal
    I think I can cope with the extra limbs and pre-hensile tail. While certain evolutionary changes did reduce us to four-limbed tail-less creatures, I suppose there could be certain circumstances where at the least we could've kept the tail. The notions about reproduction and the brain are a bit odd.

    As others have pointed out, the human brain would make most logical sense in the head. Being near the sensory organs is rather important to ensure fast response to external stimuli. Also, the chest cavity makes for a lousy place for brain storage. I guess the ribs and like could've evolved differently, but it just doesn't seem like an effective barrier. It is also mid-mass so your brain would get bounced around with just normal moving and sleeping. Not really a great idea. At least in the head it is fairly protected from that sort of stress.

    The reproductive organs...well I just would not want to think about the trouble this would cause. Our mouths already have a confusing time with the eating and breathing. There are problems with this system mind you. Our bodies don't seem to like the idea of eating and breathing much at the same time. Also, I think I would rather have my less pleasant bodily functions sharing space with my reproductive organs than with place where I eat, drink and breath. Also, reproductive organs would have bad protection in your mouth. Besides the dangers of self mutilation (I mean imagine if this thing bit its own balls), the area is grossly exposed. The mouth is technically an external area that receives a great deal more bacteria then your lower regions.

    For any major change to have occured in the evolutionary path, something major would have to happen to the environment. Environment played a huge roll in our evolutionary path, and I would like to think that genetics, natural selection and all that fun stuff worked together to produce the best form possible.
  • by Offtopic (103557) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:07PM (#15165511)
    Kyle: Watch out Stan, genetic engineers are crazy!!!

        South Park, Episode 105, An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig

  • Question (Score:5, Funny)

    by dwalsh (87765) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:08PM (#15165518)
    "...reproductive organs in its mouth"

    Whose?
  • And the ability to curl up to go to sleep. That's what I'd like.
    The tail idea, or 3 hind legs, would be useful. So would more hands. 3 hind legs would mean that we wouldn't have to bother with chairs any more, because we'd have a built-in 3 legged stool to sit on.
    I don't think much of the idea of only one eye in the head, and the brain in the chest, Isn't the optic nerve as short as it is because if it was made longer the bandwidth would be insufficient to see details properly. Only one eye means an end to
  • This reminds me of Ijon Tichy's Twenty-first voyage (The Star Diaries, Stanislaw Lem).
    With the ability to have any body form they want, people create all sorts of highly practical and highly impractical forms...and legislation, changing over time, to restrict the body forms people will take.
    I don't think I really have a point...maybe it's Read Lem.
    ..."'Off with the head' (too small for them), 'Brain in the belly!' (more room there)"
  • Problems of design (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bob3141592 (225638) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:19PM (#15165617) Homepage
    What has six limbs, a prehensile tail, its brain in its chest, and reproductive organs in its mouth? The alternate human designed by biologist PZ Myers

    This goes to show the problem of trying to use any design on such complicated systems as biological organisms. Reproductive organs are relatively external in the male because their requirements are very different from the other organs like the heart and kidneys. In they female they also require unique capabilities. The jaw cannot be as functionally flexible as the pelvis and cervix is. What woman would want to deliver through her mouth? A brain in the chest might have some serious overheating problems on top of the wiring issues mentioned elsewhere. Etc...

    Evolution has proven superbly effective at creating workable systems because any component which is serious suboptimal causes the extinction of the entire line that contains it. Nature is extremely wasteful in the trial and error process which is natural selection, but nature is also extremely prolific so those creatures that survive can thrive on the failure of others. No designed organism can compete with an organism that evolved, even if that evolved organism has some defects like vestigial organs or an enhanced tendancy towards cancer in the post reproductive years.

    I find this one of the biggest defects in the whole (un)intelligent design argument, what I call (u)ID. Design is not a desirable process, it is actually undesirable. A designed creature is not at all to be considered better or more noble than one that wasn't designed. Quite the opposite, as the preposterous article shows. Designs are oversimplistic, inflexible, assume fixed conditions in the environment, and cannot function beyond their designed requirements specifications. For things as trivially simplistic as watches or cars or air traffic control systems, the process of designing the product may be profitable (though even there it can be difficult or impossible to achieve all goals), but not for something as complex as a living organism.
    • by pikine (771084) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @01:41PM (#15166482) Journal

      Designs are oversimplistic, inflexible, assume fixed conditions in the environment, and cannot function beyond their designed requirements specifications.

      You must be a Windows programmer.

      Evolution has proven superbly effective at creating workable systems...

      Suppose I design an evolution process that is effective at creating workable systems, then by your claim, my design (evolution) must be oversimplistic, inflexible, assumes fixed conditions, and cannot function beyond specification. This is a contradiction to your claim, so evolution process must not be effective, or your statement about design is wrong.

      ...because any component which is serious suboptimal causes the extinction of the entire line that contains it

      Instead of "serious suboptimal causes" you should use the word "defect." Of course, no matter which words you use, your claim is a useless tautology, since a component that extincts is a component that has defect and vice versa.

      But if you just say suboptimal, you can easily find someone who is biologically superior than you, then by your claim you should be extinct. But (I hope) this is not the case for you. There is observably some give or take on how suboptimal you can be. However, this implies that evolution is not so effective because it allows suboptimality, therefore a contradiction to your claim.

      I hope other scientifically curious people are much more logically rigorous than you when defending evolution.

  • Your "bug-eyed freak" is my welcome overlord!

  • Doesn't the head function as a radiator in some capacity? I would think that having the brain internalized would necessitate another mechanism to cool that part of the body.
  • by gadago (769295)
    bothering around with all this DNA stuff, why not just remove the bottom two ribs?? Then, we can our own reporductive organs in our mouth!
  • and reproductive organs in its mouth

    May that'll lend some true to when fathers say kissing boys will end up getting you pregnant. On the other hand, bad breath would be pretty nasty.

    Seriously though, while there are disadvantages to the current location (as mentioned in the article)... the mouth isn't exactly a 'clean' place either and I doubt it would be much better suited to the job.
  • An intelligent designer!
  • by BitterAndDrunk (799378) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:25PM (#15165674) Homepage Journal
    Why didn't I get the beta to Spore [spore.com] too?
  • um, hello? have these people NOT played Resident Evil?

    I guess this would be a case where NOT playing video games leads to moral decay.
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:37PM (#15165801) Homepage Journal
    Unless we start building household fabricators that can handle the demand, manufacturers of clothing, medical gear, and personal care products are going to have to come up with whole new lines to support each new model of human.

    I mean, dang! Imagine trendy parents who have kids of four different models. Back to school clothes shopping would be a real bitch. "Oh, look Tiffany, Sextopodal Kids "R" Us is having a sale on those . . . RONALD! Get your hands out of your mouth this instance!"
  • we may have to meet these bug-eyed freaks sometime in our lifetime.

    Yeah. Shortly after Duke Nukem Forever hits the streets.
  • If what he is proposing is to use human DNA to "remix" our form...it brings an interesting question to mind. Lets say this thing could actually be created and it had its reproductive organs in its mouth...can anybody here shed some light on the psychology behind whether it would find other members of its species attractive? I mean...if it had human DNA...would it find regular shaped humans attractive? Or only those of similar form?

    What I'm getting at...and I'm entirely serious when I ask this...if a male

  • by StefanJ (88986) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:48PM (#15165930) Homepage Journal
    "The question that will decide our destiny is not whether we shall expand into space. It is: shall we be one species or a million? A million species will not exhaust the ecological niches that are awaiting the arrival of intelligence.

    ...
    When we are a million species spreading through the galaxy, the questions 'Can man play God and still stay sane?' will lose of of its terrors. We shall be playing God, but only as local dieties and not as lords of the universe. There is safety in numbers. Some of us will become insane , and rule over empires as crazy as Doctor Moreau's island. Some of use will shit on the morning star. There will be conflicts and tragedies. But in the long run, the sane will adapt and survive better than the insane. Nature's pruning of the unfit will limit the spread of insanity among the species in the galaxy, as it does among individuals on earth.

    ...
    The expansion of life over the universe is a beginning, not an end. At the same time as life is extending its habitat quantitatively, it will also be changing and evolving qualitatively into dimensions of mind and spirit that we cannot imagine. The acquisition of new territory is important, not as an end in itself, but as a means to enable life to experiment with intelligence in a million different forms."

    -- "The Greening of the Galaxy," Freeman Dyson, 1979

  • by msaulters (130992) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:50PM (#15165944) Homepage
    I have a few of my own ideas, as well as comments on his article.

    First, while people are arguing about brain in chest vs head due to nerve length, nobody is mentioning one of the other impracticalities of his suggestions. Namely, the brain in the chest would require a larger chest cavity, thus a larger torso, and more weight. As well, the extra pair of arms would add to this. The heart would likely need to be larger to support the extra mass. Also, I think the brain would not be as free to grow/evolve to larger sizes when surrounded by all this ribcage, heart, lungs.

    Instead, I think we could really benefit from the addition of one or two more hearts. Why are all our other organs redundant? (even the brain is a dual organ)

    In the area of reproduction, instead of putting genitals in our mouths, take another cue from the bird world... Let's keep our reproduction like it is, but make women lay eggs. If sexual intercourse caused a woman to develop an infant-sized egg that she had to lay three days later, we would probably see a lot fewer teen pregnancies. In addition, a fetus developing in the egg would allow much more flexibility in prenatal care. It would likewise put an immediate end to the abortion issue, as the debate would no longer encompass a woman's right to do as she pleases with her body.

    One of the more interesting possibilities in medicine today is that scientists may be able to reactivate the gene responsible for regeneration of organs, so you could re-grow lost kidneys, lungs, even limbs, as we can already regrow liver tissue. That's a wonderful bit of evolution that we lost, I can't possibly imagine why.

    Finally, while he's taking ideas from some of the animal world, why not give our new and improved human, who I like to call Homo Novo, spinnerets so we can make our own rope, easily glue and fasten things or in a bind even make our own clothes? I admit, it would put the packing tape industry out of business, but it might afford the chance for some exciting new sports, as competitors try to tie each other up, rapell down buildings, or even the new art form of web design (oh, I guess we'd have to come up with a different name).
  • by CreatureComfort (741652) * on Thursday April 20, 2006 @01:08PM (#15166136)

    So, it sounds like they just re-invented puppeteers?

  • by airship (242862) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @01:22PM (#15166290) Homepage
    "I, for one, welcome our new genetically engineered alternate human overlords."
    I can't believe I had to be the one to say this. WTF is happening to /.?

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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