mutated and organic

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warning
Just when you thought it was safe to eat all-natural, organic, everything-free food … when you thought it was okay to buy crops grown in sunny fields and harvested by laughing, healthy family farmers wearing all-cotton overalls … this terrible knowledge is revealed:

Thousands of foods we all eat today were bred from crop varieties that were produced using atomic radiation. Both radiation and toxic chemicals are and have been used to mutate plants in order to create new varieties. It’s been going on since the 1940s. Your favorite organic food may come from a variety produced this way.

Needless to say, the gamma rays used to produce an ancestor of the Ruby Red grapefruit have absolutely no effect on you, the eater. It would be crazy to think otherwise. You are simply eating a variety of produce that was generated that way.

But logic doesn’t enter into this. The same people who think that GMO food is going to hurt them might be terrified. (Never mind that GMOs are rigorously tested, highly regulated, and arguably safer than cross-bred plants.) People may soon demand labeling of all food that comes from a variety generated by toxic chemicals or radiation. They may only buy vegetables developed by cross-breeding or selective breeding and nothing more modern than that.

What the heck, let’s go back to the days before our fruits and vegetables were modified by breeding. They probably looked like this. Or better yet, let’s only eat items that have fallen off a tree or a bush in a forest. Or maybe things that have naturally washed ashore on a beach, like an old jellyfish, warmed by the sun. Delectable! Aged jellyfish just melt in your mouth.

Useful Mutants
Crop Seed Mutation Breeding Increasing
Delicious Mutant Foods

never suppress your paradoxes

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Writer and blogger Matthew Wright posted the photo below and challenged readers to write a 150-200 word story inspired by it. His post is here. My story squeaks in at 196 words, plus the title. I carefully carved away words one at time to bring it down to this svelte size.

It’s silly science fiction. I think it’s kinda lame, but there’s a wonderful outside-the-story twist. Matthew posted his prompt on February 2, and I’m responding on February 1 (different sides of the dateline, you know). Perfect for the theme of my story.

A Monument to Martha

This was Martha’s greatest creation. That says a lot, because she’d also invented the fusion incinerator and the matter blender; two conveniences that are now taken for granted, but once seemed miraculous. The newest miracle — the Reverse Temporal Vehicle.

It was just like her to put it in an art deco frame on wheels. As if the first time-displacement device wasn’t grand enough, she had to wrap the machine in elegant steel stripes and boastfully drive it.

Martha announced that she would drive backwards in time to 1931 New York City for the grand opening of another art deco classic, the Empire State Building. Before departing, she showed reporters her amazing invention, emphasizing the beautiful detailing and anti-paradox shielding.

No one knows what went wrong, but to this day we see her gorgeous machine protruding from the 23rd floor of the famous building. The rear is visible from the street. The front, where poor Martha sat, is fused with the building’s steel and limestone.

The paradox shielding had prevented her from ever learning about the silvery, wheeled outcrop in the building that mysteriously appeared in 1931. If known, it might have given her second thoughts.

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fine-tuned for death

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I’d like to propose that the universe we live is “designed” to make life unlikely. It’s a “misanthropic principle” that becomes clear when you look around.

  1. Let’s start with the obvious – 99.999% of everything is empty. It’s mostly a vacuum out there; where life as we know it can’t exist. It’s just dead, sterile space suffused with deadly cosmic radiation.
  2. An unbelievably small part of the universe consists of matter, and 80% of that is dark matter. Let’s look at that tiny, tiny fraction of the universe that consists of what we call ordinary matter. A lot of it is lonely hydrogen atoms, and where the mass clumps together you’ve got gas clouds and radiation-spewing nuclear fusion fire. Then there are burned or frozen chunks of rock. This is a place designed for the non-living.
  3. Further proof of the “death fine-tuning” is that only tiniest fraction of a fraction of a fraction of those rock chunks might be temporarily amenable to life. Most of that life, which is now looking accidental, is probably microbes. You could say the universe slips up once in a while, and in the equivalent of a single dust mote in the Grand Canyon, some microbial life bubbles up, but otherwise non-life reigns supreme.
  4. Now look at the vanishingly small fraction of those rock chunks that could harbor larger, more complicated life. Take earth, for example. In fact, right now that’s our only example. During the finite period of time that complex life can exist here, the planet is subject to doomsday asteroid strikes, horrendous magma-vomiting volcanism, and other catastrophes that beat down life from time to time. It’s not a place that favors the living.
  5. Let’s look at the period between these major disruptions when life thrives for a while. Does the universe care if most creatures with developed nervous systems die painful deaths? No. Animals are torn apart and eaten by other ones, or they starve, or are abandoned or diseased. If humans are somehow different and special (because they write blogs and go to the moon), then the universe is even crueler to them because they can foresee their own helpless doom. They know that they are plagued by deformities, random accidents, disease, and natural disasters.

As you can see, the universe is fine-tuned to treat life as rare and inconsequential. Next post: the bad news.

Okay, I’m purposely stretching this to make a point.I actually feel wonder and delight in the world around us, both living and non-living. It’s fantastic and mysterious and I feel fortunate to be here. I’m just not impressed with arguments that say our universe is perfectly calibrated to create beings like us. You could make a good argument for the opposite.

coma-cluster-galaxies-x-ray

 

Superpig and Porky, oil on canvas

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Someone from the Louvre keeps contacting me about this painting. It’s an upcoming exhibit, “American Neorealist Heroes of the Barnyard,” I think. Or was that the one at the J. Paul Getty? Maybe the show in Paris was called “Transcendental Pork: 1965 – 1975.” I can’t keep them all straight.

In any case, this painting is not going to travel. I could insure it for hundreds of millions of dollars, but what is left me, or the world, if it sinks to the bottom of the ocean or burns in a fiery accident while in transit? No, my 1973 masterwork is staying right where it is. It’s already sustained water damage and bending. No more.

But for those who can live with a photograph, I give you –

Superpig and Porky: Commemorating Five Years of Unflinching Battle Against the Forces of Butchery

superpig_porky

This work is 14″ x 18″, and most find it startling in its raw, superluminous intensity. Despite the tragic blotching in the upper center, the artist’s intentions reach us with clear immediacy. The mature Superpig smiles sagely and is seemingly relaxed, but his message of vegetarian superiority is all the more compelling due to this comforting, natural stance. Porky, meanwhile, shines with the vigor of youth, his uniform form-fitting and new. He looks slightly upward, as if anticipating the years of superheroics ahead. Yellow stars rise into the brightening green, bringing joy and hope. We feel that the practice of animal slaughter cannot possibly withstand the glare of truth and porcine energy.