2006.02.15 Grow an arm, turn green

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Some people think the human body is far short of showing intelligent design. It’s truly an amazing set of organs, but maybe it wasn’t all that well thought out.

As Stephan Peters puts it, “The human body is crammed full of messy plumbing, circuitry, scaffolding, dodgy components and building materials, and is riddled with workarounds to compensate for poor initial design."

Peters was one of many entries in the Human Design contest sponsored by the British magazine New Scientist. Readers were asked how they would modify the body if they were not restricted in any way.

Life events, career and age led to many similar suggestions. New parents wanted extra arms, of course, although some contestants went into greater detail: the ability to grow and resorb limbs on demand.

There was some obvious pouch envy from new parents, as well, as they eyed the marsupial way of life.

Teachers want eyes in the back of their heads and students want light-emitting eyebrows to read under the covers while in bed on a school night.

Chameleon skin would take the worry and expense out of clothing, or how about green skin? If humans could survive on chlorophyll and photosynthetic skin, we would all look a lot more alike and racism would take a dive.

Besides that, becoming carbon-neutral would remove the need to eat anything, ever.

Entries from older readers called for an all-day bladder, joints with lubrication points, regenerating teeth, two-way elbows that would make back-scratching easier, and earlids that could blank out the noise made by those annoying brats that came out of the pouch.

Several readers  wanted some sort of “Pinocchio gene” that would make a lie obvious. For example, a lie could launch an asthma attack.

Now for the winning entries, chosen not just for wit but also for originality.

• Instead of producing fat, modify the body so it produces oil. Just tap it off every so often like extracting sap from a maple tree, says a contestant from Hexham, Northumberland, UK.

The writer points out this will solve obesity problems while simultaneously addressing the energy crisis. The more the merrier; you’re merely contributing to the greater good of humanity.

• A man in Chalfont St. Giles, Buckinghamshire, wants to glue monkeys to his hands and feet, and then glue geckos to their hands and feet. Then he could climb anything.

• A new father in Neutral Bay, Australia, wants a small gauge on the forehead of his four-month-old daughter. It would have a simple scale reading from “empty” to “full.”

“I cannot tell you what a difference that would make in our lives,” he wrote.

• An entry from Menstrie, Clackmannanshire, suggests that pain usually outlasts its welcome. It’s still there long after you’ve figured out that something is wrong.

This guy wants a shut-off button that would tell your body, “Yes, I know I shouldn’t have picked up that soldering iron by the wrong end, but it’s too late now, so please stop bugging me for a while.”

• A book collector in Canterbury, Kent, wants to be able to hold a book in an interested sort of fashion and have the contents downloaded into his brain—with search and delete functions, of course.

“My shelves are full of books just waiting,” he writes.

• Computer functions suggest a lot of adaptations for the human body. I’ve found myself doing a keyboard “save” function when I wasn’t even at the computer, not that it really works. I forget the next day.

But how about this restart button, perhaps on the ear lobe, to pull yourself out of a state of confusion.

“Depressing the button momentarily would result in a ‘warm restart’—taking me back to my mental state of five minutes previously,” says a contestant from Shepperton, Middlesex. “Holding in the button for two seconds would produce a ‘cold restart’—to be used only in the event I am found swinging from a chandelier or become convinced I am Napoleon.”

And think of the fun you’d have grabbing someone’s earlobe over and over.

“Hey, don’t touch that...where am I? What are you doing? Hey, don’t touch that...What happened?

– February 15, 2006

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