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
  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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