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Mutant Killer Seaweed of Doom

Article #311 • Written by Richard Solensky

Back in the early 1980’s, the Wilhelmina Zoo in Stuttgart was looking into various types of seaweed for use in their aquarium displays. They settled on a species known as Caulerpa taxifolia, since its bright green, feathery fern-like fronds were quite pretty, and it was both hardy and fast-growing. In addition, it produces chemicals that make it taste awful to marine animals, so it wouldn’t get eaten.

By repeatedly subjecting specimens to harsh aquarium conditions and selecting the ones that survived the best, researchers developed Caulerpa taxifolia (Vahl) C. Agandh, a new-and-improved, genetically distinct strain which was particularly hardy and fast-growing. This variety was ideal for their purposes and it was shared with other museums and aquariums. For a time, all was well and good in the world of marine botany. In 1984, however, a square meter patch of this new variety of Caulerpa was found in the Mediterranean off the shore of Monaco, right outside the Oceanographic Museum.

Evidently a little piece of it was flushed down a drain. But while those organizations involved in dealing with the accidental release exercised their blame-pointing fingers, Caulerpa spread. It was, after all, particularly hardy and fast-growing. By the time anyone got around to doing anything about it, the infestation covered several acres and was beyond anyone’s control. By 2001, there were thousands of acres of this remarkably prolific plant clogging coastal waters around the Mediterranean.

A Caulerpa infestation looks like a vast meadow of leafy, green fronds. And nothing else. The meadows have been compared to fields of wet, overgrown Astroturf. It grows as much as three inches a day, fast enough to crowd out other algae, and since it tastes awful, aquatic herbivores won’t go near it. Because it creates immense fields of desert-like undersea monotony, humans are crowded out as well. The bland landscape becomes uninteresting to divers, diminishing the tourism industry; and seaside fishermen lose interest as their favorite fish move on to more accommodating waters.

Its appearances as far away as Spain, Croatia, and Tunisia are believed to be the result of Caulerpa being picked up by fishing nets and anchors. Since it’s particularly hardy, it isn’t bothered by typical harbor pollution and it happily lies waiting to hitch a ride. A tiny fragment no larger than a fingernail is all that is needed to spawn a new plant, which means that the usual mechanical seaweed-removal methods can actually spread an infestation rather than contain it.

A Caulerpa meadow
A Caulerpa meadow

Controlling the plant with natural predators is also problematic. While there are a few mollusks that will munch happily on the other strains of Caulerpa, they cannot tolerate the temperatures of the Mediterranean, and they would be unable to eat it fast enough to be useful anyway.

Meanwhile, Caulerpa was working its way around the globe via the aquarium trade. In 2000, two small patches were found off the shore of San Diego, CA. Additional patches were spotted off southeast Australia. It is believed that these were the result of people dumping the contents of their salt-water aquaria down the drain.

Aware of the danger, agencies in California sprang into action. The state passed a law banning the possession and sale of nine species of Caulerpa. The City of San Diego topped them by banning all Caulerpa species. The infestations were dealt with through drastic measures. Marine biologists led an all-out assault on the invader. Armed with the latest weapons in botanical warfare, they completely covered and sealed the patches with black plastic tarps to cut off sunlight. Next, they pumped deadly chlorine under the tarps, killing every last trace of the enemy - along with anything else that had the misfortune to be trapped along with it. Six years and $7 million later, California can boast the world's first successful victory over a Caulerpa invasion. Mediterranean countries are doing what they can with mechanical removal, and Australia is trying copper sulfate, a potent herbicide. In both places, the infestations are too large for the California treatment.

Meanwhile the United States has declared a war on mutant seaweed, exercising the federal Noxious Weed Act (1999) and the federal Plant Protection Act (2000) to ban the importation, interstate sale, and transport of the menacing Caulerpa. A public education campaign in California is also underway. Nonetheless, a recent survey showed that there are still stores selling the banned species. Not only do home hobbyists frequently lack the expertise to identify the illegal immigrants, but dealers, distributors, and inspectors may also lack this knowledge. Bans have also been enacted in Spain, France, and Australia.

A "Wanted" poster from the California Environmental Protection Agency
A "Wanted" poster from the California Environmental Protection Agency

Invasive species are certainly nothing new. The current infestation of rabbits in Australia is perhaps the most well-known example of a foreign species causing the decline and extinction of various indigenous species. This invasion was launched by a landowner who immigrated from England and wanted to continue his rabbit-hunting hobby. Additionally, in 19th Century America, "acclimation societies" were trendy among those well-to-do who wanted to better mankind through scientific dabbling. Members encouraged the introduction and spread of non-native species for various beneficial uses. Kudzu, presently infesting the southeast US, was brought over from Japan for use as animal fodder and ground cover. House sparrows were imported from Britain to control insects, only to quickly become as annoying a pest as the insects they were meant to control. Even after it became apparent that the introduced species were becoming problems, they still continued bringing in new ones.

What separates Caulerpa from other invasive varieties is that it does not occur in nature. It is the product of selective-breeding genetic manipulation, pre-packaged with a man-made advantage which allows it to out-compete natural species. Although Genetically Modified (GM) crops are invaluable in feeding millions of poor-- usually by producing more nutrients, growing in harsher environments, producing larger yields, and/or resisting predators-- Caulerpa serves as a sobering illustration of the risks involved in developing alternatives which are hardier than their natural cousins. Today this mutant seaweed serves as a test case for the control of an accidentally-released unnatural strain, demonstrating the importance of quick and comprehensive action.

The ease at which it spreads and grows has earned Caulerpa a spot on the World Conservation Union’s "100 World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species" List. It remains to be seen whether or not the spread of Caulerpa can be contained, or whether it will wind up being the equivalent of aquatic kudzu. Perhaps over time we'll find some Caulerpa-consuming sea creatures we can introduce to feast upon the unwanted plants; and hopefully we won't need to find something to control the Caulerpa eaters. Failing that, some genetic tinkering might yield some kind of particularly hardy and fast-growing Caulerpa predator, and we can pit one mutant against another. With enough time, tarps, and successive creature-eaters, our victory over un-nature is inevitable.

Article written by Richard Solensky, published on 25 January 2008. Richard Currently working for his county government as an "office assistant", Richard has a Master's degree in astronomy and is a long-time member of a medieval re-creation society.

Article design by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows.
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92 Comments
Centurion
Posted 25 January 2008 at 05:07 pm

First!

Wow... Just got lucky


aelfwyne
Posted 25 January 2008 at 05:20 pm

Centurion said: "First!

Wow… Just got lucky"

Slow comment day.


spencer
Posted 25 January 2008 at 05:24 pm

I have heard that most of the plant and animal life in New Zealand isn't actually from New Zealand. Losing biodiversity sucks (understatement, I know).


Mememe
Posted 25 January 2008 at 05:31 pm

Caulerpa is beginning to be quite a problem in southern Croatian waters, it springs up in the news every now and then.


Riveted
Posted 25 January 2008 at 05:38 pm

DI!
I remember hearing about a strain of seaweed spreading and edging out its neighbors, but I wasn't aware of how fast and far it had gotten.

Failing that, some genetic tinkering might yield some kind of particularly hardy and fast-growing Caulerpa predator, and we can pit one mutant against another.

Who is up for some mutant on mutant deathmatches? Attack of the killer tomatoes anyone?


treflar
Posted 25 January 2008 at 05:41 pm

i like that it was created to be hardy, taste bad and spread better syphilis. fun for the whole family.


Paul_in_SF
Posted 25 January 2008 at 06:14 pm

Yeah, I've been hearing about this stuff here in CA for a number of years. The solution is simple -- "engineer" a fish or crustacean that likes to eat this stuff so that it can become the next infestation...


GeorgeAR
Posted 25 January 2008 at 06:23 pm

Chop it up, add a little Ranch dressing, and we've fed the world!


oldmancoyote
Posted 25 January 2008 at 06:33 pm

I'm surprised no one in good ol' california hasn't tried that already.


surfjay
Posted 25 January 2008 at 07:42 pm

Considering all the stupid stuff we humans do, it's amazing we haven't wiped ourselves out already. I guess we're too hardy and fast-growing...


Web
Posted 25 January 2008 at 07:48 pm

I had wondered why I couldn't get this stuff for my aquarium anymore. I guess it only takes one idiot to screw it up for everyone...


czimon
Posted 25 January 2008 at 08:27 pm

wow! 12th. that's the highest i ever got. (then again this is my first post)

that was interesting. i wonder if it ever got as far as asia (philippines perhaps...)


clarkbhm
Posted 25 January 2008 at 08:35 pm

I know that this issue affects even inline ports such as Chicago. Foreign ships are required to dump and replace their bilge water out in the Atlantic before entering the St. Lawrence seaway, but not all of them are doing it. Some of them are instead dumping their bilge water into the Great Lakes, introducing all sorts of new aquatic life into the water.

People just don't want to take even simple steps to help protect the environment if it will be of even the slightest inconvenience...


Freak
Posted 25 January 2008 at 11:22 pm

I dont know if u guys will be surprised or something but I am hearing about this issue for the first time.......Considering that I am from India, I am pretty sure that Caulerpa will be wiped out once it sets foot on the Indian shores.......Pollution and dirt will screw it up so much that it will promise to itself that it will never "infest" the world again...........lol.


supercalafragalistic
Posted 26 January 2008 at 12:23 am

I would say we should eat it, but the article says it tastes bad-- no wait!! The article says it tastes bad to the sea dwelling creatures who normally eat seaweed. But how do we know what they think tastes bad? We could feed it to goats. Goats will eat anything. Or you could press it and make some seaweed paper out of it, or use it as astro turf. I bet it would make good insulation or endless seaweed body wraps at spas everywhere! :)


Pakistani Emergency
Posted 26 January 2008 at 12:45 am

Maybe its just me, but I say live & let live. We don't need to worry so much about the paths that evolution (man made or otherwise) take, because it will "naturally" balance itself out & find its own equilibrium. I'm no geneticist or anything, but survival of the fittest anyone? You scientists out there, let me know if I'm totally off base here. But hasn't this process been going on since time immeroriable? Some species disappear, others prosper (until its their time heeheeheeeh) and those that make it get a gold star, the extinct ones get a museum.

Am I alone in this line of thinking? No offense to the tree huggers.

Peace in the Middle East


saurabhrao
Posted 26 January 2008 at 01:00 am

I'm upto 17!!


Pakistani Emergency
Posted 26 January 2008 at 01:23 am

saurabhrao said: "I'm upto 17!!"

whoop di doo. 17.... wow you get a cookie


HunterKiller_
Posted 26 January 2008 at 01:43 am

Pakistani Emergency said: "Maybe its just me, but I say live & let live. We don't need to worry so much about the paths that evolution (man made or otherwise) take, because it will "naturally" balance itself out & find its own equilibrium. I'm no geneticist or anything, but survival of the fittest anyone? You scientists out there, let me know if I'm totally off base here. But hasn't this process been going on since time immeroriable? Some species disappear, others prosper (until its their time heeheeheeeh) and those that make it get a gold star, the extinct ones get a museum.

You're somewhat correct, but in this case, it's a little bit different.
Yes, when an invasive population grows too large, it will eventually collapse, or perhaps find a niche within it's ecology. However, this holds true only for *consumer* species, as in, a species that is supported by other species lower in the food chain.

The invasive specie we're dealing with here is a plant, it is a producer, bottom of the food chain. It does not rely on any other species to survive. All it needs is space, water and sunlight, and because it is extremely hardened due to human tampering, it isn't affected by environmental conditions.
Unfortunately, no consumer species want to touch it, so if given the opportunity, this specie could very well carpet all the ocean floors of the Earth.


boolean
Posted 26 January 2008 at 02:31 am

Pakistani Emergency

Pakistani Emergency said: "Maybe its just me, but I say live & let live. We don't need to worry so much about the paths that evolution (man made or otherwise) take, because it will "naturally" balance itself out & find its own equilibrium. I'm no geneticist or anything, but survival of the fittest anyone? You scientists out there, let me know if I'm totally off base here. But hasn't this process been going on since time immeroriable? Some species disappear, others prosper (until its their time heeheeheeeh) and those that make it get a gold star, the extinct ones get a museum.

Am I alone in this line of thinking? No offense to the tree huggers.

Peace in the Middle East"

The difference is normally this would not have happened, we screwed about with the plant and made something that would not normally exist in nature, therefore nature isn't able to combat it.
It's like accidentally creating lions that shoot rockets and breath fire, then just sitting back and going "meh, I'm sure nature will make a fireproof rocket jumping elephant to sort it all out".


Anonymousx2
Posted 26 January 2008 at 06:03 am

"Let us go to the kelp."

"He's been kelped!"

Lines from one of Frank Herbert's novels about he gained fame and prosperity from Dune. In this fantasy novel, the kelp (seaweed) becomes sentient. And much hilarity does not ensue.


Anonymousx2
Posted 26 January 2008 at 06:05 am

Crud. Typing too fast; not enough proofreading. "...novels about he gained fame..." was meant to be "...novels after he gained fame..."


GeorgeAR
Posted 26 January 2008 at 06:28 am

surfjay said: "Considering all the stupid stuff we humans do, it's amazing we haven't wiped ourselves out already. I guess we're too hardy and fast-growing…"

Ha! I love the correlation. Maybe that's the answer. A fingernail of human, an invasive species, got out and is taking over the planet. That would explain the story of Adam and Eve (growing from ribs).
Sounds more plausable than Scientology.


SedonaScallywag
Posted 26 January 2008 at 06:57 am

Perhaps this article is not really intended to freak us all out about the invasion of the green seaweed. Rather, it is a warning about the dangers of genetically modified plants (crops), spreading and interbreeding with naturally existing species. Sooner or later, the inbred insecticides may contaminate many related plants, all the while, the target pests have long since evolved resistence.

Meanwhile, many beneficial and "innocent" insects end up as casualties, further ripping apar the fabric of the ecosytem. Ultimately, this whole blind experiment may set loose a dangerous wave of destruction.

I realize many readers have the attitude that if it's "out of sight, it's out of mind", which may lead to another crisis too far gone to take effective action -- like the current financal meltdown.

Remember, "don't mess with Mother Nature", the world you save may be your own!


wh44
Posted 26 January 2008 at 08:03 am

Pakistani Emergency said: "Maybe its just me, but I say live & let live. ... Am I alone in this line of thinking? No offense to the tree huggers. ... Peace in the Middle East"

Nature will eventually find an equilibrium with these things - that is what nature does. That equilibrium could include it choking out most other sea life on the planet.

We humans often interfere when we perceive it as being to our advantage: we cut back kudzu, kill giant hogweed, hunt foxes, etc.. It is very apparent that this weed is not in our best interest as it drives away and chokes out more useful species. That such action will protect other species that do not directly affect us and so preserve biodiversity is a bonus.


elphaba
Posted 26 January 2008 at 08:44 am

HaHA, mutant war. Like the X-men, but with seaweed.


Reaper
Posted 26 January 2008 at 08:57 am

Humans...when will we learn?! If you're going to bio-engineer a hardy, fast growing seaweed, make it downright delicious!

Seriously, though. I'm not even a botanist and I know that the results of such macabre creations are invariably disastrous. If it is hardy and fast growing (and needs less than an inch of any part of the plant to procreate), then why would they not want the frickin' animals eating it? It's not like they're going to wipe it out or anything, and even if they do, you can just keep a small culture of it and repopulate the aquarium...


supercalafragalistic
Posted 26 January 2008 at 10:06 am

My imagination here at work: What if...... this seaweed's DNA could be re-hacked, and it could be re-formatted to grow on the sides of buildings? Does anybody buy those flat sheets of seaweed for sushi at the grocery store? What if we could cover buildings with that stuff and it would still be alive? I know this is kinda far fetched but something like that could take the place of drywall in construction or maybe the tar people put on their roofs. Such an invention could really help with global warming and could put more oxygen back into the air.


Tink
Posted 26 January 2008 at 01:11 pm

Kudzu has crept to the eastern side of Texas and is chokeing out the piney woods there. It invades pasturelands , and swamps. I was told that it has been an eco disaster in the wetlands of LA, as well. The cattle, goats, even hogs wont eat it.
I lived in East Texas on a small lake that was infested with some form of weed. Don't know if it was this Caulerpa or not, but it was smothering out the fish and even our swans eventualy left, as the food supply had so dramaticaly been reduced for them. We tried to supplement their diets with corn, but fishes and alges are what they survived on and they re-nested (were found and ID'ed later), about 30 miles away in a larger natural lake.( Caddo Mills, I think it was.)
Makes one think , do we really need green glow in the dark pigs and fish? Guess it would be easy to locate your breakfast plate with the lights out.
Thank you, Richard Solensky, for a DI! article, and great food for thought!


rev.felix
Posted 26 January 2008 at 02:12 pm

That may just be the best article title ever. Mutant killer seaweed pie of doom, anyone?


Doh! (_8(|)
Posted 26 January 2008 at 02:34 pm

If we were to use enough ketchup, perhaps we could make it more tasty.


humanversion2.0 BETA
Posted 26 January 2008 at 03:06 pm

@Paul_In_SF, engineering crustaceans and fish are way to complex to selectively breed(slow breed rate) or genetically modify. Crustaceans and fish also might eat the native sea weeds too.

The best solution is to use a virus, a virus will only attack one species. A virus also doesn't stay around after Caulerpa has been eliminated.


wh44
Posted 26 January 2008 at 03:51 pm

humanversion2.0 BETA said: "The best solution is to use a virus, a virus will only attack one species. A virus also doesn't stay around after Caulerpa has been eliminated."

I agree, however: viruses often do attack more than one species, even distant relatives (see Avian Flu). The virus would need to be engineered to be very specific. It should also have some sort of failsafe built in: e.g. make it unable to survive without low levels of a moderately rare but otherwise harmless substance. That way it only survives where you release it with the required substance, and even if a mutation occurs such that it attacks something else, it will still die out when the substance dissipates. Even if you make the virus "perfect", viruses have this nasty habit of mutating.


lostindustrial
Posted 26 January 2008 at 05:35 pm

Isn't it "emmigrated" when used in this tense?

Just sayin...


jepri
Posted 26 January 2008 at 06:26 pm

This story has nothing to do with Genetic Modification. Several commentors have made that mistaken connection, which was probably intended by the author. The GM part of the story was put in, I guess, because the author couldn't make a story about plants interesting without adding about something misleading and sensational.

He even managed to get the name wrong - it is Caulerpa taxifolia
(M. Vahl) C. Agardh.

It's always a mistake to pay attention to astrophysicists when they start talking about anything earthly.


Silverhill
Posted 26 January 2008 at 10:59 pm

lostindustrial said: "Isn't it "emmigrated" when used in this tense?"
Not quite. One emigrates from a place; one immigrates to, or into, a place. Where the article had "a landowner who immigrated from England", it would have been better to use 'emigrated', but it can still be understood to mean "immigrated [into Australia] from England".


sd9sd
Posted 27 January 2008 at 06:21 am

All they had to do was to create mutant sea horses which would munch away at the seaweed ;)
Imagine mutant cows in the sea (they'd have gills of course). And mutant cowboys on their mutant sea horses yelling "yeeehaaa"...oops underwater it'd sound like "yebbblllluubbbbhhablllluuubbbble" ;)
Surprising that it spread coz someone flushed it down the sink. My chemistry teacher used to get mad at her colleagues who carelessly flushed chemicals down the sink instead of disposing it off properly. What does it take to make people more conscious about not littering the environment? Education? Nope...even the educated don't care much.
Remember the Mr.Bean episode where Bean goes golfing? He gets out of a trash truck, pulls out garbage from under his coat, searches for a place to throw it and on finding none, he puts the garbage into his pocket. Hats off to Rowan Atkinson! Millions of kids would've watched that video and they really had something worthwhile to learn from that! Learning from example.


Chris
Posted 27 January 2008 at 07:27 am

The comparison to Kudzu and similar "solutions" would think there would be a required process for reversal or tested method to deal with infestation or run away growth! No one ever thought it would get out of control. Now if we can only find a way to genitically modify the Africanized killer honey bee stings to be toxic to the seaweed, and because of this modified attraction to it, dive into the sea to seek it out. After stinging the seaweed, both seaweed and bee will die........!!! Yeah...far fetched.......


solitas
Posted 27 January 2008 at 10:16 am

supercalafragalistic said: "...feed it to goats. ... press it and make some seaweed paper ... use it as astro turf. ... good insulation or endless seaweed body wraps ..."

Are you in the southeastern US? Ever hear of kudzu?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kudzu


LimaBeanMage
Posted 27 January 2008 at 11:58 am

I suppose this will be seen as just another one of many lessons that we will learn about tinkering with nature. However, I would argue that this seemingly unnatural evolution is still quite a part of nature. We may have had a hand in it, but in nature this evolution was still a possibility. Indeed, anything that we would call unnatural, supposedly being created by us, is just the result of nature in the end. I think this is less of a lesson in playing with nature and more of a reminder that nature still holds the upper hand in this modern struggle for power and control.


iq_two
Posted 27 January 2008 at 01:49 pm

LimaBeanMage said: "I suppose this will be seen as just another one of many lessons that we will learn about tinkering with nature. However, I would argue that this seemingly unnatural evolution is still quite a part of nature. We may have had a hand in it, but in nature this evolution was still a possibility. Indeed, anything that we would call unnatural, supposedly being created by us, is just the result of nature in the end. I think this is less of a lesson in playing with nature and more of a reminder that nature still holds the upper hand in this modern struggle for power and control."

That's an interesting point- humans are part of nature after all, and its arrogant to think that just because we build and live in cities we are somehow seperated from nature- bees build beehives, but nobody ever says they aren't part of nature.
That's not to say that Caulerpa isn't dangerous, or that we don't need to do anything. However, we do need to remember that humans are part of the world, not Gods lording over it.


Dean
Posted 27 January 2008 at 04:47 pm

It's cool how humans using selective breeding can do so many things. Sometimes we'll make something as stupid as a dog that can't breathe properly, other times super seaweed. We should maybe be more careful about making stuff that can do well on its own.


Bicep
Posted 27 January 2008 at 06:25 pm

The bland landscape becomes uninteresting to divers, diminishing the tourism industry.

I don't know about that, after reading the article I wanted to go take a look.


Old Man
Posted 27 January 2008 at 09:17 pm

Be good if we could make biofuels out of it.

When harvesting becomes economically viable, it would disappear so quickly that people would start calling for quotas...


Lisette
Posted 27 January 2008 at 11:23 pm

DI... California was lucky.


mustamike
Posted 28 January 2008 at 12:55 am

I suggest we engineer sharks with frikkin lasers on 'em to wipe out those durned mutant seaweed.


nihil
Posted 28 January 2008 at 06:35 am

Check out the Scientific Amerian Frontiers show on this at: http://www.pbs.org/saf/1204/segments/1204-2.htm

I remember watching this at the time and thinking "When will we learn?"


another viewpoint
Posted 28 January 2008 at 06:37 am

...mustant seaweed? ...kudzu? ...anyone remember zebra mussels?

...oh my gosh...the politicians are getting out of control. In particular, presidential candidates! Got any cures to rid the world of these infestations? May the dark over lords of the world save us! :-)

Just one more reason why DNA altercations, stem cell research and genetic code modifications should best be locked away in Pandora's box.


Richard Solensky
Posted 28 January 2008 at 08:44 am

Just an afterthought / comment from the author:

This wasn't a deliberate attempt to get in an mess with the seaweed's DNA. The mutant strain was created through time-honored techniques of selective breeding, uses by researchers, botanists, and farmers from the dawn of recorded history. Just as breeds of dogs were not made through direct gene tinkering, but by repeated cross-breeding and deliberately selecting for desired traits. The disaster here was due to a lack of foresight; no one stopped to think what the new variety could do out in the wild. And that was compounded by inaction when it did.

Oh, those house sparrows that were brought over to the US, and are doing so well at crowding out all the native songbirds? They're one of only three avian species not protected at all in the US by any legislation. The others are the common Rock Pigeon (Columbia livia) and Eurpoean Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - which are also artificially introduced immigrants to North America themselves. Just thought I'd mention that bit of trivia.


kittykactus
Posted 28 January 2008 at 09:52 am

rev.felix said: "That may just be the best article title ever. Mutant killer seaweed pie of doom, anyone?"

Hmm, pass.
Doh! (_8(|) said: "If we were to use enough ketchup, perhaps we could make it more tasty."

I don't think so. That'd be an awful lot of ketchup.
DI indeed. Catchy title.


Mikell
Posted 28 January 2008 at 12:14 pm

Old Man said: "Be good if we could make biofuels out of it.

When harvesting becomes economically viable, it would disappear so quickly that people would start calling for quotas…"

Ditto this - if we can turn this into fuel, then we could use corn to feed hungry people.


smokefoot
Posted 28 January 2008 at 12:19 pm

Tink said: "Kudzu has crept to the eastern side of Texas and is chokeing out the piney woods there. It invades pasturelands , and swamps. I was told that it has been an eco disaster in the wetlands of LA, as well. The cattle, goats, even hogs wont eat it.

Kudzu is quite edible for both humans and animals - most animals love it. In this way it is far better than the seaweed infestations - your land may be covered in kudzu, but at least you can have a salad!

"I lived in East Texas on a small lake that was infested with some form of weed. Don't know if it was this Caulerpa or not, but it was smothering out the fish and even our swans eventualy left, as the food supply had so dramaticaly been reduced for them. "

Caulerpa is a salt-water species, so it isn't your problem in your lake.


sid
Posted 28 January 2008 at 12:43 pm

"They're one of only three avian species not protected at all in the US by any legislation."

Just to pick a nit, legislation doesn't protect anything, laws do.


Milkman76
Posted 28 January 2008 at 01:29 pm

Last!!!


Milkman76
Posted 28 January 2008 at 01:30 pm

No... wait. Last!!!


Milkman76
Posted 28 January 2008 at 01:30 pm

dang. Last???


sid
Posted 28 January 2008 at 03:01 pm

jepri said: "This story has nothing to do with Genetic Modification. Several commentors have made that mistaken connection, which was probably intended by the author. The GM part of the story was put in, I guess, because the author couldn't make a story about plants interesting without adding about something misleading and sensational.

He even managed to get the name wrong - it is Caulerpa taxifolia
(M. Vahl) C. Agardh.

It's always a mistake to pay attention to astrophysicists when they start talking about anything earthly."

No, it's not GM, but the result is the same. Something that does not exist in nature was created by tinkering with what does. The story didn't need the GM reference to be interesting, however, nor do I believe the author was looking to sensationalize anything or mislead anyone. The crux of the biscuit remains the apostrophe, with or without the GM reference.

In other words, the story is not an indictment of GM, nor is it an indictment of selective breeding, or any other way we tinker with nature. It is just a cautionary tale. You are probably a big fan of GM, a view that is neither good nor bad, in my opinion. Considering there are lots of people who are opposed to GM for a variety of reasons, however, your overreaction is understandable. But lighten up. Unless you can prove some sort of nefarious anti-GM agenda, of course.


ChrisW75
Posted 28 January 2008 at 04:49 pm

I live in Australia, having moved here from the UK about 5 years ago. You can see signs of people having done stupid things importing plants and animals over the years. Pattersons Curse is one good example (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patterson's_curse). Gorse as well, both here and in New Zealand is another obvious case where a plant with few natural grazers runs rampant. They're unstoppable simply because the seeds can lie dormant for a long time then pop up again when the conditions are right. It's why they're so paranoid about people bringing in plant material over here, they've been stung so many times that they've learned the lesson.
Animals are also bad, the Indian Miner bird (yes, Miner, not Mynah) is pushing out the local Noisy Miner and pretty much every other species of native bird from urban areas. Wild Boar now apparently outnumber the people living in this country accoridng to the latest estimates, rabbits run rampant, and foxes and cats are decimating the local wildlife.
One can only hope that the lessons of the past are heard loud and clear by the people developing new hardy strains of crops for the future. Personally, I'm rather pessimistic on this, I think that overall, people suck. They'll make the same damned fool mistakes over and again. And so long as they can make some money out of it, the corporations will facilitate this.


Silverhill
Posted 28 January 2008 at 04:51 pm

another viewpoint said: "Just one more reason why DNA alterations, stem cell research and genetic code modifications should best be locked away in Pandora's box."
Just hope that you never get locked away in a certain box---the one called 'paralysis', resulting from spinal-cord injury---because some legislators adopted your attitude instead of a useful one. (Stem-cell research may well lead to the ability to regenerate destroyed nerve tissue, among other highly useful results.)

Additionally, DNA alterations (= genetic code modifications) show promise for treating Alzheimer's disease via tailored herpesviruses. Don't advocate no progress; instead, advocate careful progress!


Spike
Posted 28 January 2008 at 04:55 pm

All I can guess is someone in the aquarium dumped it down the sink on the way to grab some pie and coffee...Oops!

Wait, we could make a ripping scifi movie out of this, I'm tired of killer bees and locust.

I am also surprised that California didn't wrap raw fish in it and call it sushi or make some kind of protein bar out of it.
DI article, but scary as someone's carelessness could create such a problem.


ChrisW75
Posted 28 January 2008 at 04:56 pm

Oh, and to answer the "Why is this such a bad thing?" question. If one plant takes over, it chokes out all the other plants, which means that the animals relying on it die out or move on. Basically it chops the food chain off at the bottom utterly destroying an entire ecosystem in a way that is likely irreversible.
If that plant is not eaten by anything, then basically you'll ultimately end up with a world covered in that plant and nothing else. Literally NOTHING else.
Obviously that is pretty extreme, but with genetic tinkering, it's an possibility at the far end of the probablity scale. People right now are working on making crops better at surviving in a range of environments, for instance making rice more tolerant of salinity so it can be grown in coastal areas. But think, if it "escapes" and does too well, you're looking at another weed which will go on the rampage destroying coastal environments.
This sea weed in the story is effectively killing everything in it's path by crowding out the food which the animals rely on. areas which were teeming with fish and a huge variery of marine life is now full of just one plant.


supercalafragalistic
Posted 28 January 2008 at 07:38 pm

ChrisW75 said: "People right now are working on making crops better at surviving in a range of environments, for instance making rice more tolerant of salinity so it can be grown in coastal areas. But think, if it "escapes" and does too well, you're looking at another weed which will go on the rampage destroying coastal environments."

This is definately a good concern, but I don't think it's going to be a problem with crops that people eat because it's likely to get eaten if not by people then by other animals. If rice or corn suddenly started growing like wildfire all over, I'm sure we'd find use for it even if the futures markets went to crap because of anticipated high yields. The issue would be with a bunch of poision corn that no one can eat for example.


Richard Solensky
Posted 29 January 2008 at 06:13 am

"Poison corn that no one can eat," you say?

http://www.exitmundi.nl/gmfood.htm


sid
Posted 29 January 2008 at 09:26 am

Richard Solensky said: ""Poison corn that no one can eat," you say?

http://www.exitmundi.nl/gmfood.htm"

Or http://www.bionetonline.org/English/Content/ff_cont3.htm. There already is "poison corn." One little alteration, and perhaps it becomes poisonous to us.


pappyl
Posted 29 January 2008 at 11:02 am

We are manufacturing our own grief here. Whatever we create manages to escape whatever controls we have contrived - just a matter of time.
So, the real problem here is our ability to assess (at the point of time of creation), what we have created. Too often capitialism outweighs good sense. If parameters of risk are exceeded, the product is destroyed. Period.
I shudder to think of a "designed virus" potential - let's just think about that a bit more - far too risky.
I don't have a problem with GMO or selective breeding, just with the people and the organizations who are developing this technology.

Zero trust. All you have to do is look at past results.


Radiatidon
Posted 29 January 2008 at 01:02 pm

Man has always contrived to change that which is around him to suit his desires. For instance corn has been mentioned various times. In its natural state corn looks like sickly wheat with a half-dozen or so kernels on a thin stalk, not so very tasty either.

As you sit there reading this post, it is done in an artificially created atmosphere, perhaps your home? The temperature of the air is set for your comfort regardless of the weather beyond the walls. You pickup a cup containing a beverage that would never exist outside human tampering, a delight in its taste and texture as it slides down your throat.

The words appearing on your cathode vacuum tube or liquid crystal display would not exist if not for manipulating electromagnetic forces by destruction of some fuel fired power plant or diverting natural energy sources, sunlight or hydro, or destruction on the nuclear scale for heat run power plants.

The components of this device before you, not to mention the fabric that rests upon your skin nor the chair beneath your sit-upon were created by altering the original materials to suit your needs by others.

Basically man created what you have today, altering most of what you consume or use from its original source over the eons.

Your comfort and entertainment were all derived from a natural source that was tampered, altered, and experimented with by someone. It is true that sometimes the tampering has resulted in unfavorable results, yet nearly all our creature comforts are from alterations by man. Think about that next time you flip your cell phone up to your ear, something you take for granted; yet who really knows what possible damage that device could be doing to you, let alone the environment around you during your use? Knowing that using that cell phone, or even better yet, using this computer in front of you is causing a vast impact of possible damage, would you stop using them?

I write this neither as an attack nor insult, but just so you stop and think. Progress will always occur; hopefully it is done by those with a good head upon their shoulders, with thoughts about the good and possible bad impact, and not on an undying need for profit!


oldmancoyote
Posted 29 January 2008 at 05:01 pm

welcome back radiatidon, you have been missed.


ChrisW75
Posted 29 January 2008 at 08:09 pm

Welcome back Radiatidon! :)
Now my rebuttal to your good argument - Just because we do a whole bunch of things which are, or are potentially, harmful to ourselves and/or our environment, doesn't mean we should be blase about adding one more. As anyone who has played the classic game "Buckeroo" knows, it's only a matter of time before it blows up in your face. My position on this is not that "What man hath wrought is evil! Ban it all!" but that we need to learn from past mistakes and be extra cautious before diving in head first.
Our planet is becoming increasingly stressed by global warming, whether you subscribe the the theory that it is man-caused or just part of a natural cycle, it's pretty obvious that a warmer planet is a bad thing. We're going to start losing plant species fairly soon, and then soon after that, sections of the food pyramid are going to crumble away. The last thing we need to do at this juncture is increase the stress on our environment by adding in badly thought out "solutions" to poorly understood problems.


drizen
Posted 29 January 2008 at 09:53 pm

Does anyone know who brought Emo over?
I had a little one in a jar called who called itself "Evan", and when i came home I found another 3 sitting on my balconey listening to Interpol. Three weeks later it had advanced around the corner into the alley where it started stenciling pictures of 80's hair rock stars.
If anyone else has this problam don't panic. Just let it grow old and you will find that it doesn't like itself anymore and may flower into somthing useful.


Tink
Posted 30 January 2008 at 07:33 pm

smokefoot said: "Kudzu is quite edible for both humans and animals - most animals love it. In this way it is far better than the seaweed infestations - your land may be covered in kudzu, but at least you can have a salad!
Caulerpa is a salt-water species, so it isn't your problem in your lake."

(Sigh)
Thank you for the corrections. My missinformation is quite embarrassing, as it seems the author mentioned it as an invasive specie, and having seen it choke out acres of land, I had no idea that it was, in fact edible, guess we need to breed hungrier cows, goats and pigs to keep up with the invasion.
Aware that the Caulerpa is a salt-water species, I was wondering aloud if it could of had a freshwater relative comparable to it's habits.
Sorry 'bout that.
---
Glad to see you back, Radiatidon, DI! just isn't as, without your insightful comments...Wish Alan could give us an up-date on the book.
As for this one, the last few times I've tried to get back into the comments, have been exercises in discomfort, (due to my own personal insecurities, and advancing old age dementia,lol.) I've decided to slip back into the safety net of simple peruser.
Please keep up the great works and site Alan and friends. Thank you, again, for creating my favorite site on the www.


Hoekstes
Posted 31 January 2008 at 05:57 am

In the 2007 film Hairspray Tracy befriends the detention hall's best dancer, Motormouth Maybelle's son Seaweed, who teaches Tracy several R&B dance moves. These moves secure Tracy a spot on The Corny Collins Show. And you thought seaweed was good for nothing.


Radiatidon
Posted 31 January 2008 at 07:31 am

Found it, I knew that I had read about this. Anyone ever eaten an Idaho Spud candy bar? They have been using Agar since the conception back in 1901. http://www.idahospud.com/ This candy company is one of the few of a dying breed.

It is mentioned here http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=68#comment-11517

Agar is seaweed harvested off of Japan. Generally the seaweed is processed and then added to many items as a gelatin to help thicken the product. For example soups, ice cream, and jelly candies to name a few.

If you have eaten the seaweed salad at a sushi bar, then you have eaten agar. If you have played with Petri dishes in biology, that substance is made of agar. Yummy!

Perhaps some sweet-n-sour sauce...


Alchemist
Posted 31 January 2008 at 07:53 am

If only we could eat it, but then, Soylent green was really people in the end.

The images of that stuff are freaky weird and remind me of an underwater version Lusitania (from Orson Card's Ender series).


rev.felix
Posted 31 January 2008 at 01:02 pm

Nice to see you again Radiatidon! Where've you been?


Dean
Posted 01 February 2008 at 11:18 pm

If a GM crop ever goes crazy and spreads uncontrollably, the solution is very simple. Make super animals to eat it! If everything is GM, the balance will be restored to the environment, like every athlete being on steroids. Soon we will live in a perfectly balanced world, of acid spitting plants and bullet-proof cows.
I'm a genius!


DribblePoop
Posted 02 February 2008 at 12:21 am

Very interesting!


Intellectual-Bonobo Hybrid.
Posted 02 February 2008 at 11:50 am

Reminds me of Ice Nine (or Ice 9). Instead of ice, we'll turn the whole planet into an easy to maintain aquarium.


EvilWickedWoman
Posted 09 February 2008 at 05:38 pm

Greetings.
drizen #69 - I empathise. The Emo invasion seems to have reached British shores. A year ago I became the unwitting owner of an immature female of the species. Like a triffid, she seemed to change overnight into something that resembled a sentient vegetable. I found removing all plastic cutlery and buying copious amounts of black hair-dye seemed to help with training the little beast. And I thoroughly recommend renewing your gigging schedule, now you have the perfect excuse. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yapr0HMRC7k
Dean #75 You'll enjoy this, I think... http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/cowswithguns


Richard Solensky
Posted 09 February 2008 at 05:42 pm

I have been advised that the National Marine Fisheries Fact Sheet linked to above has been superseded by the Southern California Caulerpa Outreach and Education Program's updated website on Caulerpa: http://www.sccat.net. (Thanks, Rachel!)


my2cents
Posted 11 February 2008 at 09:43 pm

This is the first article I read on this website, and I found it so interesting that I've made a shortcut to 'Damn Interesting' on my desktop. So great job, Richard. I never would have thought seaweed could have interested me so much.


coolandDI
Posted 12 February 2008 at 09:06 pm

supercalafragalistic said: "I know this is kinda far fetched but something like that could take the place of drywall in construction or maybe the tar people put on their roofs."

OK but if you used it as live growing drywall then when you hang a picture on the wall wouldn't it slowly move about the room! I also think you would need to get a air freshener the size of your dining room table. All joking aside he is right though the best thing to do is find useful things to do with the stuff.
Hey I'm # 81 now I'm kicking butt! I bet you are all quaking in your boots now. Darn punks


wargammer
Posted 15 February 2008 at 06:56 am

ok

who still thinks that humans are smart enough to play with genetic engineering?


Anthropositor
Posted 14 March 2008 at 07:47 am

I do a certain amount of experimentation with cross-breeding, mostly trying to remove defects that have ill advisedly been bred into pedigreed animals, especially cats, but sometimes dogs as well.

I cross bred some chickens as well, trying to get them to turkey size. Sometimes things don't go right. I did get some twelve to fifteen pound chickens, but it was a disaster from several different perspectives. The chickens were so big that they just couldn't dissipate the heat on an unusually hot day, and often spontaneously gave up the ghost.

And the amount of feed required to produce these sumo chickens was monumental. The chickens would be cost prohibitive. Not only that, but the skeletal structure of the chicken is not designed to carry that much weight. The chickens wind up painfully waddling around, and eventually, they just sit and eat.

But all was not lost. During this same time, I also began to experiment with foods that chickens are not usually thought to eat, and found many things that are now thrown away in vast quantities, that could be turned directly into chicken meat.

I would like to get a modest quantity of this offending seaweed, and perhaps the zebra mussels which are causing so much trouble in so many different places, to see if chickens would thrive with this sort of supplemental feed.

I would of course take special pains to render these foods impossible to propagate by heat or other reasonable means, before they went to the chickens.

I really think we should not be feeding chickens so very much corn and wheat and other very valuable grains when, with thought, so many other alternatives are available. Properly mixed with other things, I'll bet my chickens would consume this variety of seaweed in substantial quantity.


angelfire143
Posted 02 April 2008 at 06:21 am

nice.. just imagine how a strand not larger than a fingernail can be so destructive..


paalexan
Posted 13 April 2008 at 03:12 pm

The spelling error pointed out by jepri is not the biggest problem with the discussion of the plant's name at the beginning of the article (note also that this correction is only partially correct; it should be: "(Vahl) C.Agardh"). It suggests that workers at the Wilhemina Zoo started with Caulerpa taxifolia, did some artificial selection for robust growth under adverse conditions, and created Caulerpa taxifolia (Vahl) C.Agardh. This is not the case. Caulerpa taxifolia and Caulerpa taxifolia (Vahl) C.Agardh are precisely the same species, the latter simply includes an author citation (Vahl first named the species, but in a different genus; C.Agardh is responsible for its current placement in Caulerpa).


Rachelita
Posted 03 May 2008 at 11:45 am

Paul_in_SF said: "The solution is simple — "engineer" a fish or crustacean that likes to eat this stuff so that it can become the next infestation…"

This is just another example of man playing god. What's going to happen when we engineer something we can't control that is big enough to put us on the endangered species list...?


Anthropositor
Posted 02 August 2008 at 12:40 pm

I would like to commend #15 for some excellent brainstorming. I know virtualy nothing about seaweed. When I was a kid I nibbled on a little kelp. I don't remember spitting it out in disgust. I doubt that it was a delight either since it didn't become a staple of my diet. But it was really a nutritional mystery to me. I wasn't much into nutrition in those days in terms of the content of foods. While I was technically an omnivore, vegetables were well down the list from meat, which I would kill for, especially during the years of frequent escape.

I saw nothing in the story about actual toxicity though. And to expand on the comment about goats eating anything, I have demonstrated for myself that chickens will too. Not to mention swine, which I have no plans to experiment with. But if they will accept this variety of seaweed as a reasonable portion of their rations, and if there are no actually toxic features of this seaweed, we could wind up saving a whole lot of the various grains they are now being fed that could be diverted to human consumption.

My own personal experience in raising beef is pretty limited. When I was rehabilitating my father after his stroke, something my siblings would have no part of -- (Not casting any blame. They were both damaged pretty severely in their youth, and could not have coped) I had to stay pretty close at hand, rarely leaving for more than a few hours.

I had had to stop my customary traveling up and down the west coast and my income came to a virtual halt, dropping by about 90%. I patented one of my inventions and it helped me to stay caught up on my child support for about five years, but the funding to grow the company just was not going to happen. I had spread myself to thin. On the good side, I was able to get custody of one of my boys, and had kidnapped my current wife away from her date in a Chinese restaurant/bar/dancehall.

One of the sidelines I got into which was very fruitful was because of these lean times. My Christmas budget had dropped by 90% as well, and it was pretty hard to take. To cover up my newfound poverty a little, I bought a lot of beef, hand cut it, designed a meat marinade that I thought was satisfactory, and smoked a lot of jerky which I could parcel out in various sized packages to the friends and acquaintances on my Christmas list. I told nobody that I had made the jerky. I was still pretending I wasn't too up against it. And I wasn't above going out at night to hunt a few tarantulas to sell the local pet store or a science teacher or anyone else who would cough up five or ten dollars for an exotic arthropod. I never felt too guilty about that because the tarantula had better chances of long term survival in comparative luxury. (If a tarantula is discovered by a particular kind of wasp, it is paralyzed alive and becomes the long-term food supply for the wasp hatchlings. But getting back to the jerky.

Between Christmas and New Years, about a third of the people not only thanked me, they wanted to get more. So I was off and running with a second little business along with the product I had patented. I kept polishing the marinade and the smoking methods for another seven years, and came to the point that I couldn't figure out how to improve anything about it -- at which point it became pure drudgery, so I gave it up as a business, though I still took care of my biggest most loyal patrons for some years to follow.

At one point a local farmer got a taste of my jerky from someone, but couldn't afford the $25-30 a pound I was getting (at least $50+ in current money). He asked how much jerky he could get for a Black Angus bull calf. We haggled a bit and I presbyterianed him down to three pounds.

So now I had a Black Angus calf and no idea what to do next. I would have grass fed him but I was living in rocky desert terrain and I kept him on a big hefty chain. I removed his family jewels so he wouldn't get cranky when he grew up. Early on, he was getting some grass, but mostly he (now it) was eating baled alfalfa and a multigrain mix with molasses in it. I was feeling very uneasy because I hadn't figured out anything really innovative to do to make this steer reasonably unique.

But then I got my little eureka idea. I had read about Kobe beef, perhaps the most expensive beef on the planet, getting astronomical prices in Japan. I wasn't interested in confining and trussing up the steer to limit his exercise, for the same reason I don't eat veal or pâté de foie gras. But they also mixed beer into the rations. I didn't know the quantity. But when the steer was about six months old, I began adding a case of beer per week to his rations. Then, about a month before it was going to go to that big pasture in the sky, I added a gallon of rhine wine every three days. And on its' last day, a couple of gallons so it would not be too conscious of its' departure.

And as for cattle -- they are most naturally eaters of grass and other green vegetation. It is actually a digestive hardship of major proportions for them to be fed the vast quantities of grains they get, to artificially fatten them up, to marble the meat with fat so that it will be more "choice." Choice in this case certainly does not mean more nutritious to us, but less. So it is entirely possible that even cattle could consume a certain amount of this seaweed and perhaps wind up solving some of the serious digestive problems that they have developed since being switched to such a high grain diet.

I've got to tell you, I have had Chateaubriand in some of the fanciest restaurants in America. I have been a steak chef myself, but never for longer than it took me to learn every meat skill I could absorb in the place. The next restaurant I work in I will own.

Zebra mussels too are an ongoing ecological disaster in our lakes and waterways -- until we come up with a way for them to be usefully utilized. I frankly have no idea what the eating habits of mussells are, but wouldn't it be nice if, being deprived of their normal food, they could be used to consume large volumes of this seaweed, even if it had to be killed and ground up and then harvested in some fashion as some proportion of the food for farmed fish like catfish or tilapia.


Anthropositor
Posted 04 August 2008 at 10:58 am

Pakistani Emergency said: "We don't need to worry so much about the paths that evolution (man made or otherwise) take, because it will "naturally" balance itself out & find its own equilibrium. I'm no geneticist or anything, but survival of the fittest anyone? You scientists out there, let me know if I'm totally off base here. But hasn't this process been going on since time immeroriable? Some species disappear, others prosper (until its their time heeheeheeeh) and those that make it get a gold star, the extinct ones get a museum.

Am I alone in this line of thinking? No offense to the tree huggers.

Peace in the Middle East"

Salaam Pakistan E. Your name is certainly indicative of your country's current state of being.

Throughout the Islamic world, there is a pervasive sense of fatalism, a belief that nothing, nothing at all occurs which is not the will of Allah. Recently, a popular and potentially great leader was assassinated in her prime, because she stuck her head out of the top if her vehicle to acknowledge her followers. This was just about as silly and short-sighted as JFK riding in an open convertible in Texas. But he had the illusion that he was all-powerful that our Presidents often acquire from the traps and trappings of their position. But in the case of Bhutto, the religious indoctrination of her culture might have played a big part. Fatalism can be fatal.

There is a story of the man clinging to the branch of a tree in the rushing waters of a flash flood. People tried to throw him a line, which didn't quite reach him because he didn't reach out for it. He was fervently praying. But he did see how frantic they were. He yelled out, "Don't worry, God will save me!"

Then a helicopter came and dropped a line with a harness he could slip under his arms, but he was deep in earnest prayer again.

Then the tree gave up its' tenuous roothold in the mud andwas swept away in the current. The man drowned and went to heaven. When he appeared before God he said "My Lord! Why did you not save me?"

And God said, "I threw you a rope and sent you a helicopter. What do you want from me?"

Maybe more later. My part time chauffer just showed up.


Anthropositor
Posted 19 August 2008 at 12:32 pm

Brilliant people down through the centuries
have had a strong tendency to be unsound of
personality. They become a little bonkers. It is almost inevitable I think. I am not talking about run-of-the-mill Mensa members here. Those I speak of are really quite alone, surrounded by "normals" who live almost totally as they are conditioned by their social jungle.

These isolated wretches truly do see things that others do not see. And these things are not always hallucinations, although sometimes, in an attempt to make sense out of nonsense, some desparate wishful thinking will actually result in becoming a little delusional.
I could give countless examples throughout the centuries. And I could give countless examples just relating to me alone. It is frustrating to be alone. No, frustrating is not near strong enough a term. I don't know if there is a strong enough term. It is an aloneness that cannot be assuaged, only endured. I was attracted to this place because I got a sense that there was just a scintilla more sense in the comments than could be found in general in the blogosphere.

Mr. Bellows and his cadre are to be complimented on several counts.

First, the general quality and the effort and workmanship that has gone into the essays.

Second, the absolute patience with which they except the utter drivel that characterizes, unfortunately, the majority of the comments. But I can tell that they too are having some morale problems that are hard to overcome.

I can tell this because they regurgitate with the frequency of a bulemic. Something is telling them that they are not really taken seriously at all. That they are casting the best pearls they are able to produce, before mostly swine, metaphorically speaking.

They can tell, I am quite sure, that most of the readership are nothing more than jabbering dillitantes, amateurs, dabblers, in no sense connecting the thoughts and information they have so conveniently been provided, and with those thoughts, generating new and valuable ideas. I exclude a half dozen or so of you from these caustic remarks. I honor you and your efforts.

To the trolls among you, in spite of occasional vestiges of ability, you are quite unredeemable.

When I started my blog a few years ago, I envisioned a thinktank to attract really serious seminal thinkers who really wanted to address the most pressing problems for the species, and all life on the planet. A pretty tall order. And an abysmal failure.

I experimented. I put a lovely Siren in the foyer to attract intellects, because all the intellects I have met in my life, all ten of them that I have stumbled across and who made themselves visible to me, in almost seven decades, have been, down deep, pretty sexy, and lovers of beauty for the sake of beauty alone.

I no longer care that the blog is a failure. That it is now just a storage room, a filing cabinet for regurgitations of posts elsewhere which I have transferred, posts which I thought that perhaps a few of my grandchildren might enjoy, should they by luck or other chance event, turn out not to be aliens.

I do not wish to sound pessimistic here. It is my guess that at least half of them have an even chance, much above the chances for most. I cling to that and thank my very lucky stars that of the children and grandchildren I know of, I am at about that fifty-fifty rate or better. A blessing upon me, and my blessings upon them.

My Honey and I have many cats, and too many dogs as well. Uncritical children who will not grow up. We cannot afford them and cannot afford to part with them. My dogs are mostly brilliant, as dogs go. Our cats range from witless to incredibly sophisticated. These animals have provided us with what old people in general have least. Regular daily affection, touching, caring, dependence and need. We are useful to them when the rest of society has relegated us to the trash heap as obsolete.

My other pets are in my Dojo, where I teach chess. I do not do so to make strong chess players. It is just a vehicle to help young people become better people. I spend perhaps half my time talking about other subjects, and about life in general.

On Monday, after about four years of training, one of my most advanced students, who went to Russia and several other countries to test his new chess skills, clearly one of the strogest two or three players ever to have evolved out of my tutelage, was dishonorably discharged from my Dojo, failed in the course, and discharged from my life. I hold no hope that he is any more redeemable than was Bobby Fischer. An evil little twerp, with greatness in him which never saw the light of day. A stunted freak of a man, whose monumental talent ultimately did injury to the world of chess. There was in him, no honor. I will list no other Grandmaster whores and failures. But let me honor the greats for a moment. Spassky! Benko! Tal! Botvinnik! Korchnoi! Reshevsky! Larsen! And Waitzkin! What a well rounded young fellow. I have had the pleasure of watching all these greats in action except Botvinnik, whose games too were true art.

These men make me truly sorry I played no tournament chess until I was in my forties, and that I had been teaching all comers for a quarter century by then, and continued to do so even while competing. The kiss of death. But I wouldn't trade any of it. No take backs. No regrets. No blunders, without a new lesson learned. No if only's.

Chess. My refuge, my solace, my food, my dream. Thank you.
* * * * * * * * * * *

Now about this damn seaweed. We screwed up. Now we have to fix it. We can't irradicate it. We have to harvest it. We have to figure a way to feed it to chickens, to swine, to cattle, to replenish depleted soil, to make paper, to make building material. Now let us pull our heads out of our asses and get to work!


venusatpeace
Posted 30 August 2008 at 06:10 pm

Mutant seaweed attacks+mutant fish predators= war of the undersea mutants
DI!


hannes
Posted 27 February 2009 at 11:31 am

I am from Stuttgart, Germany. The Zoo there is actually called "Wilhelma" (http://www.wilhelma.de). Great story, proud of my hometown. Hannes


inlove
Posted 23 October 2010 at 12:28 am

supercalafragalistic said: "My imagination here at work: What if…… this seaweed’s DNA could be re-hacked, and it could be re-formatted to grow on the sides of buildings? Does anybody buy those flat sheets of seaweed for sushi at the grocery store? What if we could cover buildings with that stuff and it would still be alive? I know this is kinda far fetched but something like that could take the place of drywall in construction or maybe the tar people put on their roofs. Such an invention could really help with global warming and could put more oxygen back into the air."

Love love love it!


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