Monday, 19 September 2011

Why science education matters

I'm looking wistfully at our four chickens and wishing I'd studied harder in science class. Don't get me wrong, I quite like the chickens. They're starting to reliably produce fresh eggs. They're even quite companionable. With their round, staring eyes and jerky, mechanical head movements, they're not the sort of creatures you can get sloppily anthropomorphic about, but they're quite pleasant to be around as they fussily scratch in the dirt, cluck gently and do that comical little run when you throw them scraps to eat. OK, they seem to expel the equivalent of their own weight in bodily waste every couple of days, but nobody's perfect. and, besides, it's good for the roses. But they could be so much more

When Arkhat Abzhanov (who clearly worked very hard in science class) looks at chickens, he sees something far more exciting. He sees a Lost World of genetic possibility. Archimedes was supposed to have said that, given a big enough lever and a place to stand, he could move the whole world. Abzhanov thinks that, given a big enough research grant and some chickens, he could recreate dinosaurs. How cool is that?

Just think, a bit more concentration and it could have been me, elegantly clad in my Blofeld-style Mao suit, sitting in my executive swivel chair, meditatively stroking a chicken and contemplating the day when I will dominate the world with my dinosaur legions. There would be a few minor technical challenges, like attaching frickin' laser beams to their heads, but my loyal henchpeople should be able to sort those out. The one serious problem with my master plan might be one of scale. Apparently the dinos Abzhanov is trying to recreate are of rather sub-T Rex dimensions. In fact, they would be about the same size as .. er ... chickens.

Mind you, if the world domination idea didn't work out I could at least have opened Newport Pagnell's equivalent of Jurassic Park. Given the diminutive size of the Maniraptors, it would have been less of a safari park and more of a petting zoo, but it would have been a start. Although even the petting zoo idea might be challenging if the little critters turned out to be bad-tempered. As Basil Fawlty said of Manuel's pet rat, 'Cuddle this, you'd never play the guitar again!'

Maybe a few legal disclaimers would sort this one out:

All children under the age of fifteen must be accompanied by an adult.You must be at least 1.8 metres tall, and unable to play the guitar, to cuddle the dinosaurs. Dino World (Newport Pagnell) Ltd accepts no liability whatsoever in respect of any loss of limb(s) and/or face suffered as a result of cuddling the dinosaurs.

I'm no lawyer, but it might just work; if not, maybe it's for the best that I'm stuck with boring old genetically unmodified chickens.