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When I was a kid, I remember watching some really *bad* TV and movies out of Japan.
As if the adventures of the ninja warrior Shintaro, with his badly dubbed English voice wasn't bad enough, the Japanese C-grade entertainment machine rolled out some classic SciFi stuff.
Right up there near the top of the cringe-worthy list was Mothra -- a giant caterpillar turned moth that struck fear into the people but was really "a good guy" -- later defending against such horrific enemies as Godzilla.
The "special effects" were anything but special and even as a young lad, I recall thinking "wow, this is crap compared to the Thunderbirds".
Today of course, these gems of 1960's C-grade SciFi hold a strange fascination. They are so bad that it's sometimes just "fun" to watch them again.
However, they say that today's SciFi is tomorrow's reality, and that might just be the case with good old Mothra.
Scientists have discovered clusters of mutated butterflies in areas surrounding the Fukushima nuclear facility.
They believe that the mutations are a direct result of the high radiation levels that bathed the area in the wake of the reactor explosions.
Okay, so we're not talking giant moths, taller than power pylons - but the effect of these mutations is significant.
Due to their much shorter life-cycle, insects such as these butterflies will show any genetic damage far more rapidly than humans or other more slowly breeding species - and that has to be a worry.
However, I have often wondered if radiation-induced genetic mutations are necessarily a bad thing.
The whole evolutionary process is reliant on spontaneous genetic mutation, followed up by a "survival of the fittest" filtering system that removes those mutations which reduce a life-form's viability in its given environment.
These days, we tend to perform genetic modification in a very structured, measured fashion and although we might put frog genes into a tomato in order to achieve some kind of superior crop - we do so with a fair degree of certainty as to what the outcome will be. Simply blasting a creature or plant with radiation offers no such selective enhancement - but maybe that's a good thing.
Perhaps this might be a way to speed up (and thus observe in a reasonable timeframe) the evolutionary process.
There may be some "ethics" involved, but I wonder what might be discovered if we opted to irradiate certain species of fast-breeding creatures and then "sort" the mutated progeny?
Could it be that we could create some very worthwhile new genes that otherwise might not have ever been seen?
While the vast majority of mutations achieved in this way would be negative in nature and result in a non-viable version of the organism - what about that one in ten thousand or one in 100,000 which delivered something astoundingly positive?
Perhaps a mouse that has an immune system which is capable of defeating cancer cells -- from which we can extract the gene sequence responsible and use it to engineer a form of protection for ourselves.
Every fallout cloud has a silver lining -- perhaps?
The odds may be somewhat akin to winning lotto but the procedures are simple and inexpensive so I wonder if we should play "genetic roulette" using this "hotted up evolution" to try and find answers to some of the problems that currently stump us.
Or maybe this kind of research is already being done but, because of the ethical and moral issues, is not being spoken about.
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