Science is fascinating and, in many cases, bafflingly terrifying. Stories of mad scientists have been around since the days of Mary Shelly with her incredibly influential book Frankenstein. Scientists are often a different breed of people all together. They tend to want to know things and will often do really, really strange experiments that can yield amazing results. Sometimes those experiments or what they are trying to achieve seem completely crazy, but when they work, the results are spectacular. Even when they don’t produce anything, their work can have important effects down the line when the data they gathered is needed on other scientific projects.
The creativity of scientists when it comes to real world problems, however, really do blur the line between mad science and real science. One thing about many scientists in fiction is that they often do create creatures that are monstrous in appearance and behavior, or otherwise quite bizarre. Still, thankfully the real life reason why scientists go around creating these things is not some insane plot to take over the world, or show how mad they are by making something utterly insane (they’re actually quite ethical and ethics debates play BIG into these sorts of things), and the creatures that they do create are quite harmless to people. In fact, they’re actually so different from their wild counterparts that they could not possibly expect to survive in the wild, let alone breed out of control or otherwise pose a threat that would make the Alien franchise seem plausible.
So without further ado, let’s dig into the 15 strangest creatures created by science.
So pigs are rather fascinating creatures. They’re intelligent, love to wallow around in mud, will eat anything, and generally has no concern for anything other than to wait for the day their end will come in a rather sudden and straight up manner. In short, they’re virtually human!
And like humans, they also produce a lot of pollution in the world as a result of their… toilet breaks (yeah I’m calling it that, sue me!). There are also lots and lots of pigs out there, forming an extremely important part of people’s diets all over the world. With that, there needs to be a way to reduce the amount of phosphorus they produce in their bowel movements that would cause Mother Earth to have a sad day.
So scientists (none of whom are called Frankenstein, sadly) decided to genetically engineer a pig that actually absorbs most of the phosphorus in its body and reduces the amount excreted. That’s one of the most ingenious solutions ever made, and there’s more than one conspiracy theory that insist that it is only the first stepping stone in creating an army of pig commandos that will be used to take over the world!
14. Landmine detecting plants
Landmines are the bane of modern warfare. They’re actually not designed for killing people, as hard to believe as that might be. They’re actually designed to make enemy movements more predictable by placing them around areas where they might approach and try to deny them that route. It might make sense from a military perspective, but when you realize that wars and armies (most of them anyway) are not unlike bad party guests who make a mess of everything and don’t bother cleaning up after. This means that landmines often remain on the battlefield for decades after.
And battles happen where people live normally. When those people return, they now have to deal with landmines, and there are around 70 people per day who are injured or killed by landmines. The countries that put those mines into place often refuse to even give out the locations of where those mines were planted.
Mine removal is not cheap, and it’s dangerous, too. So what is the solution? Apparently a company called Aresa Biodetection found your typical mad science solution. They produced a plant that, when it hits nitrogen dioxide, a very important ingredient in explosives, it turns red. Hence, it shows off where the landmines are so they can be avoided or removed more safely.
13. Fuel bugs
So fuel security is a problem for the future. Fossil fuels are finite resources, and the struggle to find new sources of fuel has been raging on for many, many years now. One source of fuel that has been neglected is microbe excretion – because even microscopic organisms need to use the bathroom apparently.
Enter an enterprising researcher from Silicon Valley, California who basically took a group of teeny tiny little bugs that were genetically modified to eat agricultural waste and excrete diesel fuel. That’s right, they excrete diesel. The most amazing thing is the fuel that they do excrete is almost pump-ready right off the bat, with very little processing needed. This would save a huge amount of money and pollution that would be required to process the fuels, too. Is there a downside to this? Seems like mad science is far more awesome than we think.
Say hello to Ruppy! His name is short for rRuby the puppy!, and he is has been created by a Korean named Byeong-Chun Lee, and he was cloned by using a viral transfection of fibroblasts cells with a protein that allows him to glow red in the dark! This is one of the most interesting designer pets out there. Since he glows a nice fluorescent red in the dark, he can also be nicknamed Cerberus, the demon dog of hell who will guard the gateway of the underworld with his cuteness and cute whelping woofs! That’ll keep the baddies away.
11. See-Through Frog
So do you remember when you were in school and you had to dissect a frog in order to learn about anatomy? And you remember how sad you felt when you realized that Kermit had to be killed in order for you learn an important lesson? Well then, now thanks to the mad scientist hard at work to come up with completely loco solutions to common problems, they genetically engineered a froggie that has a see-through body so you can see all his organs without having to cut him open and kill the poor guy. It works… but see-through frogs? Imagine seeing these things in the wild and have them think to themselves ‘why was I even created?’
10. Zombie Dog
Before you pass out in shock yelling ‘YES! OH YES FINALLY!’, I need to make it clear – this is not Resident Evil type zombie dogs that are infected by the t-virus, they’re as creepy, but actually really, really boring when you think about them. Of course this is where the mad science really starts, since the origins of the zombie dog experiment happened in the Soviet Union in 1940 when some Soviet scientists were really bored and decided to decapitate a dog and then immediately hook up the severed head to a primitive life support, and with some added blood transfusion and oxygen pumped to the brain, the doggie actually not only came back to life (sort of) but was responsive to all things it heard and even tried to lick its nose… and didn’t seem at all distraught at the fact that it had no body at all.
This might sound insane, but it offers some very incredible solutions to saving lives for people who are hemorrhaging blood too rapidly to be saved by conventional means. Just try not to think of the fact that they had to chop off some doggy heads to do this…
Before Ruppy, there was Glofish… the first ever genetically created designer pet. This was done as a proof of concept of gene splicing, something that actually started decades before the appearance of the Glofish in the late ’90s. The Japanese anime cult classic Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature was actually done specifically to protest the Japanese government’s approval of recombinant DNA research that would later allow the Glofish to be even possible. Mad science? Not really. The fish are actually more vulnerable if left out in the wild, largely because they glow like blinking beacons and it makes it all too easy for predators to find them. Though it is interesting to note that there really ARE naturally florescent fish out there, which is what inspired these to begin with. I’m guessing it is Mother Nature that is the true mad scientist.
8. Tumor Fish
Speaking of which, aren’t those Glofish cute? Well you know what would be even cuter? Well apparently, many people find fish with massive tumors atop their head to be quite the conversation starter in their home, and there is actually a demand for them. These genetically created creatures are fast approaching the mad ‘science for its own sake’ type of thing. I honestly can’t see the appeal of this Frankensteinesque creature, but at least we can be safe in knowing that these creatures are completely defenseless in the wild, and even in captivity. Their tumor growths make it hard for them to eat and sometimes even breathe, which raises some very serious ethical questions.
7. Featherless Chicken
What is more pathetic than a chicken? It’s a creature that would have likely gone extinct long, long ago if it wasn’t for the fact that we really, really have a thing for chicken nuggets and eggs. But you know what is really expensive to remove? Chicken feathers… and so scientists thought, ‘Hey, let’s play around with some DNA until we get a featherless chicken’ which they argue not only is easier to process, but has fewer calories and a higher protein content overall. Of course, there are some people who look at naked chickens and think, ‘Umm, that’s wrong, dude’. They’d be right, as featherless chickens are actually more susceptible to a variety of health conditions, and are far more likely to have parasites invade their bodies. It’s not something you want to have in something you’re going to eat later on.
6. Dolly the Sheep
Do you remember the ’90s? Yes I remember the ’90s… the music, the cartoons, the nascent Internet, the pop culture, the fact that I hated much of it and I never look back (except I totally have access to the good stuff now, thank you… no need to time travel and wait 10 years to see everything in that decade). There is one creature that captivated everyone’s imagination… Dolly the Sheep. The first ever fully cloned creature that reached adulthood. The controversy that this caused, and the numerous jokes that were said about Dolly were just priceless. The one I remember the most was ‘Yeah, that’s great progress – let’s make sheep that look more alike than they already do’.
5. A very strange Mosquito
OK, don’t panic (yet) the sudden-death mosquito is not a secret bioweapon that they will use to hurt conspiracy theorists they don’t like. The sudden-death mosquito is a very, very anti-disease mosquito. Since one of the biggest diseases on the planet is malaria, a disease that infects millions of people a year and severely impedes the economic growth of many, many African countries. The basic idea is that they would release a mosquito that would infect other mosquitos and only allow them to breed sterile young, which in lab tests was shown to have been able to completely eliminate the mosquito population in only a few years.
This would do marvels to completely eliminate the malaria carrying mosquito population, but the sad reality of this is that it would also disrupt the ecosystem that they live in. Whoever said that scientists were unethical was clearly wrong.
4. Sterile Pink bollworm
So what’s a bollworm? Well apparently a bollworm is a type of worm that absolutely love to eat cotton. But unlike most moths, they don’t eat the cloth when it’s cloth, they love to eat it when it is still raw cotton in the fields. Naturally many cotton farmers in the southwestern United States are none too happy about this, and trying to exterminate these bollworms has been very expensive and difficult. So in comes the scientists who have a similar idea as the sudden-death mosquito. They created a bollworm that is quite sterile and can make other bollworms sterile. Not quite exactly the mechanism of how that works, but that is the end result you see.
And lab tests have been quite effective in this, too. Unlike the previous one, the environment that they were being released into is primarily a farming environment and it isn’t nearly as fragile as the tropics of Africa, so the ethical question just wasn’t there. So finally we got something that is worthy of a mad scientist! One that cotton farmers LOVE!
3. Spider-silk goat
The original title for this was going to be ‘Spider Goat’ which would have made it a lot scarier, but no… this isn’t what you think. While this IS a goat with spider DNA in it, it isn’t a giant web building spider goat with eight legs and 15 eyes and looks like a demonic entity from your worst nightmares (sadly). The spider goat looks perfectly normal on the outside, but on the inside… well, even on the inside it looks like a normal goat. What is spider-like about it is the milk, which is actually pretty rich in spider-silk protein that could be easily separated and spun to produce large quantities of spider silk.
Why spider silk? For one thing, spider silk has one of the highest tensile strength of all things, and it can be used to produce superior bandages, bulletproof armor, and other things that require both lightness and extreme strength. But it still looks like a boring goat on the outside.
2. Human Pig chimera
OK, now we’re getting to the fun stuff. So far we’ve covered a ton of creatures that just recombinant DNA from other creatures and some weirdness thrown in. At no point did we ever have a human-animal hybrid out there. We’re finally getting into the mutant turtle and werewolf territory here, right?
Except it isn’t exactly that. Largely due to the massive ethical considerations, they never went the whole way. What they did was inject human stem cells into an early stage pig embryo and then implanted that embryo into a female pig, and then allowed it to develop for 28 days (1/3 of a pig pregnancy) before being removed. The reason why they stopped there is because this was long enough to understand how pig and human cells interact with each other without raising any ethical concerns. That was the whole point. If they DID let the thing come to term and be born, the result would be unpredictable, but one speculation is that it might result in an animal with a human-like brain and human-like thinking patterns. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a human that is literally born into the body of an animal.
1. Vacanti Mouse
Remember that South Park episode where Mr. Garrison wants to become a man again after a sex change operation that happened earlier in the show? They grew the guy’s needed ‘organ’ on a mouse. Well that was based on a very, very real story. What is so surprising about this is how old this story is. The Vacanti mouse is a mouse that has been around since 1995. Well before most of the stuff we covered here. It has a human ear growing into its back. The whole purpose of this was to prove a point. The scientist, Dr. Charles Vacanti, wanted to prove that it is possible to transplant fabricated cartilage onto the human body by doing the same thing on a mouse.
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