Saturday, January 23, 2016

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Tale of Scientific Experimentation

Middle Management

Part One

by James F. Gaines

copyright  2004  James F. Gaines
originally published in Riverside Reflections

          Gabi opened the lab door and peered in.  Izzy was in his normal seat in front of the batracian experiment, listening to his beloved frogs through the earphones.  Even without the electronics, Gabi could hear their harmonic chirping through the enclosures. 
She walked up to her berapt fellow researcher and tapped him on the shoulder.  He was so accustomed to her presence, to her return at this precise hour, that he merely smiled vaguely in her direction and waved his hand without breaking his focus on the batracians. 
It was not until Mike returned from the avian compound that Izzy lifted off his earphones and triumphantly exclaimed, “Did you ever hear such beautiful music in your life?  They’ve organized their calls into chords, into chords!  I can’t wait to tell the Boss.  Where is he, anyway?”
Mike spoke up and explained, “I passed him on the way back from the aviary.  He was headed down to the mammalian experiment and he didn’t look very happy.”  The strapping ornithologist walked over to Gabi and gave her a lingering look that was returned in kind.
Izzy paid little attention because he had known for some time that they had become intimate.  “I’m hoping he will finally close down that primate thing.”
“It hasn’t been going at all well, that’s true,” noted Gabi.  “But what interest do you have in it?”
“Protein.  That’s a lot of animal protein that should not go to waste.  Just think what my batracians could do with that kind of protein source!  They’ll be creating symphonies in no time.”
“But what if the Boss doesn’t agree?  After all, we can’t go around closing down operations just to feed to your frogs.  Why did you design them to be carnivorous, anyway?  The Boss warned you about that.”
“Don’t be silly, Gabi.  There’s no reason to throw away perfectly good biomass.  What do you think, Mike?”
“I agree with Gabi. It seems a little bit ghoulish to be making those mammalians into a menu for your subjects.”
Izzy pouted.  “So why don’t you modify your eagles and falcons into herbivores if you’re so keen on achieving ecological balance?”
“You can’t make that comparison,”? retorted Mike.  “There’s got to be priorities for higher order avian species.”
“You two should have followed my lead,” said Gabi.  “My cephalopods are omnivorous.  When there are no fish available, they convert to feeding on algae.  Very sensible.”
“But Gabi, dear, that’s fine for sea creatures,” answered Mike.  “But how can you expect big birds to feed on vegetation?  Eagles and hawks are at the top of the food chain.  We can’t let them start gobbling down spruce trees or it would put everything in their environment topsy-turvy.  The smaller species would soon starve.”
“That’s why the sea is such an advantage,” Gabi said, shaking her blonde locks.  “Liquidity, freedom of exchange between different levels.”
Izzy chimed in.  “That’s where I have you both beaten!  My amphibians can have the best of both worlds.  Of course, they can’t fly yet.  But they already sing and communicate better than your birds ever could, Mike.  And Gabi, all your octopi can do is primitive touch communication and color changing.  I submit that my creatures are the highest achievement of this lab.”  He pushed back his glasses as if to make a point.
Gabi shrugged her shoulders in her delightfully ingenuous way.  “Well, I don’t see how we can resolve this argument.”
A suave voice cut in from behind them.  “I can.  You’re all a crew of idiots and all your animals belong in the trash bin.”
Unbeknownst to the trio, a fourth scientist in a spotless lab coat had silently entered the room during their conversation. 
Izzy eyed him suspiciously.  “Ah, the great philosopher is back.  Where have you been, Nick, while we were working?”
“You call that work, you four-eyed geek?  Those frogs of yours are on the edge of extinction.  You want the mammal protein because you still haven’t got their metabolism properly engineered.  I offered to give you the benefit of my genetic knowledge, but you have floundered around, screwing up the math, letting all sorts of dangerous recessive traits develop, while you rhapsodize over their stupid chants.”
Izzy blushed.  He did not know which made him more upset, the personal insults or the truth of Nick’s assessment of his beloved batracians.  With his usual incisiveness and acid wit, Nick had bored straight to the weakness of Izzy’s project.  He slouched back over his desk and tried to work once again on the biochemistry that had been puzzling him.