Sunday, July 31, 2011

Turritopsis Nutricula

Everybody should have a favorite word. For many years mine was Endoplasmic Reticulum.

When I was ten, I used to imagine this as a magical phrase that banished ignorance and replaced it with scientific wisdom... In my overactive daydreams, I would (for instance) see a group of people talking about a house being haunted, and I'd hold my calculator in one hand, and my magnifying glass on a stick in the other, then point the heavy end at them and shout "Endoplasmic..... Reticulum!" Suddenly the group would realize the house was not in fact haunted, the magic of my scientific incantation would cause them to realize it was just in bad shape and falling apart!

Of course, once I was in high school. I had pretty much realized that making a magic spell to instill logic and reason was both hypocritical and a bit counter productive.... but hey... I was ten. I still love that word though, and the thought process it represents to me.

I have a new one now. "Turritopsis Nutricula". And I have a new incantation to go with it.

It's a little jellyfish about the size of a dried pea. But it has a neat trick that no other form of life so far seems to possess. It can revert from a fully sexually mature stage, to a sexually immature colonial stage, and back again.

It can grow younger.

Because of this trick, it may be immortal. We don't know enough to be sure.




The incantation in my mind involves holding onto a hand-held globally networked pocket computer in one hand, (my phone will do nicely), and  a model of this little Jellyfish in the other as I shout "Turritopsis..... Nutricula!" while pointing it at someone who has grown lifeless, dull, and set in his ways....  In my mind I imagine the incantation to shock them into realizing how weird and magical the world really is, and how much... How.... Freakin'.... Much..... we don't know, and what we can learn.... if we try.