How to Build the Perfect Human

Illustration for article titled How to Build the Perfect Human

What if you could improve the human race by splicing in some animal parts? Would we be better off with cats' eyes? What if you added the lungs of a goose, the muscles of a chimp, and the circulatory system of a penguin? Let's discover which animal parts could enhance our feeble human bodies.

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Top image: Brittany Greene/Flickr

Let's face it. Compared to most animals, humans are the sensory equivalent of those creepy eyeless cave fish (only we don't have the whiskers to guide us). We're just a sad bunch — not smelling, seeing, tasting, or hearing nearly as much as any of the creatures around us. It's time to fix that.

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First, we need to start with the eyes. Our eyes have rods and cones, which allow us to see black, white, and three colors, the combination of which give us the "visible spectrum." Birds eyes have special double cones, plus cones that contain a droplet of oil that filters light and allows them to see more specific wavelengths.

Birds can see five colors, which would not only enhance our appreciation of the world, but give us a way to see ultraviolet light-reflections in flowers, off reflective surfaces, and off certain fluids. Wouldn't it be nice to know if a patch of grass you're about to sit on was recently peed on by a dog?

The double-cone structure also lets birds see motion faster than humans can — this gives them a head start when it comes to reaction time. And just to top things off, birds' right eyes have cryptochromes, or special proteins that let them see magnetic fields. And finally, for eye protection, we have to turn to the stately crocodile. They have an extra lid that they can shut over their eyes, letting them see in saltwater without ocular damage.

Illustration for article titled How to Build the Perfect Human
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But what good are eyes if they barely function at night? Other creatures possess a layer of cells called the tapetum lucidum. It's a simple reflective layer at the back of the eye that shoots incoming light out across all the light receptors again, doubling the incoming amount of light. This is why cats' eyes shine in the dark.

But why rely on eyes (which can only see the present) when we can rely on smell (which can see the past)? Dogs' sense of smell allows them to understand what happened in a place days, weeks, months, or years ago. And it doesn't even take a giant tweak. They just have 230 million olfactory cells, or about forty times as many as we do. There has to be a way of making our nasal cavities bigger or more efficient.

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Fractals have shown us that it's possible to make pits in tissue, and pits in those pits, and pits in those pits, until the entire tissue becomes like a sponge with a massive amount of surface area. True, that would make the nose more delicate, but it's already a delicate area.

And lastly, there's taste. To be honest, I don't think we need to improve taste, but there are a few things we could do to make it more fun. If we want to taste things right now, we have to put them in our mouth. This is both unsanitary, and triggers the instinct to chew, which then pulls the thing down into our stomach, and brings up the calorie count.

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Catfish have taste buds all over their bodies — if we had one section of our outer body that could just taste things for us — say a patch of skin on one forearm — we could just tape a piece of chocolate to our arms and have dessert all morning.

But sense just isn't enough. Compared to the paragons of the animal kingdom, we're not fast — and although our size gives us an advantage over many animals — we're not very strong. Something needs to be done about this.

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Illustration for article titled How to Build the Perfect Human

Because muscles are complicated, it's best to turn to our near-relatives for improvements. The fastest land animal is still the cheetah, but its speed lies mostly in its shape and in its oversized heart. We need something that will make the actual muscles fast. A bat's muscles move around a hundred times as fast a human muscles do (and the muscles in a bat's larynx move faster than that).

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Scientists believe the source of this speed is the sarcoplasmic reticulum, a store of calcium in the bat's muscle cells that spring into action and make the muscles contract extremely quickly. We'd have to increase our calcium intake, but this is worth choking down some yogurt.

Next we need strength, and for that we need to go a little closer to home. Chimpanzee muscle fibers are approximately five times as strong as human muscle fibers. This has a specific fix. There are genes, in humans, that limit muscle development. These same genes are in chimpanzees, but they've been deactivated. Deactivate them in humans as well, and they'll have more muscle development. Chimpanzee muscle fibers are also longer than human being's muscle fibers. The fibers contract to contract a muscle, so a chimp's muscle contraction will naturally do more work than a human's.

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So far we've looked at the superficial stuff — let's take a look at the interior, starting at the bottom of the world. Down in Antarctica, penguins spent entire winters huddled around together to survive the elements. Although their bodies are layered with insulation, their feet are exposed.

It seems like either the feet would freeze off, or the incoming rush of cold blood would freeze the rest of the penguin. They've gotten around this like many cold-weather animals do: excellent plumbing. Outgoing blood, about to be exposed to the cold and lose a lot of its heat, is routed right near incoming blood from the feet. What happens is a heat-exchange. The cool incoming blood is given rush of heat before it comes back into the body. The outgoing blood cools down, still delivering heat to the extremities, but losing some of its extreme heat, which would have been sucked away by the ice and snow anyway. It's a much more efficient system, made with only a few changes to blood vessel placement, and we should have it.

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Illustration for article titled How to Build the Perfect Human


While we're making adjustments to how the blood flows, let's tweak the blood itself Why bother adding that clear eyelid that we get from crocodiles if we can't go in the water? There are a few problems with aquatic life - the primary one being that we need air.

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The secondary problem is that, when we have air but we go too far down, it dissolves into the blood and then bubbles up again during the release of pressure when we surface. These bubbles can kill us. Seals don't seem to have this problem. They dive deep, and they do it without bubbles in the blood. But these bubbles are a result of pressurized gas. And when you bring gas (such as the gas in the lungs) underwater, it will always be under pressure. That's physics, not biology. The seals can't overcome that, but they can circumvent it.

Seals simply empty their lungs of oxygen before they dive. No gas, no pressure difference, no bubbly blood. They manage to do this by transferring all the oxygen in their lungs to the massive quantities of hemoglobin and myoglobin, two proteins that grab oxygen and ferry it around the body, in their blood. We have these proteins as well. We just need more. Then we'd be able to dive like seals, and stay underwater.

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But what's the good of having a lot of oxygen underwater if we can't even oxygenate ourselves on land? Put a human too far up in the world and they'll just flat-out drop over from lack of oxygen. The increase in hemoglobin and myoglobin will help that, but how to get oxygen in there in the first place? Once again birds need to be our inspiration.

The Himalayan goose is the perfect oxygenator. It literally lifts itself over Everest twice a year when its migrating, and for that to work its muscles need to be oxygenated with as little effort as possible. It does this by having little balloons at the bottom of its lungs. When oxygen floods into human lungs, it fills the little sacs called alveoli inside each lung. Blood passes along the alveolus wall, picks up oxygen, drops off carbon dioxide, and then the lungs exhale, pushing the gas out again.

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During this exhalation period, humans don't pull in any more oxygen. But these geese do. The small balloon-like sacks at the bottom of their lungs fill up with extra air during the inhalation. When humans exhale, the sacks squeeze out that air, which again fills the tiny alveoli with oxygen. The goose literally gets air twice with each breath. If we were to engineer ourselves right, even breathing would be easier.

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And so we have the ultimate human. No messing around in the brain. No cat-like face or giant teeth. No paws, no claws, no gaping maws. Just a few internal tweaks that could let us swing through the trees like chimps, dive like seals, run races with cheetahs, breath easier underwater and above the clouds, and see and smell everything. It's enough to make you think that scientists need to get a little madder.

Bottom image: Brian Bolland's and Travel Foreman's Animal Man. Eyes Image: Funny Crazy Animal Photos. Bat Image: Wiki Commons Seal Image: US Fish and Wildlife Service. Via PBS, Web Exhibits, University World News, eHow, Ask a Biologist, and Audobon Magazine.

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DISCUSSION

Animal enhancements you say?

I'll Take Space Wolves.

Here's my list:

Space Marines are genetically engineered super-humans. The nineteen organs created by the ancient technicians of the Emperor are described below. Not all chapters have all organs, each chapter has its own genetically "fingerprint" after its Primarch.

Secondary Heart. The secondary heart is capable of boosting the blood supply or maintaining full life functions even with the destruction of the recipients original heart. The phase 1 implant enables Marines to survive low oxygen concentrations and traumatic injury.

Ossmodula. This is a small sized tubular shaped organ. The Ossmodula monitors and secretes hormones affecting epiphyseal fusion and ossification of the skeleton. At the same time, the specially engineered hormones encourage the forming bones to absorb ceramic based chemicals administered in the Marines diet. Two years following implantation, this will have caused considerable strengthening of the long-bones; extreme ossification of the chest cavity (caused by growth of the ribs forming a solid mass of inter-laced bone plates) and a general increase in the size of the recipients skeleton.

Biscopea. This organ is implanted into the chest cavity. It is small, approximately circular and, like the Ossmodula its primary action is hormonal to stimulate muscle growth throughout the body.

Haemastamen. This tiny organ is implanted into a main blood vessel. The Haemastamen serves two purposes. It monitors and to some degree controls the phase 2 and 3 implants. The organ also alters the constituent make-up of the recipients blood. As a result, Marine blood is considerably more efficient than ordinary human blood, as it has to be when you consider the extra biological hardware a Marine carries inside him.

Larraman Organ. This is a liver shaped, dark, fleshy organ about the size of a golf ball. It is implanted into the chest cavity along with a complicated array of blood vessels. The organ generates and stores special Larraman cells. If the recipient is wounded, these cells are released into the blood stream. They are transported to the site of a wound. Once in contact with air, the Larraman cells form a skin substitute of instant scar tissue, stopping the flow of blood and protecting exposed wound area.

Catalepsean Node. This brain implant is usually inserted into the back of the skull via a hole drilled into the occipital bone. The pea-sized organ influences the circadian rhythms of sleep and the bodies response to sleep deprivation. Normally a Marine sleeps like any normal man, but if deprived of sleep, the Catalepsean node cuts in. A man implanted with the node is capable of sleeping and remaining awake at the same time by switching off areas of the brain sequentially. This process cannot replace normal sleep entirely, but increases a Marines survivability by allowing perception of the environment whilst resting.

Preomnor. The Preomnor is a large implant which fits into the chest cavity. It is a pre-digestive stomach which allows the Marine to eat a variety of otherwise poisonous or indigestible materials. No actual digestion takes place in the Preomnor. Individual sensory tubes assess potential poisons and neutralize them or where necessary, isolate the Preomnor from the rest of the digestive tract.

Omophagea. This complicated implant becomes part of the brain, but is actually situated within the spinal cord between the cervical and thoracic vertebrae. Four nerve sheaths called neuroglia are implanted between the spine and the Preomnor wall. The Omophagea is designed to absorb genetic material generated in animal tissue as a function of memory, experience or innate ability. A Marine can actually learn by eating. Incidentally, it is the presence of this organ which has created the various flesh and blood drinking rituals for which the Marines are famous, as well as giving the names to Chapters such as the Blood Drinkers, Flesh Tearers etc.

Multi-lung. This is another large implant. The multi-lung, or third lung, is a tubular grey organ. Blood is pumped through the organ via connecting vessels grafted onto the recipients pulmonary system. Atmosphere is taken in by means of a sphincter located in the trachea. In toxic atmospheres, an associated sphincter muscle closes the trachea and restricts normal breathing, thus protecting the lungs. The multi-lung is able to absorb oxygen from poorly oxygenated or poisonous air. Most importantly it is able to do this without suffering damage thanks to its own efficient toxin dispersal, neutralization and regeneration systems.

Occulobe. This small slug-like organ sits at the base of the brain. It provides the hormonal and genetic stimuli which enable a Marines eyes to respond to optic-therapy. The Occulobe does not itself improve a Marin's eyesight, but it allows technicians to make adjustments to the growth patterns of the eye and the light-receptive retinal cells. An adult Marine has far better eyesight than a normal human, and can see in low light conditions almost as well as in daylight.

Lyman's Ear. The organ enables a Marine to consciously enhance and even filter certain types of background noise. Not only is hearing improved, but a Marine cannot become dizzy or nauseous as a result of extreme disorientation.

Sus-an Membrane. This flat, circular organ is implanted over the top of the exposed brain. It then grows into the brain tissue until completely merged. The organ is ineffective without subsequent chemical therapy and training. However, a properly tutored Marine may then enter into a state of suspended animation. This may be a conscious action, or may happen automatically in the event of extreme physical trauma. In this condition a Marine may survive for many years, even if bearing otherwise fatal injuries. Only appropriate chemical therapy and auto-suggestion can revive a Marine from this state - a Marine cannot revive himself.

The Melanochrome, or Melanochromic Organ, is hemispherical and black. It monitors radiation levels and types bombarding the skin, and if necessary, sets off chemical reactions to darken the skin to protect it from ultraviolet exposure. It also provides limited protection from other forms of radiation.

Oolitic Kidney. This red-brown and heart shaped organ improves and modifies the Marines circulatory system enabling other implants to function effectively. The Oolitic Kidney also filters blood extremely efficiently and quickly. The secondary heart and Oolitic Kidney are able to act together, performing an emergency detoxification program in which the Marine is rendered unconscious as his blood is circulated at high speed. This enables a Marine to survive poisons and gases which are otherwise too much for even the multi-lung to cope with.

Neuroglottis. Although the Preomnor protects a Marine from digesting anything too deadly, the Neuroglottis enables him to assess a potential food by taste. The organ is implanted into the back of the mouth. By chewing, or simply by tasting, a Marine can detect a wide variety of natural poisons, some chemicals and even the distinctive odours of some creatures. To some degree a Marine is also able to track a target by taste alone.

Mucranoid. This small organ is implanted in the lower intestine where its hormonal secretions are absorbed by the colon. These secretions initiate a modification of the sweat glands. This modification normally makes no difference to the Marine until activated by appropriate chemical therapy. As a result of this treatment the Marine sweats an oily naturally cleansing substance which coats the skin. This protects the Marine against extremes of temperature and even offers a slight degree of protection in vacuum. Mucranoid chemical therapy is standard procedure on long space voyages and when fighting in vacuum or near vacuum.

Betchers Gland. Two of these identical glands are implanted, either into the lower lip, alongside the salivary glands or into the hard palette. Betchers Gland works in a similar way to the poison gland of venomous reptiles by synthesizing and storing deadly poison. Marines are rendered immune to this poison by the glands presence. The gland allows the Marine to spit a blinding contact poison. The poison is also highly acidic and corrosive. A Marine imprisoned behind iron bars could easily chew his way out given an hour or so.

Progenoid. There are two of these glands, one situated in the neck, the other deep within the chest cavity. These glands are important to the survival of the Marines Chapter. Each organ grows within the Marine, absorbing hormonal stimuli and genetic material from the other implants. After five years the neck gland is mature and ready for removal. After ten years the chest gland becomes mature and is also ready for removal. A gland may be removed anytime after it has matured. These glands represent a Chapters only source of gene-seed. When mature, each gland contains a single gene-seed corresponding to each zygote implanted into the recipient Marine. Once removed by surgery, the Progenoid must be carefully prepared, its individual gene-seeds checked for mutation, and stored.

Black Carapace. This is the last and the most distinctive implant. It looks like a film of black plastic when it is growing in the tanks. This is removed from its culture-solution and cut into sheets which are implanted directly beneath the skin of the Marines torso. Within a few hours the tissue expands, hardens on the outside, and sends invasive neural bundles deep inside the Marine. After several months the carapace will have matured and the recipient is then fitted with neural sensors and transfusion points cut into the hardened carapace. These artificial plug-in points mesh with features integral to the powered armour, such as the monitoring, medicinal and maintenance units. Without the benefit of a black carapace a Space Marines armour is relatively useless.

++++++++++++++++as the Emperor and Russ Command, So shall We do+++++++++++++