Your Weekly Weird from Futureq.TV
(Video coming, so keep checking bac)
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If you’re old enough to remember not wearing seatbelts in the back of your Mom’s Ford Fairlane as she careened down the rugged, tree-lined road of almost-but-not-quite rural America, and NOT feeling like an outlaw renegade for doing so, then perhaps you remember a little afternoon Japanese retread of a cartoon called Marine Boy, which featured the somewhat androgynous eponym of the show, Marine Boy.
The opening of that show has a melody that trickles through the finally-school-is-out-i-hope-we-don’t-have-rice-a-roni-again euphoria, dialing it down a bit, just long enough to settle back into the trailer park couch, with the faint smell of dried milk and fried baloney somewhere clinging to the door outside your trailer.
I don’t remember the words, if it even had words. It was rather more like a siren’s sexually honeyed flow of warm sea water rushing over your prepubescent body as you vaguely had a sense of something beyond the surface of grab-and-push-and-poke-and-break that a little boy usually has in prebupescentopia.
But that would be a few years before that letter finally arrived in the mail, the one that read, “Dear Future, girls have more than the cooties. Ask me how I know.”
That opening scene though, it had more than a hint of the fever you would later catch, it had a moment that always stuck out in my head cabbage memory hole like a hotdog rolling down a cool marble floor, naked, bunless, crying out for some sense of muricana sanity. Bun me, son, and eat me.
That naked hotdog was the image of our hero, the androgyne, Marine Boy, the boy that almost wrecked my marriage long before I met my wife. Yes, my wife had a crush on Marine Boy, but I didn’t know it at the time, mostly because I didn’t know my wife at the time, but if I did know her, and I knew of this crush, let me tell you, there would have been Marine Boy sushi served the next day, and I would have served him with extra wasabi.
Marine Boy was diving into the deep, casting aside danger with the impish charm of a Kpop starlet shooing another would-be lothario away.
From those depths, those unforgiving depths, rose a spider, a terrible clawed spider thingie creature that, as it turned out, looked more like a crab than a spider, but, in my mind, it was always a spider, of the most terrifying kind, with legs that reached into the 7th circle of Dante’s Hell, where Mussolini and Hitler argued over who gets to pick the next song on the jukebox, only the next song is always the same song, it’s the song that never ends, but it’s in Dubstep, and Cash Me Oussie girl is the one singing.
That image, that terrible tremor of Spider felled me, every weekday afternoon, again and again.
This, my friends, is why I have begun this Weekly Weird with this terrible tale of childhood trauma, firstworld problems in the white boy’s ghetto, for this is a story of legs, spider legs, looming from the depths of mad science, taunting us with tremolos of terror that tangle the mind in gossamered mists of viscous doom.
Sure, on the surface, it’s just another story of discovery. Sure, it’s just the story of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who, in between suffering the clichés of ‘how can you science when you can’t make the cheese’ jokes, managed to get in some real sciency science. They even published their findings in the peer-reviewed, “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” which is, I hear, very prestigious indeed. Yes, on March 26th, 2018, the day of horror fell upon the land and not a one of you noticed, but…you will. Oh yeah, you will.
According to these mad scientists, that is, researchers, Emily Setton and Prashannt Sharma (don’t you DARE say don’t squeeze the Sharma in the middle of my Weekly Weird, that would be indecent, and unkind, so don’t do it, and don’t squeeze the Sharma), they believe they can prove that spiders, the same kind in Marine Boy (even though that was really a crab, but hey it was a spider for darn near 40 years before a YouTube video corrected me of the error of my spider-myth-building ways), the same kind in your bathtub, right now, waiting for you.
Go ahead and check, friends, there was a spider there, wasn’t there?
Yes, yes my friends, I have lost the plot, which will happen a lot on these Weekly Weirds and I, at last, am at one with my plot-losing ways, for I always find myself back to the plot, to the researchers that discovered that spiders, such as can be found in your bathtub, do not have head genes.
Nope, these clever little arachnids (but wait for it, you might doubt the veracity of my statement in a moment) decided, in the way that any species decides anything during the mysterious ebb and flow that is evolution, to rid themselves of head genes altogether.
After all, who needs heads when you have legs? You have like eight legs and one head. You do the math, kids. This ain’t rocket science, though it is science and, perhaps, this science is actually as HARD as rocket science, maybe even harder.
Emily Setton told the folks at phys.org that “We study spiders, scorpions and others to help build a more complete evolutionary story and look at what’s going on in the complex world of arthropods,”
They study creepy crawly things, not just spiders. They probably studied Marine Boy’s Spider thing that turned out to be a crab thing but morphed in my brain to become a spider thing, only to be corrected 40 years ago by a YouTube video.
The Researcher-who-is-not-a-mad-scientist, Emily Sutton, went on to sing more of her song to phys,org. She sang, “The world is a great, big place full of amazing diversity. We want to know, how does this happen? How do you build an animal?”
I had mercy on you there and kept the inner over-the-top-musical-voice-song-person from escaping to the surface of sharable, recordable sound and only spoke that line which could have been delivered in an old PBS Zoom show. Yes, another after-school show I watched in the heady days of white boy ghettoville in trailer park times.
Of course, for those of you reading this and not watching the video, well, I hope you did us all a favor and sang that part in your head. It would be the only decent thing to do.
Dr PhD Emily Scientist not-a-mad-scientist-but-a-researcher Sutton is sure buttering you up and acting as if she and her partner, the aforementioned Prashannt “don’t squeeze the” Sharma, didn’t stumble upon a discovery that will give you “Marine Boy battles a Spider under the deep sea that’s really a crab but you remember it as a spider until 40 years later you see a YouTube video that shows you it’s more like a crab thing” nightmares.
And if you followed that last sentence, congratulations, you’re a better person than me.
Emily and Sharma are imagining how you build an animal. It has led them to dig deep into the genes of your average spider (you know, the one waiting for you in the bathtub).
The evolutionary history of the spider, such as Emily and Sharma imagine they understand it, reveals the answer to what Sharma calls, “the big question….” A big question of the lab is how is diversity built genetically, evolutionarily? How are ancient lineages related, and what are the genetic mechanisms that underlie the differences between them?”
By the way, I should insert here that Prashant “Don’t squeeze the” Sharma is not just a researcher (and he’s DEFINITELY not a mad scientist), he’s also a professor, so he’s super smart, so you should listen to him and trust him when he says, “hey, let’s figure out how to build an animal, I mean, hey, what the bleep could go wrong? Amirite? I mean, AMIRITE?!”
What Sharma and Emily wanted to know (I don’t know if I can call them that, but Ima do it anyway) was how can the genetic bits that seem to build muh legs also, possibly, wait for it, build muh face?
That’s right, that’s the big discovery here, folks. I meant to try to drag this out a bit more but, man, I felt like if I strung this along anymore you’d feel like you were watching 2001 A Space Odyssey and you were like, cool, so Hal’s a killer and that’s cool, but wait there’s more, there’s a whole ton of stuff more, including babies and stuff that STILL doesn’t make any more sense to me today than they did when I watched it late at night on Prism (if you’re not from PA, you don’t remember Prism, so fight me), the low-rent version of HBO, back when premium cable channels that showed movies with effplatives and nakeds was still a pretty impressive thing.
So here’s the sciency part, and I’m going to just quote from the article in phys.org:
“In the study, Setton and Sharma show that a pair of genes, known as Sp6-9 and Dll, normally involved in telling a developing insect or arachnid embryo where to grow legs, has been co-opted by a group of arachnids to also help tell the embryo where to build its head. These same arachnids lack another gene, called Sp5, which normally leads to proper head segmentation in other arthropods, like fruit flies.”
Yeah, so these spiders, the same kind of spiders waiting for you in the bathtub, said oh hecks to the noze! Not face genes for me. I’m gonna do it all with leg genes. And now these holy terrors, probably like miniaturized versions of the holy mother of terror spider that was really a crab thing in Marine Boy, have, for their faces, the most terrifying parts of the bodies. They have leg faces! Face legs. Or leg faces? Wait. Let’s think about this in a sciencey way. Since these, let’s call them appendages, function like spider faces, then, well, they’re faces. But since they’re made with leg genes, then they’re face legs. Yes. That’s science right there. But then again, Leg Face does sound better, so let’s go with that.
They have leg faces.
Now Sharma, the Professor, with Maryanne excluded (the Professor and Maryanne, here on Leg Face Spider Island!), had this to say about the whole Leg Face, Face Leg thing,
“This is the plot twist that gives away the story/”
Phys.org tells me the reason is this (and thank God they did because, yeah, I didn’t get it. I felt like the American watching cricket and one of your Limey buddies leans over and says, that was a bloody fine bouncer (yes, I googled cricket terms to add one, fight me), and you’re like…yup, yup it was.
They say, the reason why it gives away the story is “because it allows scientists like him to trace the evolutionary and genetic history of this group of animals, united by their loss of a particular gene.”
And that’s that, spiders, my friends, have faces for legs, or legs for faces, however you want to think about it. Understanding this fact is helping science dig deeper into the mysteries of how to make animals, and that’s a 50’s Sci Fi B Movie just waiting to happen, which, I’ll admit, I’m cool with, as long as they don’t resurrect that spider crab thingie Marine Boy killed in the opening of the show named after Marine Boy, the one called Marine Boy.
I’ve got enough things to worry about as it is. I’m still not fully recovered from that delayed mail delivery, the one triggered by that creepy siren girl singing, the one that said girls have more than just cooties. Yeah, about that,