Excerpt from “Relic II: Resurrection”

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“Stark!”

Stark looked across the lab and saw Sanders waving for him to join Stafford and him in his office. Stark smiled and waved back. Sanders scowled and his mouth slowly and clearly formed the words: Come. Here. Now. Stark pulled off his gloves and tossed them into the biohazard bin. He jogged over to Sanders’ office. Sanders was standing in the doorway with his arms crossed. A frown covered his face.

Stark smiled and asked, “What’s up, Boss?”

Sanders pointed at a laptop on his desk. The screen displayed a spreadsheet listing lab tests and results. “These reports are ready. Why aren’t these lab results released?”

“I was double checking the data. There were some anomalies. I wanted to make sure that all the lab work was done properly.”

“What anomalies?”

“That’s why I was talking with Blake.”

Both of Sander’s hands went up. He shook his head. “No, no, no, no. Stark. You’re not back to those military cloning conspiracies again.”

“It’s not a conspiracy. It’s real. Don’t you remember what happened last year? Remember, that dead professor with Neanderthal DNA?”

Stafford looked at Stark, then back at Sanders. “What the hell are you two talking about? Military conspiracy? Neanderthal DNA? What’s that got to do with my patient?”

Stark bit his lip. “The baby is a Neanderthal,” he blurted.

Stafford blinked and stared at Stark. “What?”

“The genetics, the genome, its DNA. It’s Neanderthal, not Homo sapiens.”

“OK, now you’re being an idiot,” Stafford snapped. “I know you have a thing for me, Stark. You’re always making up some excuse to get me down here. Cut the crap and tell me the truth.”

“I am telling the truth.”

Sanders grabbed Stark by the arm and pulled him away from Stafford and toward a corner of his office. “Stark, we’re not going to do this all over again, are we?”

Stafford followed them. “Do what all over again?”

Sanders took a breath, swallowed, then said, “Last year, he got this crazy idea that a body that came through the morgue had Neanderthal DNA. He got involved with some rich playboy with nothing better to do but play espionage games.”

“It wasn’t a game! Do you remember the news last year about the law firm that was secretly impregnating prostitutes?”

Sanders scratched his forehead. “How could they secretly impregnate prostitutes? Wouldn’t the women notice that they were pregnant?”

Stafford looked at Stark and rolled her eyes. “Now I understand why you still have your job.” She took a breath and turned back to Sanders. “Yes, I remember the story. The news reports said they were hiring the prostitutes to be surrogates and then were selling the babies on the black market.”

“Oh. That still sounds illegal,” Sanders replied.

Stafford turned away from Sanders and mouthed the word ‘moron’. Stark smiled and shrugged back at her. She turned back to Sanders, let out a sigh and said, “Yes, that’s why the government shut them down. Arrested all the high level officers; the board of directors. Closed down the company.” She turned to Stark. “You know more about what happened?”

“Um, yeah,” Stark replied. “There was some experimentation that was going on. Cloning.”

“Cloning babies?” Stafford asked.

“No, cloning Neanderthals.”

Sanders jumped back into the conversation. “There you go again with the Neanderthal thing.”

“It’s true!” Stark exclaimed. “The company was working with the military to clone Neanderthals.”

Sanders moved to usher Stark out of his office, but Stafford put up her hand and asked, “Why would they want to do that?”

“As soldiers,” Stark replied. “Untraceable soldiers that no one would miss when they were killed in battle.”

“But why Neanderthals? Why not humans?”

“Apparently there were other characteristics of Neanderthals that made them superior soldiers,” Stark responded. Then he added, “Plus, they were cannibals.”

Both Sanders and Stafford gasped. “What?”

Stark tried to look as serious as possible. “Cannibals. Once deployed, the ‘Thals, as they called them, would not need to be supplied. That was their motivation for the mission. They would hunt down and eat the enemy.”

Stafford looked right at him. “You’re nuttier than I thought.”

He raised his right hand. “It’s true. I swear.”

“So, you’re telling me that the army was planning to clone a bunch of Neanderthals, and then drop them behind enemy lines where they would feast on the enemy?”

Stark nodded. “Yeah, that’s essentially it.”

Stafford looked at him sideways. “I think I saw that movie.”

“Those weren’t Neanderthals, they were….”

Stafford nearly bit off Stark’s head. “Oh, shut up, Stark! Can I get my lab reports? Now!”

“Yes, Stark, you’re wasting the good doctor’s time,” Sanders added.

“Fine. I’ll release the reports,” Stark huffed. “You can believe what you want but the science doesn’t lie.” He pointed toward the ceiling, looked directly at both of them and said, “That baby is a Neanderthal.”

“Yeah, and I’m a Kardashian,” Stafford remarked as she walked out the office door. She called over her shoulder, “Just send me the reports.”

Stark called after her, “Doctor Stafford. What color are the baby’s eyes?”

Stafford stopped in her tracks. She spun around. “How did you know the infant’s sclera had pigment?”

“I told you, I did a DNA analysis.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s Neanderthal,” Stafford scoffed. “It’s more likely melanosis. Geez, Stark, don’t you ever give up?” She looked at Sanders. “How do you put up with him?”

“He can be a pain, but he’s a damn fine pathologist,” Sanders fired back. He crossed his arms, pursed his lips and, despite the height difference, stared silently at Stafford.

“Just get me my lab reports,” she huffed as she turned on her heel and strutted back down the hallway toward the elevator.

Haiku

Recently, I’ve taken to writing haiku.

Life is a struggle
We all seek some happiness
Among the ruins

I’m not exactly sure why.

Poetry is art
By imposing boundaries
All that’s left is craft

Perhaps because I find it a challenge.

Writing a poem
With seventeen syllables
Is no small effort

My engineering mind trying to solve a problem that has well-defined requirements.

The Haiku art form
Brief and concise poetry
In a straightjacket

I write haiku about all sorts of subjects.

Autumn’s breath blows cold
And all the leaves that were green
shiver and turn brown

Sometimes a song is a catalyst for my haiku.

Behind those blue eyes
An evil mind schemes and plots
Don’t trust that kind face

Other times, haiku will pop into my head while staring out the window.

Red breasted robin
Surveying my lush, green lawn
Worms crawl for cover

World events can be prompt me to write haiku.

Bullets ricochet
Along the corridor walls
Students lay bleeding

Or religion…

The Easter Season
A celebration of faith
Christ is arisen

…philosophy…

Wanting what you’ve got
And not having what you want
Leads to happiness

…or idleness.

Thinking aimlessly
Waiting for my muse to come
Paper is still blank

Whatever the reason, I enjoy the challenge.

Beautiful haiku
Seventeen short syllables
Three poetic lines

Follow my daily haiku tweets @ab1aw

 

Who’s Watching Me?

Admittedly, I don’t do much with this blog or this website. I’ve not been writing much since publishing Relic II. My leisurely interests and efforts have turned elsewhere; mostly to computer science projects, amateur radio, and the morass that some folks refer to as the American political process.  Oh, and binge-watching the last season of “Downton Abbey” (yes I so need to catch-up on so many things).

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I do check the viewing statistics on this site occasionally. I’ve included a snapshot graphic here that shows the distribution of views from various countries during 2016. Much to my surprise, I’ve an international audience (such as it is). I am curious as to who these folks might be.Most interesting is the distribution of non-English speaking countries in the list. In fact, the only other English speaking country on the list is Canada, with a paltry 3 views.

Now, I don’t know anyone in many of these countries, but I am curious as to how they learned of this site.Were they specifically looking for my site, or did they simply stumble onto it while searching for something more relevant to their own lives?

The most curious are the views from Brazil; second only to those from the U.S. As Brazil is not a English speaking country I am intrigued as to what drew them to view my content.

A similar curiosity exists for the other countries on this list. The only thing I can think of, other than this being the result of random internet searches, is that there is some interest in my thoughts about Neanderthals.

I’d love to gain a bit of insight as to what and why these folks visit my site. If you do visit, leave a comment. Let me know your thoughts. Perhaps I’ll be motivated to write more often.

 

Could Nurture Trump Nature?

The debate over whether nature trumps nurture has been an ongoing debate in the scientific and philosophical communities for years, if not centuries.

Humans, but only humans, have been the subject and focus of this debate, and with good reason. It is our species alone that possess the intellectual capacity for abstract thought, conceptual language, and the written word. These are all essential tools and factors that are necessary to alter the nature of, that is, to nurture, another human being’s thought process with the intent of changing their behavior.

What if there was another “platform”, another subject, a non human subject, to test this theory? Recent advances in paleontology, genetics, and neurobiology may provide us with such an opportunity.

Science has learned that the human brain is not as “hardwired” as once thought. The plasticity of our brains, that is that ability for the neurons and synapses to grow, change, and even heal, is proving to us that certain unique capabilities for learning (e.g. language acquisition and socialization skills) that are so easily displayed by the very young are not “locked down” when we reach adulthood, but actually can be extended into old age.

Is this capability limited to humans? There are few animals with similar body-to-brain mass ratios as humans that also possess sufficient brain mass (and hence neuron count) to imply the ability of the complex neurological dance that we call consciousness. Dolphins are closest, but the vast differences in anatomy and living environment present too many barriers to studying their intellectual growth and capabilities in a manner similar to studying human development. Great apes possess the anatomy, but not the required brain mass. We have no equal as a comparison.

However, that was not always the case.

Forty thousand years ago, our biological cousins, the Neanderthals, lived side by side with us. Paleontological evidence and research has suggested that Neanderthal’s brain mass was equivalent, and perhaps larger, than humans. Recent advances in genomic research, along with the complete sequencing of the Neanderthal genome, have given as the ability to create that “platform” for truly testing whether nature indeed trumps nurture.

Cloning a Neanderthal is within the realm of possibility. Humanely studying the growth and development of one or more would provide insight into brain development, intellectual capacity, language acquisition, and many other aspects of intellect far beyond what we can do today with humans as our only point of reference. Could brain plasticity extend to other species? Is there only one way to find out?

Could Neanderthals Be Baptized?

Bio-genetic technology is advancing faster than our ability to understand the ethical issues and consequences that arise from such capabilities. With the entire Neanderthal genome mapped, it may be only a short time before some daring scientists, along with a willing surrogate, clone and give birth to a real, live Neanderthal infant; a living being with the potential for intelligent thought equivalent, and perhaps even superior, to our own mental capabilities.

What then?

How would our laws, ethics, and religions deal with the what is essentially the resurrection of an extinct human species? What rights and protections would this child have? Neither human, nor ape, would it be considered property, like any other cloned animal? Or would it be guaranteed the rights and privileges we expect for ourselves?

Andrew Brown, Zach Zorich, and Heather Pringle are among many scientists and bioethicists who have explored the multitude of issues that would arise if a healthy Neanderthal child (or two, or three) were born.

We are possibly closer to this reality than you might think. Our technology frequently exceeds our laws and ethics. Only our morals stand between us and disaster.

Levant Mirage

Cross a Tom Clancy espionage spy thriller with Arthur C. Clarke’s Hammer of God and you have Levant Mirage, Oliver F. Chase’s latest novel that takes the reader on a surreal journey into a world where black hat mischief marries radical religious ideology. Fast paced, with just enough technical jargon to make the story believable and actually plausible, but without getting bogged down in details, the spawn of this unholy union is a disaster so overwhelming, yet all too plausible, that it will surely make the reader stop and stare heavenward, wondering, what if?

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The storyline follows one Adam Michaels, a 35 year old U.S. Army Major who is also the reluctant heir to a shipping empire. Sidelined as a scapegoat for a foreign relations fiasco, Michaels, the inventor of a cutting edge missile guidance system, now finds himself pushing paper at the Pentagon while his ex-wife sucks up his alimony payments as she pursues her own political ambitions.

When it’s discovered that his mothballed guidance technology is now the linchpin of terrorist technology to annihilate the infidels, Michaels is thrust into a world where cyber defenses are overwhelmed by terrorists with top-notch computer skills who are intent on raining disaster upon an unsuspecting Earth to fulfill a radical religion’s apocalyptic agenda.

Learn more about author Oliver F. Chase and his novels at the Interesting Authors web site.

 

Homo Collectivus

Collectivism, teamwork, cooperation.

Could these be the traits that allowed Modern humans (Homo sapiens) to drive Neanderthals into extinction and populate the Earth like no other mammal has accomplished?

A couple of years ago, a certain Dr. Daniel Stark offered the following hypothesis:

“Essentially [Neanderthals] were overwhelmed. Forced into the margins. There is evidence of some interbreeding between the two species. That’s why some modern humans have this trace of DNA. But for the most part, the Neanderthals couldn’t compete with Homo sapiens. …. There [was] something unique about the wiring in a human brain that makes us different, special. Even with a bigger brain, Neanderthals lacked that.”

“…. it was culture that did them in. Or the lack of it. For example, one-on-one, in hand to hand combat, the Neanderthal would almost always come out on top. They’d simply pound you into the ground. However, in groups, Homo sapiens had the advantage. They had better communications skills, better sociological skills. They developed culture, group dynamics. They could plan and execute better as a team.”

“[Essentially]  teamwork killed off [Homo neanderthalensis]. The better social skills of [the] Homo sapiens allowed them to coordinate and work together in larger, more cohesive groups; tribes essentially. It was the first step toward the development of modern cultures. Neanderthals were outsmarted, … Especially when it  [came] to hunting big prey. Big game hunting is a big payoff. It feeds more than the hunters. It feeds the village; the kids, the elders, everyone. A team of hunters taking down a large animal yields all sorts of extra benefits compared to a single hunter catching a rabbit. The modern humans had an advantage. Not everybody had to go hunt. Some could stay back and do other things. Not only the obvious things like childcare, but things like pottery, building huts, making weapons, preparing food, making clothing. The larger, coordinated groups of humans could take better advantage of their environment. They could breed faster and more often since they had a better food supply. After some time the Neanderthals were outnumbered and forced into the less hospitable areas of northern Europe. That made it even tougher to survive. Eventually, they died out.”

Now, a hypothesis offered by Dr. Curtis Marean attempts to extend Dr. Stark’s original ideas. In a recent article in the August issue of Scientific American, Dr. Marean postulates that a genetic propensity for cooperation with unrelated individuals primed the modern humans (Homo sapiens) for world domination. This trait, along with the new technology of the throwing spear, gave us the edge over Neanderthals when hunting big game.

Has fiction become fact?