Saturday, June 13, 2015

'Nirvana Cabal'... Electrosynth-Klezmer band name, or next novel in the Laundry series?

In my day, when we felt inspired to run a one-dimensional cellular automaton that would simulate how pigment cells switch on and off in the growing shell lip of Conus textile and C. geographus molluscs, to paint the shells with mountain ranges, we had to program in Fortran on DEC mainframes and accordion-fold lineprint paper. The way God intended. We didn't have your new-fangled "spreadsheets" [kids today, their good fortune, they are not cognizant of it].
With a slightly more complicated cell neighbourhood and switching rule -- Rule 34 110 in Wolfram's catalog -- the diagonal stripes decorating the shells would cancel or cross when they meet in a way that is Turing-complete, i.e. the shells would be universal computers. Sorry, Evolution, you missed a golden opportunity there. Go home -- it's time to let the professional Mad Scientists have a chance.

While we are revising the genes of Conus shells we need to do something about their venom. They secrete a blend of simple peptide conotoxins which target multiple neurotransmitter pathways to anesthetise and tranquilise their victims. The blend varies from species to species, and within each species, their genes reshuffling to come up with new neurotoxins each season. As any fule kno, Olivera and Cruz (2001) introduced the term "nirvana cabal":
Yet there are surprisingly few records of recreational use! Pet cone-shells are not yet a hipster / druggie accoutrement. Perhaps it is the lack of a standard, predictable dose; perhaps it is the high fatality rate after cone-shell envenomation.

Conchopharmacologists have been promising the immanent arrival of medically-useful conotoxins, Just Around the Next Corner, for a couple of decades now, but so far the only one approved is synthetic ω-conotoxin as a painkiller... one with limited applications (because it must be injected directly into the eyeball spinal fluid to mitigate its disturbing side-effects). Go home, Evolution, you are not meeting the needs of today's sophisticated cone-venom abusers.
If truth were known, researchers only continue to analyse and catalog the different conotoxins because it gives them an excuse to 'milk' the molluscs into condoms:
...which is great to talk about when people ask what you do for a job.

UPDATE: Must belatedly recognise B4's journalistic priority in cone-shell toxicology and taxonomy.

6 comments:

rurritable said...

Perhaps it is the lack of a standard, predictable dose; perhaps it is the high fatality rate after cone-shell envenomation.

That's not going to stop any Floridian worth his salt. It might be the resulting having your face eaten rather than eating someone else's face that accounts for its lack of appearance on novelty drug shelves in the southeast US.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

With a slightly more complicated cell neighbourhood and switching rule -- Rule 34 110 in Wolfram's catalog -- the diagonal stripes decorating the shells would cancel or cross when they meet in a way that is Turing-complete, i.e. the shells would be universal computers.

Computer shells, deadly toxins... RUH-ROH! Cones are drones!!!!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Also... cone shell toxins and condoms in science...

Smut Clyde said...

Whoops; note added to recognise B^4's priority in cone-shell-toxin blogging.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Will the Pope condone condom use by cone shells?
~

fish said...

+1 for Laundry reference.