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Extract

[In the bar after a workshop on smell attended by scientists and military researchers]:

“So,” I asked, charging my voice with national concern, “what are we going to come up with to match the sniffer sharks the US plans on using to detect submarines?”

“Well, I had a good idea few years ago but couldn't get the funding for it,” [Dr] Ben [Teckler, MoD scientist] answered.

“What is that?”

“Sabotage salmon.”

“Sounds good, but I'm not sure that they'll be much of a match for the sharks,” I said.

“But they have the best olfactory system and it's the easiest to recode. Basically salmon, when they are small and living in the river, encode the odours of their environment so that they will recognise them on their return from the sea to mate in the river. All we need to do is impregnate their water with the odour of explosives and then inject them with the right hormones when we want them on duty.”

“But the sharks will just eat them,” I said crossly.

“Well, we can protect them with a fleet of dolphins. Toby's got his own idea, though.”

“Yes. Electric eels. They are huge,” said Toby [MoD scientist], stretching out his arms to demonstrate. “They grow to over eight feet.”

“Sounds promising,” I said.

“Yes, but how would you train them?” Ben laughed.

“Oh come on, that's easy. Stick them in a tank. They emit an electrical charge,” Toby puffed up his face and imitated the noise it made,” when you prod them. All you have to do is emit the odours you want it to detect every time you prod it. Then stick a light bulb to it and send it off.” […]

“What about squid?” Ben laughed. [...] “OK,” Toby interjected. “I am seeing one submarine surrounded by a fleet of salmon with dolphin reinforcements and further along another submarine with a load of sharks around it. Another followed by a load of squid or prawns or whatever.”

“It's chaos,” Ben laughed. “But the crazy thing, Amber, is that this is what our meetings are actually like.”

“They start off very serious,” Toby added, “but they end up with us coming out with all of these far-fetched ideas.”

“And sometimes someone somewhere funds them.”

“And as a result the world is a safer place,” Toby said in mock seriousness. “Except for the sea, that is. Bloody nightmare out there.”

Amber Marks, Headspace: Sniffer Dogs, Spy Bees and One Woman's Adventures in the Surveillance Society

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
pete23
Dec. 16th, 2011 12:35 am (UTC)
have you snuck in The Filth picture there? i think you have. i still love you.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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