PBS has launched a four part series under the Nova banner called “Making Stuff”, hosted by New York Times Tech columnist David Pogue. If you didn’t catch last Wednesday night’s first installment, you can watch it here.
Especially if you like goats, and I know a few of you do.
About three quarters of the way through the hour, Pouge’s search for the strongest stuff on the planet, which has already covered steel and Kevlar, finally comes around to some extremely tough, undeniably natural stuff – spider silk. And he introduces us to a University of Wyoming scientist named Randy Lewis who is trying to solve the problem of producing massive amounts of spider silk without having to rely on finicky, famously uncooperative spiders. Instead, he’s working with genetically modified, finicky, famously uncooperative goats.
Yes, there are goats in his lab that produce the right protein for making spider silk as one component of their milk. Spider Silk Goat Milk!
It’s all part of an ambitious dream of mass-producing super strong materials. Two ambitious dreams, actually – the other one being to make goats the engine behind the next major global industrial manufacturing revolution. Three ambitious dreams if you consider what it would mean for goats to be returned to their rightful place at the center of our crucial economic revitalization and national security efforts. (Ambitious dreams #2 and 3 aren’t part of the official goal, but why not?)
Think of it – factories springing up out of nowhere to process goat’s milk into super-duper strong cables for bridges, components that far exceed steel in terms of durability and flexibility, and all manner of impervious materials. With vast amounts of goat cheese as a by-product.
The upside? Those who already have advanced animal husbandry skills could form the next global cartel to manage a vital resource – GOATPEC (Goats Organized to Assert Total, Permanent, Everlasting Control).
The downside? Bigger webs in the barn rafters.
Do you have a good real-life example of the truth (or irrelevance) of the standard caution “Be Careful What You Wish For”?