messages in a bottle
(originally posted 8/26/2018)
Back in 1960 James V. McConnell, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, believed that information could be stored outside the brain. He created a series of tests using flatworms that seemed to indicate that Memory-RNA, a special form of RNA — the intermediary form of genetic information that fills the gap between DNA and proteins —could store long-term memories.
Not only was his work later proven to be bollocks but he and a graduate student assistant were later blown up by a bomb sent by none other than Theodore “the Unabomber” Kaczynski. Both survived but obviously Ted “the U” was a little peeved at the idea that knowledge can not only survive out the brain but can be transferred between organisms.
Someone a little more enthusiastic about the idea?
She was fascinated by the idea that a flatworm could be trained to react a certain way to stimulus, ground up, fed to another flatworm and then that other flatworm would have ‘learned’ the same behavior.
So fascinated that she put her fascination into action.
Over the next ten years she worked at such prestigious facilities as the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons in London, Uris Hall at Cornell University, the Brain Museum at the Institute of Neurological Science in Lima, Peru, the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C., the Musée Dupuytren in Paris, and Yale’s Cushing Center. Unbeknownst to all of them was her habit of taking a small sample of the brains stored there when nobody was around.
Eventually she had dozens of small samples of some of the most brilliant brains to have ever crashed around on the planet. Then, after giving birth to her first and only son Harold, she put these slivers of grey matter into a blender and included a small amount in each of Harold’s first one hundred bottles.
Let’s be clear about one thing before continuing; chemical memory transference doesn’t work.
Someone who doesn’t believe this?
When he was told at the age of twelve about his mother’s little experiment he suddenly realized why he felt so brilliant. It made total sense to him. Despite his average test scores and completely normal performance in school he always knew he was destined for something extraordinary. Harold knew Einstein himself was a slow starter and he even got a job at the post office as a tip of the hat to one of the other greatest minds.
Harold is now fifty six. He sits in his modest home, the picture of his loving mother sitting center stage on the mantel above the fireplace. On either side sit his degree in psychology from the University of Texas (to the left) and a copy of the inside cover of The Worm Re-Turns, featuring a crest James McConnell designed, where the “SR” stand for stimulus-response and the Latin underneath is said to roughly translates to, “When I am done explaining this, you will understand even less” (to the right). Pictures of his many fathers decorate the rest of the house. He has cleaned the place top to bottom in anticipation of his story being written. Everything was just so. Somehow he just knew a writer was about to visit.
Not physically of course. The doorbell wouldn’t be ringing. Harold just knew that a writer, me actually, was about to write a story about him. Put it down to Memory-RNA perhaps? I wouldn’t, but you’re free to.
Problem is that I’d much rather write about Ashley. She was a much more interesting character. Given the evidence who could blame me?
Harold suddenly exhales. Somehow he just knows that I’ve decided not write about him after all.
Honestly, had I known that he would be aware of this I might have gone ahead and given it a shot. But who knew?