There is no field of science that feels more like "playing God" than genetic engineering. It doesn't matter how pro-science and forward-thinking you are -- there's something weird about dicking around with the building blocks of life.
To help set your mind at ease, here are some of the most baffling and bizarre experiments going on right now.
7Mice That Chirp Like Birds
Despite what comic books tell you, mutation can't be counted on to reliably produce superpowers. On the other hand, a species can't evolve without it. Most of the useful features that now come standard on the human body -- like arms and eyebrows -- started out as a mutation somewhere up the genetic line. It's just that most of the time, mutation is going to produce something terrifying.
Scientists in Japan, ignoring a rich cultural history of monster movies, decided they liked those odds. The Evolved Mouse Project genetically modified a handful of mice, increasing the likelihood of their DNA miscopying and therefore making them susceptible to mutation. The mice started reproducing, and from their mutant loins sprang hilarious abominations, including, for instance, one with stumpy legs and a tail like a dachshund.
And also Kevin Bacon.
Then one morning, the scientists checked their experiment and found one of the little guys chirping like a bird.
Although the singing mutation is random, it appears that the mice are actually using it to express themselves. Male mice sing more often around female mice, presumably to attract them as mates. The mice also sing more when they're placed in different environments.
And when they're looking for Fievel Mousekewitz.
The researchers also claim that the singing mice may help us understand the origins of human speech, noting that the mutated mice seem to be developing different dialects depending on their environment.
Lead researcher Arikuni Uchimura had this to say about the project: "I know it's a long shot and people would say it's 'too absurd'... but I'm doing this with hopes of making a Mickey Mouse someday."
And maybe, one dark day, a SpongeBob.
Evidently, in addition to being a geneticist, Uchimura is also seven years-old.
Hey, speaking of science's dream to someday create a sentient rodent, what happens if you inject human sperm into a hamster's egg cell? Science knows, because they've done it.
Enter the humster. If you're thinking this is a hamster that hums, you're pronouncing it wrong. It's a human-hamster hybrid.
Now, like many hybrid embryos, the humster is completely unviable and as a rule is destroyed long before it can mutate into a horrifying real-life version of Master Splinter. And to be fair, there are legitimate scientific reasons for creating a humster. Human embryos are difficult to procure for experiments and are protected by legal restrictions. Hamster embryos, however, are fair game. So why not throw some human sperm at them?
Not as a drunken prank, mind you. The reason is that if a couple is struggling with infertility, a hamster embryo can also be used to check the viability of the man's sperm cells. This is one of those techniques that lies squarely in the Venn diagram overlap between "really good cause" and "Frankensteinesque."
"Alternatively, you could try having oodles of unprotected sex."
Though frankly, if a man's seed refuses to make a baby with his wife but then jumps at the possibility of fertilizing an unviable rodent egg, it might be best for all concerned if he avoided passing on his genes. But we're not scientists.