Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

1. No wings: Genetic engineering will be used to alter Hox-box promoters and micro-RNA gene enhancers to re-activate the pre-wing somite program. A dab of stem-cell therapy might help here, too; at any rate, it cannot hurt, can it?

2. Too heavy: Although the average pig cell is a chunky 20 microns in diameter, microbiologists have recently documented (R. M. Morris et al., Nature 420:806, 2002) free-living organisms as small as 0.8 micron in diameter. By the well-known inverse cube law, a reduction in mean cell diameter of 25 will lead to a reduction in volume of 253 = 15,625, with a corresponding reduction in pig weight.

3. Gravity problem: This one’s easy – either move the pig to Phobos, one of the low-gravity satellites of Mars, where people are going anyway, and can just drop the pig off on the way, or else use transient hypergravity attractivity to hollow out the Earth by removing the heavy and unnecessary core. As a side effect, if this is done properly, it just might speed up the Earth’s rotation sufficiently to provide the pig with a bit of a push to get it started, too.

4. Can’t climb trees: Who says pigs cannot climb trees? Because so far most of their food has been placed in troughs or in the undergrowth of French forests, pigs have not previously been motivated to climb trees. In any case, toxin-constrained nano-bonsai ought to do the trick here.

5. No feathers: The Drosophila antennapaedia gene (for which a Nobel prize was recently awarded) allows the transformation of bristles into legs or antennas, and there’s no reason this wouldn’t work for feathers and pigs, too.

6. Lack of motivation: Easy to solve: LSD.

7. Tweet problem: Implantable helium sacs, just under the armpits, so whenever they flap their wings a bit of helium gets squirted into their vocal cavity.

Although each of these strategies is based upon sound scientific precedent or fantasy, nonetheless some of my conservative critics here on the local faculty have argued, from their ivory tower, that no one has yet proven that any one of these methods has been shown to convert porkers to parakeets. But no one has yet tried all seven of them together, don’t you see! In addition, funding for porcine avionics research has to date been very, very low, due to the stubborn insistence of NIH on peer review. The PEPA program, however, has been endorsed, or at any rate not publicly pilloried, by dozens of eminent scientists whose names I could give you if necessary.

Amazing though it may seem, I believe that we are now at what I call a “cusp” in the history of either porki-culture or -aviation or both. Pigs born before April 14, 2009, will be destined to a life on the ground, rooting about for scraps, grunting unpleasantly, and constantly getting their curly little tails entangled in low-lying shrubs. Pigs born after April 15, 2009 (or perhaps a few days later), will in contrast waft lazily through the lambent skies, tweeting merry greetings to one another, nibbling at an occasional air-truffle, and enjoying panoramic views of either Cambridge or Phobos, depending. Also, they’ll get to live forever, by following the practices so stirringly depicted in your own articles.

All I need is a clever marketing gimmick – perhaps a prize of some sort – that will fool journalists and conference organizers into thinking that the only reason none of this works yet is that scientists are afraid to debate me. Any advice?

All the best,
Richard Miller

27 comments. Share your thoughts »

Tagged: Biomedicine

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me