Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Magically Metabolized Humans Free to Kill

The research arm of the Defense Department is looking to flip a switch in the human body that allows soldiers to burn calories while fighting, as if they were sitting at rest. Alaskan sled dogs have this capability and use it during 1,000 mile races where they run virtually nonstop for two weeks.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has invested at least $1.7 million to study this phenomenon. The New York Times reported:

If researchers identify the biomarker, or “switch,” that could help the military understand and develop ways to control and prevent the physiological effects of fatigue in strenuous cases like combat.

“Soldiers’ duties often require extreme exertion, which causes them to become fatigued,” Jan Walker of Darpa wrote in an e-mail message. “Severe fatigue can result in a compromised immune system, making soldiers more susceptible to illness or injury.”

And what of people trying to survive after a natural disaster or in the midst of a war? Could this help millions of people displaced by conflict or trying to survive after a widespread disaster? Of course, it could. But our leaders think of weaponizing technology first.

I hope the Defense Department doesn't look at its fighting men and women as just another input that needs to be maximized. Don't farmers give cows medicines to produce more milk? Got metabolic magic?