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Ellefire
01-30-2010, 08:00 PM
If you had several characters that could sense/ feel/ control every part of their body and mind, right down to their cell level how can I hand-wave the impossibility of it into something that doesn't have people pointing and laughing?

this was my original idea:

What if you could control every part of your body, right down to your DNA? So you could turn pain off like you would a switch? So you could regenerate lost limbs or change your body shape entirely.

I don't believe a man could turn into a wolf in just a few minutes 'Being Human' style, but if you could control your DNA, you could turn normal skin hair to armpit hair which would resemble fur, and if you could tell your bones how to grow, would it be possible to change your bone structure?

And not only physically, the brain is a computer. So, if you joined your nerves with another person's, could you access their brain? Therefore reading their mind?

Far fetched yes, and very probably impossible, but is there anything that could bring it about? What am I best jumping into? Nano-technology? Bio/gene tinkering? A really hand-wavey 'a virus did it'?

Any advice?

Kitty Pryde
01-30-2010, 08:22 PM
So they can switch their gene expression on and off, by thinking about them? The question is, how are they doing that? If I want to move my arm, I think, arm, move! and then an electrical signal is carried down my spinal cord and then down smaller nerves, and it causes all the relevant muscle cells to contract and my arm moves.

How does one signal genes to be expressed? The body signals genes to express themselves more or less with...the expression of other genes! Or with outside factors (like, spend a lot of time in the sun, and your skin gets darker, or go jogging every day, and your leg muscles grow larger) To do it under conscious control, you would need some type of system. or you might be better handwaving the whole thing away. Or...make it a fantasy novel and say magic did it!

If you want to know the basics of how gene expression works, I can recommend an awesome book called The Cartoon Guide To Genetics :)

Ellefire
01-30-2010, 08:32 PM
'Magic did it' is very tempting :D or just 'evil scientists experimented on embryos'. Because, after all, there's no real scientific basis behind a werewolf either is there?

I really really like the idea of a mostly wolf werewolf.

icerose
01-30-2010, 09:54 PM
Here's how I approach it.

I start out with a set of laws. They are the natural laws of my book. On earth we have gravity. It is a natural law and in order to overcome part or all of it you have to counteract it with a force. We use engines and wings or blades to overcome the absolute control of gravity.

Likewise in your world. Figure out the hows and whys. It could be slow evolution. It could machine based {nanobots for example} it could be a computer chip, it could be anything you want it to be, just shore it up with natural laws you make up to correlate to them and stick to them.

An example of a story that failed its natural laws is Jason X. I know, not a shining example of a movie, but as an example he gets blown out of an airlock. He is moving away from the ship drifting in space. Violation one {yeah the whole series had violations with him not dying but I'll ignore it for now} is that he magically makes it back to the ship and is able to tear open the airlock. With no propultion there is nothing to bring him back to the ship. Unlike ALIEN where the Alien had a hold of the ship and tried to climb into the engine where Ripley blasted the holy living heck out of the Alien. It then let go and drifted away. It did not come back and break in through the airlock, it was gone because it had no way of coming back.

Violation number 2 after he bursts into the airlock they seal him into that room. He then proceedes to burst through each and every airlock. After about two airlocks being busted open the vacuum of space is suddenly gone even though there are series of holes exposing the ship to open space.

Violation number 3 after being piledrived through the atmosphere of earth completely unprotected he happens to land in the lake stands up and kills two campers.

Now if you want your story to be taken seriously, you need to create laws. And you don't break those laws for any reason. I despise it when stories set up a string of laws and then magically the main character can suddenly do X and the laws no longer apply to him/her. Drives me crazy.

So, figure out how you want to approach this facet of the story, how you want them capable of doing so. Figure out how they are able to grow something that fast, because natural growth would take years to regrow a limb, just like a lizard tail takes 3months to 2 years to grow back. It's not an instant thing. If you want it to be an instant thing give it a reason. Like maybe they take a pill of super nutrients. Whatever, I don't care what you do, just have it be something that is enough to keep me in the state of happy pretend.

Miguelito
01-30-2010, 10:03 PM
How about an extra gland or organ that other people don't have? One in their brains that secretes microRNA, which are known to turn on and off gene functions.

MicroRNA are essentially little proteins made by one gene that turn other genes on and off (one type of microRNA protein might be able to turn on and off several genes). They're widely present in every organism and are thought to be one of the major influences on evolution (ie. when the MicroRNA-creating gene mutates, the little protein mutates too, which can result in some genes getting turned on that were off to other genes being shut down).

You can potentially make the use of the gland very subconscious, like breathing, where they don't pay much attention to it at the time, but put it to work when they want to.

More on microRNA here (read the last three in that order):

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19826621.800-micrornas-the-cells-little-emperors.html?page=1

http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/rna/rna_interference/01.html

http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/rna/rna_interference/01.html

http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/rna/rna_diversity/01.html

MAP
01-31-2010, 05:30 AM
How about an extra gland or organ that other people don't have? One in their brains that secretes microRNA, which are known to turn on and off gene functions.

MicroRNA are essentially little proteins made by one gene that turn other genes on and off (one type of microRNA protein might be able to turn on and off several genes). They're widely present in every organism and are thought to be one of the major influences on evolution (ie. when the MicroRNA-creating gene mutates, the little protein mutates too, which can result in some genes getting turned on that were off to other genes being shut down).

You can potentially make the use of the gland very subconscious, like breathing, where they don't pay much attention to it at the time, but put it to work when they want to.

Sorry I just have to correct you. MicroRNA are RNA not proteins. Proteins are involved in the process (they complex with the microRNA), but don't ever say RNA is a protein. They have very different chemical structures.

That said, this could control gene expression if given as a drug, but it wouldn't work as a gland in the body. MicroRNA regulates gene expression within the cell not between cells. You need chemical messengers, hormones or neurotransmitters, to signal changes in gene expression from the brain to specific target cells in other areas of the body.

We are multicellular organisms. The brain already has the ability to control gene expression on some level throughout the body through the endocrine and nervous system. But the OP wants the control of gene expression to be conscious thought?

I understand you want the characters to be able to heal at a thought or turn off pain etc, but would they even know how they are accomplishing this? Would they think, I need to turn on genes X, Y, and Z. When you extend your hand or jump up and down, do you know the biochemistry involved in that? You don't need to understand the mechanisms behind something to do it. So tell me why do you need to explain these things at the cellular level.

My advice is to not try to explain this scientifically if you don't have to.

Cyia
01-31-2010, 05:44 AM
You need to decide if it's everyone who has this ability or just certain individuals. If you're trying to sell this as some kind of evolution, then not everyone would have the ability in a single generation. You'd have a small variant pool of people with this expressed ability (the standard "mutant" scenario). Healers could do the "turn off pain" thing, though that's not really healing, but more of a mind control power since lack of pain =/= to health.

As for the manipulation of body, why not look into something like alchemy and see if you can't fit it to what you want. What you describe with your "mostly wolf werewolf" could be achieved by tinkering around with an alchemist version of genetics (alchenetics has an almost official sound to it...). Instead of changing lead to gold at the molecular level, you're changing men to wolves, or vice versa.

RainyDayNinja
01-31-2010, 08:06 AM
If you want a plausible scientific explanation, I think you'd have to go with nanobots of some kind. In theory, robots small enough could manipulate individual bases on the DNA strands. However, it would have to have a great degree of AI, to turn commands like "make my hair grow thicker" to "go to X gene, and swap out Y and Z bases, etc..."

Miguelito
01-31-2010, 09:08 AM
Sorry I just have to correct you. MicroRNA are RNA not proteins. Proteins are involved in the process (they complex with the microRNA), but don't ever say RNA is a protein. They have very different chemical structures.

Thanks for the correction. :)

Ellefire
01-31-2010, 06:16 PM
I'll take a look at those links, thank you.

The story would be Urban Fantasy, and set, more than likely, in my home city. So it has Earth's laws and biology.

I always had a stumbling block with werewolves changing so fast and for such a reason. I had this idea that Dogboy had decided to change himself into a dog just to see if it could be done, and it took him six weeks just to grow the fur. All in all the process would take months.

I already know the science needed to explain it fully is way beyond my comprehension, I would just want to be able to explain it away with something simple: an extra gland/ nanotechnology/ bio genetics/ we were born this way and the government would love to get their hands on us.

Thanks for your imput :D It's appreciated.

veinglory
02-01-2010, 12:11 AM
So you could turn pain off like you would a switch?
This would be possible without controlling DNA.

So you could regenerate lost limbs or change your body shape entirely.
This would be impossible even if you could control DNA. I am not sure there would be a plausible mechanism of it, but possible conscious control of stem cells?

I don't believe a man could turn into a wolf in just a few minutes 'Being Human' style, but if you could control your DNA, you could turn normal skin hair to armpit hair which would resemble fur, and if you could tell your bones how to grow, would it be possible to change your bone structure?
Again, DNA would not do this. DNA turned you to grow into a human, but one you are a human adult, you have the base structure set and the DNA just maintains it. Growing wolf hair on your skin would take something else entirely, starting with more follicles in the skin and then the hair itself.

And not only physically, the brain is a computer. So, if you joined your nerves with another person's, could you access their brain? Therefore reading their mind?
The nerves would need to join somewhere deep in the brain (amygdala and hippocampus) and I suspect this kind of disruption would mean all they would be thinking is "aaaargh!!!!". ;)

colettak
02-01-2010, 10:03 AM
This is just my personal opinion, but I actually prefer not knowing at all. Something very hand-wavey is actually better I think, because obviously you're not going to be able to come up with a feasible way, since it is not feasible. I guess what I'm saying is -- if it is not important to the story, then why do you need to explain it? Obviously if it's important, fine. If not though, who cares? If it's a fantasy, people aren't going to be expecting realism. I know how you feel -- I always try and come up with ideas of how it could happen, but none of them are ever important anyway, at least in my stories.

DrZoidberg
02-01-2010, 05:30 PM
As a few has said already, I wouldn't bother explaining it. You might end up with nothing but a huge highly speculative and boring infodump. The character doesn't have to understand it himself. "Magic" and "sciency" are valid explanations in fiction.

As you've already touched on, your mind is a result of stuff happening in your brain. If you can change the biology of it at will, what's controlling what? If this is a metaphysical treatise, then by all means explain it. But if this is a fun sci-fi story then I wouldn't bother. Who cares how or why it works? The fun part is that it works and how this affects him and people around him. I always put the focus on interpersonal relations and emotional development rather than (in this case nonsensicle) scientific explanations.

sciri
02-02-2010, 08:55 AM
I'm sorry, for what it's worth: I agree with colettak and drzoidberg.
I work on genetics. All of the above is magic. DNA is set at conception, mutations arise all the time as cells divide, but are rarely deleterious. When they are, you get diseases, eg cancer.
I wouldn't try and justify any of what your imagination has come up with through DNA. It's probably just because I work in the field and hence I am highly biased towards how things really work, but it sounds a little too far fetch. I would be more inclined to accept it as magic, or part of a fantastic world. That's just my opinion. If you get into the tangles of mentioning DNA and other pseudoscience you risk to make a lot of people unhappy.

RobinGBrown
02-02-2010, 12:36 PM
I agree better to handwave than make up a bad 'scientific' explanation.

See http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HandWave versus http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TechnoBabble


That said, some people will believe anything: http://www.skepdic.com/tijunk.html

Griesmeel
02-02-2010, 09:52 PM
My €0.02. I actually like some kind of "natural" law to dictate the basics of unnatural phenomena.

I'm in the process of writing a sci-fi situated on present day earth and need access to scary amounts of energy. Not sure which way to go myself yet but I will try to get some kind of science behind it.
However, I'm in total agreement that it can be a very dry scene when the scientist character just gives his lecture to the affected/empowered character.

My idea: have the antagonist(s) shoot the lab full of holes while the hero saves the scientist in question. Being a geeky thus talkative scientist he cannot stop analyzing this phenomenon he just got introduced to. You shouldn't even do all of your scientific idea in that one scene, if you keep the prof alive he can come up with bitesized titbits once in a while throughout the story. I'd even be tempted to have all hell break lose around said phonecalls/meetings/e-mails each time

I'm looking into string theory at the moment, and running into the same problem you do: all well and good until I get to the equations, those are just scary.
Planning to talk to a physics professor soon...

Good luck, hope you like my input. :)

abctriplets
02-03-2010, 01:11 AM
I'm sorry, for what it's worth: I agree with colettak and drzoidberg.
I work on genetics. All of the above is magic. DNA is set at conception, mutations arise all the time as cells divide, but are rarely deleterious. When they are, you get diseases, eg cancer.
I wouldn't try and justify any of what your imagination has come up with through DNA. It's probably just because I work in the field and hence I am highly biased towards how things really work, but it sounds a little too far fetch. I would be more inclined to accept it as magic, or part of a fantastic world. That's just my opinion. If you get into the tangles of mentioning DNA and other pseudoscience you risk to make a lot of people unhappy.

Since the science isn't there, or if it is there, it'd require a very very lengthy and detailed explanation loosely based on a number of unprovable postulations. I'd leave it out. Sure, have a general understanding in your head, but see if you can write your story without having to explain it all to your reader. No reason to reveal what's behind the curtain (especially if there's nothing there!).

sciri
02-03-2010, 01:54 AM
Just a little addition: the concept of turning genes "on" and "off" is what sets me really off. Our DNA is in every single cell in our body, identical everywhere. What makes a cell in a hair follicle different from a brain cell or a liver cell is the genes that are expressed versus the ones that are not in each case. I suppose this is what is generally meant by "on" and "off" genes. So, it's a catch 22, because it's the cell itself that dictates what genes are expressed, and if there were a mechanism that would change what genes to express in that cell, that would change the nature of the cell....
The cells in the body that carry that potential (I mean they have no predetermined information on what genes are expressed and what aren't) are germline cells, which are the predecessors of ovocytes and spermcytes, but they are of little use unless you obviously combine them at conception....
Maybe your individuals could have a series of germline cells in their body that are the precursors of new body parts, but then they would have to be germline cells with all 46 chromosomes instead of just 23... Or maybe they could recombine between themselves... It's still messy...

Sorry if what I said above is slightly imprecise, I'm hand waving...