Thursday, December 15, 2011

Research Re-invents the Roadapple-- Saves Racing

Marketing 101:  Selling Hot Coffee in Hell or Safe-Sex in Africa.  It is All About the Sale's Pitch!

[Note: Was freelancing some years back when a marketing guy got hold of me looking for a little 'ghost writing' help.  He asked what I knew about his gizmo -- whatever the hell it was.  I said, "I can write 1500 words about horse shit if you like."

He said, "Okay smart ass.  Fire away."  So I did.  No, I didn't get the job, but it was kinda fun anyway.]
[images: wikicommons]

Doktor Billy-Bob Einstein

DAVIS, CALIFORNIA:  March 30, 2006

—Research veterinarians at the University of California-Davis announced today a rather unusual discovery: A truly biodegradable plastic bag produced entirely from the Large Animal Hospital’s most prolific by-product – horse manure.

The team, composed of senior veterinary residents from the UC School of Veterinary Medicine and genetic engineers from Monsanto, and led by Dr. Billy-Bob Einstein (nephew of Albert), of Munich University weren’t seeking the world’s most environmentally friendly plastic bag.  As Dr. Einstein explained it: “Sometimes in research you look for da cure for cancer and discover a new bug killer. You never know where da research will take ya mister.”

The team was actually put together under a grant from the US Department of Agriculture as part of the Obama administrations package to re-stimulate questionable research at state-funded universities across America.  The project’s original goal was to seek a non-surgical solution to the second leading cause of death among racehorses – caecum impaction, or what is commonly known as ‘sand colic.’ The affliction had become increasingly common due to both the mechanization of hay and pellet production in the United States, as well as the adoption of synthetic racetrack surfaces, which unbeknownst to developers, turned out to be edible.  In the case of the former, mechanization causes a great deal of silica (dirt or sand) to accumulate in the feed during processing. This was further complicated by the composition of synthetic racing surfaces, which chemical analysis showed to be about an equal mixture of ground fish, pulverized hemp and shredded coconut. (See formula at right.) This combination was apparently very appetizing to racehorses, particularly 2 year-olds.

Theses are"Icky," according to Vets.

In mammals that ruminate, like the cow or goat, they are able to separate and expel this material in the normal course of digestion. The horse however, does not have that ability. Instead of multiple stomachs, as typified in both cattle and goats, the horse has a pre-stomach and the caecum, a very large and muscular organ that does the hard work in breaking down the heavy cellulose found in the stalks of hay, the outer shell of most grains and of course, throughout the fiber of the hemp plant. A combination of extreme pressure by the circular musculature of the caecum, in conjunction with a unique combination of bacterial flora allow the horse to turn this almost woody mass into a digestible carbohydrate. The rest is expelled as water, held together by the remaining undigestible cellulite matrix.

It is this matrix that caught the attention of Monsanto chemist Dr. Luigi Boyardee. The research team had noted the role that the matrix played in bonding with the silica, sand or tarry hemp oil in the caecum, and how it behaved very much like the reinforcing rebar used in concrete construction. Surgical removal of these masses (some weighing over 100lbs.), was the only option.  However, such surgery carried a 35% mortality rate and a potential for loss of service even if the horse survived the operation.  Researchers hoped to find a ‘biological solvent’ of sorts that would break down these masses either completely or to a more manageable size.

It was at this point that Dr. Boyardee (a chemist specializing in polymers and the inventor of canned Ravioli), noticed something rather remarkable: The cellulite matrix was almost identical to those found in most poly-carbonate plastics, such as those used to make the unpopular plastic shopping bag.  The only difference was that the cellulite matrix was extremely brittle, making it unsuitable for the extruding process necessary to stretch the material.  Not one to give up easily, Dr. Boyardee began experimenting with a number of substances, finally settling on gum arabac, a common starchy food additive used in most kinds of pasta sauce. When added to the matrix, the resulting material was capable of stretching five thousand times its length on a microscopic level.  What’s more, it appeared to have greater tensile strength than the poly-carbonate plastics in common use.

The Monsanto chemist produced some sample bags at the company headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska and shared his process with UC-Davis team members. As he explained: “This process is rather simple. You dehydrate and sterilize the manure samples, leaving only the remaining matrix. This is then combined with the stabilizing agent, in this case the gum arabac -- in a zero-gravity cintering oven.  I can not disclose the actual process, but the end result is a finished polymer of sorts. It is then fed through the extruding process and – presto! A plasti…,well, a bag anyway.”

Dr. Boyardee and Monsanto CEO enjoying some GMO tea and crackers.
This bag is a different animal though. The team pointed out that it will degrade in the environment in as little as five days, faster if exposed to urine or diesel fuel, being both UV-sensitive and by all accounts, edible.  Common microbes will find it as a convenient food source, leaving little more than some spent hydrogen ions in the environment – ions commonly known as air.

The team continues its work on the original goal of developing a biological solvent to aid the ongoing efforts to find a surgical alternative to caecum impaction in the horse, stating that they believe to be about six-months out from a breakthrough.  Right now they are focusing on the side-effects of a very promising substance previously used as an defoliant in southeast Asia.  As for the bag?  Team lead Billy-Bob Einstein states that both Monsanto and UC-Davis are transferring the patent rights to the newly formed US Department of the National Horseracing Czar in the hopes that proceeds from the process will help racing to overcome a hostile takeover by Austrian auto parts interests and alleviate the storage problems associated with the annual manure production of horses -- estimated to be about 5-billion tons annually. The President has promised to put the full weight of his office behind this project and has asked the Army Corp of Engineers to move quickly in nationalizing the country's supply of horse manure, most of which is controlled by the nations few surviving racetracks and Dressage barns.  The jovial Bavarian veterinarian did however come up with a name for his discovery. “Yaa, ya, we’re calling it da pferde hosen. The horse sock!  Ha, ha, see here, it holds six bottles of beer and a big sausage.  We'll get to cancer.  Soon, soon, I promise."   

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