The Medusa Effect

I’ve worked with little green men, killer robots, and inter-dimensional terrorists, and they all carry guns.  Sometimes they fire bullets, sometimes lasers, or sometimes bursts of plasma, but ultimately they’re all using guns.  Personally, I don’t approve of guns, which is why I let the bad guys have them, but I’d like more variety in my methods for killing.

A few months ago, I read an interesting fact in Scientific American: certain proteins in our blood, albumin and fetuin-A, prevent the calcification of body tissues (Young, 56).  It seems all the calcium in our bodies would naturally bond together, forming lumps of solid, stone-like material, if these proteins didn’t bond with the calcium first.

I have also discovered that a rare genetic disorder called Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (F.O.P.) causes muscles to turn into bone.  Scientists have determined that the problem is associated with genes that control the repair of bones, but more research needs to be done before they can find a cure.

For the purposes of science fiction, I can use this information to develop a new weapon for my villains.  Imagine some energy field that neutralizes fetuin-A or a virus that triggers F.O.P.-like symptoms.  Of course, calcification takes time, and people can live with F.O.P. for many years.  For dramatic reasons, I’d need this to take effect rapidly.  Within a few minutes at most.  I doubt my fictional weapon could have the instant effect of Medusa’s stare.

Turning people into stone is not a new idea, but I can’t remember anyone presenting it in scientific language.  In fact, taking things so impossible they can only be myths and turning them into the weapons of the future could be more terrifying than any re-imagined ray gun.

Sources

Young, John D. and Jan Martel.  “The Rise and Fall of Nanobacteria.”  Scientific American January 2010.  Pages 52-59.

“Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva.”  WebMD. http://children.webmd.com/fibrodysplasia-ossificans-progressiva-fop

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