February 1, 2015

Dacron Dolly breakthrough

THE OTHER DAY someone asked me if I ever make anything up for this column. Well, being rather afraid of not going to heaven if I tell lies, I was forced to answer yes. But my defense was that it should be perfectly obvious when I make something up. It’s not like telling a sly, deliberate lie for some nefarious purpose. What I do is open and obvious and just for laughs.

“Give me an example.” she said. So I referred her to a column I wrote several years ago. I’d like you to read it now, and decide for yourself whether it’s obviously a spoof or not. Did it fool anybody who got more than half-way through? I think not, but you might like to make up your own mind:

Dacron Dolly in poly breakthrough

Christchurch (AP) — Sailors and sailmakers the world over were last night celebrating the achievement of New Zealand scientists in breeding a sheep that grows polyester “wool.”

Using cloned material from the famous Scottish sheep Dolly, genetic specialists at the University of Christchurch last year altered the DNA of a lamb embryo.

“We now have a sheep in polyester clothing,” said Dr. Brian Winchester, head of the university’s Experimental Genetics Department. He said the sheep had been named Dacron Dolly. “It’s a breakthrough we thought was possible, but we never expected success so quickly,” he added.

Dacron Dolly will be cloned and future flocks will be sheared to provide polyester material for Dacron ropes and sails. “We expect it to be about half the present cost of Dacron, maybe less,” said Dr. Winchester, himself an avid sailor in a country of sailors.

Dorothy Brown, head of publicity at the University of Christchurch, said Dacron Dolly’s coat would provide a filament that was lighter, softer and easier to sew than present-day polyester. “It’s also more resistant to stretch, so it will be ideal for yacht sails,” she said. “Textile engineers from all over have already been contacting us for samples, but full-scale production won’t begin for about a year.”

Ms. Brown pointed that Dacron would no longer have to be made from imported crude oil. “This is an infinitely renewable resource,” she said, “It’s about as green as you can get.”

One snag is that Dacron Dolly and her cloned family will be more difficult to shear. “Polyester blunts the clippers much quicker than wool — but we hope to solve that problem with titanium cutting edges in a few weeks.”

A representative of North Sails, one of the largest sailmakers in North America, arrived in Christchurch yesterday to collect a sample of Dolly poly.

“We are very excited at this development,” said Fred Borthwick, based in Newport, Rhode Island. “Sails are expensive, and cutting the price of the sailcloth in half will mean an explosion of business for sailmakers and better, less expensive sails for boaters.”

Today’s Thought The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance — the idea that anything is possible. —Ray Bradbury.

Notices we noticed: On a plumber’s truck: “Don’t sleep with a drip. Call your plumber.”

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