The Fish Story

Our Memories Might Soon Be in Other Minds; Terminal Groin Is Either Coming Soon … or Not

By JAY MANN | May 30, 2018

IF MEMORY SERVES ME WELL: The following is mind boggling in a highly mind-boggling manner. There are some scientists who have, possibly inexplicably, managed to remove the memories from one sea snail to transfer them into the memory banks of another equal and opposite sea snail. In the long mind-bending run, this could be a profoundly memorable scientific breakthrough, one that could end with us someday merrily taking on a brainful of utterly unfamiliar memories – you know, just for kicks. Tell me you wouldn’t pay a pretty penny to snuggle up to the memories of, say, Brad Pitt. Talk about walking aimlessly around … idiotically smiling.

Keeping that out-there eventuality in mind, memory transfers might also offer an instant opportunity to have our minds filled to the brain gills with, say, the procedural memories of a great brain surgeon – you know, just in case a nearby hospital comes up shorthanded … or short-memoried, as the case may be.

Germane ponder point: All knowledge is stored in our memory banks. Where the hell else are you going to keep it? We’re as smart as our memories permit. Hey, that’s kinda memorable on my part.

So, here’s the breaking news … in a snail shell. Smithsonian Magazine recently ran an article headlined “Scientists Say They Have Transferred ‘Memories’ Between Snails.” It’s subheaded “A controversial new study suggests that RNA may play an important role in memory storage.” Those headlines alone pretty much tell it all.

The Smithsonian write-up, by Brigit Katz, tells of sea snails being given mild – by human estimates – electric shocks to their derrieres, shocks they apparently didn’t soon forget … without some help. The snails’ bodily responses to being butt-shocked were highlighted by the rapid withdrawal of their siphons and gills, something not commonly known as the WTF-response.

Once jolted, the WTF-ed snails stayed inside their shells for a solid 50 seconds. As you’ll see, that’s apparently a long time by snail insider standards.

Upon reemergence, the shocked snails slowly went back to their snail doings. This is just what the researchers wanted, so they could once again rear-end them. However, this time, they merely nudged them – a friendly fingering, no electricity. Well, the once-bitten snails were still so on edge they all but flew back inside their shells – where they remained withdrawn for almost as long as the electricity-provoked withdrawal. That phenomenon is not even remotely known as the fool-me-once response – but it fits, eh?

For a control group, the snail-centered scientists performed one of their easy-going, just-friends finger nudges on the butts of newly arrived snails. The merely-nudged snails stayed inside their shells for barely a second, giving more credence to the 50-second electricity-assisted withdrawal being a big-time retreat.

Now, to the coupe de Gracie Slick of this mind-altering experiment. When memory-laced RNA was somewhat rudely removed from the electroshocked snails and placed into the next batch of newly arriving snails, things turned cosmic. Tellingly, I’m told, the RNA-injected snails, when butt touched in the just-friends manner, nonetheless frantically bolted inside themselves – and stayed therein for a period on par with the full electrified butt withdrawals, circa 40 to 50 seconds. The injected snails had surely been administered some other-snail memory, essentially getting electro-educated in a syringe instant.

This startlingly successful memory switcharoo begged the sciency question: How much injectable RNA-based intellect can be transferred from one organism to another? To that, I’ll snarkily ask: How big of a syringe you got?

Closely monitoring emerging snail studies, sciencealert.com reported, “The research wasn’t done to create some sort of mollusk mega-mind, but to help understand the physical basis of memory – and it could aid in both restoring lost memories and easing the trauma of painful ones.”

With that notion, I jump to mind – recalling the column I wrote last week about mice being stem-celled into being more like men. Well, I must now admit that changing mice into men is pretty much phantasmagoric. However, this memory sucking/transferring stuff is not only feasible, it’s instantly far too feasible – as mind-blowingly close as snails, which are oddly close to us. How so? Snails of many a sort have become go-to organisms when stand-ins for humans are needed. They’re now being used for everything from cancer-cure research (cone snails) to unraveling the human central nervous system (freshwater snail Lymnaea stagnalis). We owe a debt of gratitude to snails. Let’s hear it for ’em. All right, that’s good enough.

I know many of you are nervously wondering about the snails that have had their memories removed. What remains of their suddenly lightened memory banks? I wonder also. I’ll even put that question in computeresque terms: Are we talking about a harmless copy-and-paste memory removal, or a full-blown cut-and-paste permanent memory removal? I’m guessing both are in play here since some experts view memory grabs and removals as a quantum leap toward permanent removal of crippling memories from traumatized patients. I read where one doctor sees RNA memory maneuvering as a way to treat Alzheimer’s dementia patients. Imagine, someday, having memory RNA taken at different life-points, just in case, later in life, chronic memory loss sets in. Just squirt stored memories back in. Good as new. I know, too totally freaky, right? As to removing RNA in a way that allows the donor to also keep said memories? Bring in the next batch of sea snails, please.

On that freakafied note, I’ll leap hypothetically ahead and gladly volunteer myself for the experimental in-juicing of, say, half a dozen languages – though I’ll also demand every bad or even moderately distasteful memory be simultaneously sucked out of me. And don’t even think about sneaking in some of those snail memories. Scientists can be so juvenile.

There are obvious pitfalls to RNA memory maneuverings. What happens if memory-swap technology just happens to leak out – and into the minds of the everyday folks? Though, come to think of it, that just might work wonders for some. Let’s say your kid thoroughly sucks at geometry – just run out and snatch that brainy little show-off Jones girl – and abscond with her hoity-toity geometry smarts. For fun, replace them with your dumbass kid’s memory bank.

Teacher handing back exams. “Dirk! I’m wonderfully shocked and amazed that you totally aced this final geometry exam. But, you, Miss Jones, filling in every answer with ‘Eat me!’ is hardly what I expected from my prized student.”

More on this memory thing … after I gain as many Ph.D.s as they can squirt into my brain.

HOLGATE GROIN PLANS FAR FROM TERMINAL: Time to once again build interest in the imminent-or-not arrival of a Holgate terminal groin. It would be placed above – and far beyond – the Wooden Jetty, east of the parking lot in Holgate. And, yes, the gimongous groin's west end would be flush with the end-of-Boulevard parking area.

Talking with folks close to the giant groin plan, I’m told it could “very likely” happen, possibly sooner than later. Seeking a more exact time-frame, I was told it would be smaller than a decade … and bigger than a breadbox.

The timing uncertainty lies squarely within the ugly embrace of an onerous N.J. permitting process, a process that might be on the move … or not. Hey, I just tell it like I’m told it. I can’t be any more ambiguous than that.

Of note: There seem to be no huge federal obstacles in the way. Both the Army Corps and, to a lesser degree, the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge are OK with it – the latter demanding assurances that there will be no significant impacts on nearby refuge property.

I do have some interesting info on the proposed groin itself. Firstly, it has already been designed by a top University of Delaware expert on groin and jetty building – a "jetty" being a name restricted to the placement of rocks along a navigable channel. Yes, on LBI, we’ve always improperly called our groins jetties. I won’t get into the original thinking behind that except to say we were very immature upon first being told the Island would be getting a load of “groins.” Even the Army Corps was forced to capitulate. “OK, everybody, quit your giggling! We’ll just call them jetties, a’right?”

Interestingly, the impending groin’s design takes into full account the problem most terminal groins have: downdrift erosion. We’ve seen exactly that type of erosion on the south sides of larger LBI groins, like Nebraska Avenue in LBT, Holyoke Avenue in Beach Haven, and, to some degree, the south sides of Suicide Jetty/groin and Wooden Jetty/groin in Holgate. Sadly missing is the theorized updrift accretion of sand – the anticipated build-up of sand on the north sides of the groins – as hypothesized in groin designs. It has been negatively said that a groin merely transfers erosion from one place to another farther down the beach. Sorry, but it’s not that cut and dried.

Get this: For the Holgate terminal groin, rocks would be placed in a manner allowing a proper sand passage, north to south. Such a controlled sand flow through the groin is based on scientific data indicating how much sand should flow southward naturally.

The groin design would also incorporate a rock-placement strategy that would allow specified cap rocks to be removed by crane, if need be. This would permit a better sand flow. Any rapid eating away of the beachline south of the groin – which has long impacted where we drive off and on – would surely trigger the strategic uplifting of designated cap rocks.

Holgate reminiscence: As kids, we’d strap on our backpacks and gird for the lonely and mysterious hike to a distant “Holgate end” in search of the mythical horseshoe crab graveyard, where, it’s said, ancient crabs would all go to die. Hey, we didn’t have elephants, all right? In fact, just about it. I don't even feel like telling the stinkin’ story now.

REPLENS FIRING WITH DOUBLE BARRELS: Onward to upcoming replenishments, which will hit home beginning any day now, or so.

There has been a significant change of strategy by the Weeks Marine dredging company, weeksmarine.com. They’re now planning a shotgun start. I’ll explain.

The Weeks dredging folks working the Brant Beach phase of replenishment got nailed by the awful winter and spring weather. They fell behind schedule, to where they might ultimately face prescribed “late” fines, something like $5,000 a day, should they be unable to finish the entire project in a contractually timely manner. With both Harvey Cedars and Surf City still to be done, Weeks has called in reinforcements, commandeering their own dredging equipment from other projects just to our north. Where the company had planned on doing Harvey Cedars first and Surf City after that, it will now be simultaneously working both towns. The two-pronged replenishment will carry on through a big chunk of summer, Harvey Cedars taking the longest.

While I had first been told that just the northern part of Surf City would be replenished, it turns out that all of the Surf City front beach and dunes will be getting new sand. It seems that some added funding has made a town-wide replen possible – even though Surf City has yet to pay its part of past replen projects, which were paid 75 percent federal and 25 state/local. Sandy repairs came from a whole other emergency program, 100 percent federally funded.

Sand will be a-move in both towns for many weeks to come, technically many Weeks to come. And, for the umpteenth time, I’ll note that these beach fixes have become so routine that the work only keeps folks from the small sections of beach being worked upon. For impacted beachgoers, it will be a short walk, at worst, to sidestep the work zone and light upon relaxing sands.

WELCOME TO LITTLE EGG INLET: Little Egg Inlet is officially opened, per the state, which is the sole proprietor of the newly dredged inlet. Smooth sailing. And let me know if that’s, in fact, the case.

By the by, the Army Corps is quite actively pursuing the possibility of establishing the shoals off Little Egg Inlet as what might be called a self-refreshing borrow site, an area able to capture and recapture southwardly migrating LBI sands – to be sprayed back onto Island beaches from whence it came.

Establishing a federal sand borrow area at the shoals would not necessarily be related to maintaining/dredging of the new Little Egg Inlet, a state project. However, there is obviously some interplay.

I should note that I was recently readvised that the recent dredging of a Little Egg Inlet channel was a one-time deal. However, I don’t know if that precludes maintenance dredging, though it just might.

SIGN UP: High Point Volunteer Fire Co.’s 11th annual Striper Shootout is happening Saturday, June 9. Get crackin’ by going to hpvfc.com, or by calling 609-494-9169.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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