Radiation Cats: Wikipedia lore or a real suggestion?

Halfway down Wikipedia’s article about Nuclear Semiotics is the incredible suggestion by two scientists to breed “Radiation Cats”… wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_semiotics

So, as one would do having just read about such a thing, I searched for more on this and all I could find online are pages that (rather precisely) duplicate the Wikipedia entry.
So two questions come to mind which I thought the Dope could help me with:

  1. Is this for real, or is this a corner of Wikipedia which has no basis in truth?

  2. Could Radiation Cats actually be bred as described?
    I did a study into the historical domestication of cats as part of the history part of my degree so I find it a very interesting concept. I also find it a rather humorous one…

Who would buy such an animal? What is the target market?

From what I have read, the idea for radiation cats was, in part, warn people in the future about areas which are radioactive. Since radioactive waste can be harmful for thousands of years, how do you warn people not to bother it, and to stay out of the area? Some figured signs would be helpful, but who knows if our language will be intelligible to them. Future people may also ignore our warning like we ignored the curse of the pharaohs in Egypt. In short, I think it was more of a thought experiment than an actual suggestion to bred such cats.

Seems stupid.

Cats have no hair-color changing ability to start with in such breeding. Their hair color is determined by heredity prior to birth, and does not significantly change during their lifetime (except for some fading or graying as they age, just like humans). I don’t think they even have any physical mechanism to affect the color of their hair in any way. So it’d be really hard to selectively breed them to pass on a trait that they don’t even have.

It might be more sensible to concentrate on species that already have some chromatophoric abilities, like chameleons, some frogs, some fish, and several insects. You would at least have a genetic base to star breeding from. But they are mostly less mobile, and more restricted as to environment than cats.

However, it’s hard to picture any of them displacing cats as the favorite pet of humans.

It would make more sense to breed plants as indicators.

Check out the New Mexico Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) design for notifying future generations (PDF warning).

Much more sense. Learning that a beloved kitteh is radioactive would be traumatic. You just toss a dying plant.

Signs like this. Pretty evident that whatever is behind the sign is pretty bad for you. Although I guess some people might interpret it as something that gives you X-ray vision and super speed.


Attic fans cool skulls and guys running that way ->

Not quite true. Remember the first cloned cat from a few years ago? It didn’t look much like its “parent” and it was explained at the time that cats’ coloration is determined by environmental factors in the womb.

The only way to do it would be to gengineer some cats to produce some kind of radiation sensitive substance in their hair folicles. Said substance would have to turn some unusual color (e.g. green) when exposed to large amounts of radioactivity. But it would not change if only exposed to ordinary background radiation. And this new gene would have to breed true for many generations. Personally, I have doubts it would work.

I just checked the wiki page cited in the OP and the “radiation cats” stuff is not there. Possibly this was a joke that someone removed as a result of this thread.

I’m with you on this one. Bracing a cat in collective awareness of anything really sounds like about as much fun as… herding cats.

Sounds like that would work as long as people retained a good scientific knowledge of radiation, and could understand contemporary languages. But after that point? Who wouldn’t want to explore the Mysterious Berm Full Of Anomalies And Ringed By Enigmatic Monuments? Even if they could interpret all of the warnings, I doubt that would stop many explorers. How many people were ultimately deterred by (perhaps apocryphal) curses written on the entrances to tombs? Clearly someone is just hiding something of unimaginable value!

Frankly it seems like trying to deter cats with catnip and laser pointers.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just kill the cats *before *they change color and bring the Wasting Curse upon us all? An ounce of prevention and all that.

Sure, it seems like a good idea now, but what are you going to do when the cats turn green and gain (even more) mysterious superpowers?

I thought this might happen which was why I copied the segment in the question. To prove I wasn’t mischief-making, a simple Google search will, for the time being, show that it was on the page.

Precisely. Seems to me they’re just going to kill future archaeologists. “The Curse of the WIPP Berm” – real or just a scary story?

We should have a ‘write a radiation cats warning fairy tale/poem/song to embed in the cultural subconscious’-contest.

Do Not Play with Green Cats, Don’t Be Seen Where the Cats Are Green, A Green Cat on Your Porch: Burn it Down with a Torch!, Where Green Cats Tread is No Fun to be Had… The possibilities are endless!

Seems like a better approach would be to find a way to neutralize/eliminate the waste so that people a thousand years from don’t have to deal with it.

Can you imagine how pissed they’re going to be? “I’m getting sick from this shit because some jerks a thousand years ago couldn’t clean up their messes?”