It Grows on You

In this era of biotechnology, you quite often hear stories on the news about genetically modified foods. Or mice that can be made to glow in the dark. But we haven't heard much yet about growing cars.

No, I do not mean that we've advanced enough to grow cars on trees, which is just as well. If we could do this, come autumn, your eavestroughs would really be a mess, and raking your yard would be a horrible, back breaking chore.

Apparently though, researchers are finding ways to grow super strong materials that may someday be used to make cars.

This is akin to the story we've heard for years about various attempts to recreate spider silk. Scientists are apparently very keen to replicate that stuff, because it's pound for pound stronger than anything we've managed to invent. I believe them when I hear this because the spider webs at our house are virtually indestructible.

In any case, I hope the studies are successful, because I can think of a number of uses for stronger, more durable materials. For instance:

Helmets, knee pads: I would use these to protect everyone else when I go rollerblading.

Eyeglasses: Wouldn't it be great to have a pair of eyeglasses you could step on, sit on, drop down the stairs, or run over with your car without breaking them? Not that I've ever done any of these things. No way, not me.

Kitchenware: Young children. Pets. Glasses. Dishes. Need I say more?

Mirrors: If someone could just invent super strong, unbreakable mirrors, it would mean the end of bad luck everywhere. (I suspect casino owners are suppressing the technology here).

Windows: You can tell your children not to play baseball in the house. You can tell them not to play Frisbee in the house. You can even tell them not to play fetch with the dog in the house. But there will come a day when you will hear a crashing noise and arrive in your living room to find a bowling ball has been thrown through your plate glass bay window. Your children will say, “But you didn't tell us not to do that.”

Joke Eggshells: Imagine slipping an unbreakable egg or two into the breakfast bowl and snickering while your roommate attempts to crack and scramble them. This would be even funnier if they haven't had a coffee yet.

Bones: We're really not very conscious of our bones until we break them. Then we're very conscious of them. Anyone who plans to make, say, skiing, or hockey a career could just save themselves the bother and have all their bits replaced at once.

Electrical Cables: As the recent blackout demonstrated, we need extremely strong cables that even US utility companies can't break.

Of course, the ultimate test of super materials would be in luggage. This would be for the next time you're traveling from Vancouver to Australia, and they lose your suitcases somewhere over the Swiss Alps. It could safely bounce all the way down a mountain, be rescued by a slobbery St. Bernard, sent back on a ship across the ocean, lost in the drink and picked up by a shark, who takes it back to his law office and sends it by courier to you in Perth, even though you returned to Vancouver two years ago.

At least this way, the only time your luggage would break open would be nice, public places, like the airport check-in, after a customs official has bashed it apart to inspect your pink, frilly Spiderman underwear.

After that, the only strong thing you'd need is a stiff drink. In a very

dark bar where you won't meet anyone who saw you at the airport.

To read more of Chandra's work, visit

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