Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bombastic Biobot Warfare

On our back porch we have a pseudobombax ellipticum, also known as the shaving brush tree because of its silky, brushy-looking flowers. Our bombax is young (no flowers yet) and until recently pretty happy in its Talevera pot. But now it has lost almost all of its little branches.

The bombax is related to the kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra, also known as cotton silk tree), and we've got a kapok in the side yard. Like the bombax it has pretty flowers that bloom after the tree drops it leaves, making them conspicuous to birds and other creatures who eat and then transport the seeds to a new place. Pretty good deal.

The word bombastic comes from bombax, Latin for "cotton". The cottony flowers from the bombax tree were used as lining in coats and jackets. A bombastic person might also be called a stuffed shirt.

In a few years the kapok tree may consume the side yard (if not our house) since they can get unbelievably big, with fan-like roots that reach high above ground. Ours is about 5 feet tall now, with a slender green trunk like the bombax and with only a few branches, so it has a long way to go before we need to move to another house.

But back to the unhappy guy on our porch. When I looked under the remaining leaf cluster of the pseudobombax, I saw it--a lone Sri Lankan biobot weevil, so fat and lazy that it just could not be bothered.

I wanted to see our yard as a simple collection of plants and animals living in such a state that my job would be only to mildly discourage those actors whose ambitions grew too large (like the monstrous cactus plant that attempts to devour the orange tree every year). But these biobots are neither plant nor animal. I realized that my approach to gardening was naive.

The CIA was no help, so I decided to engineer my own biobot to control the Sri Lankan devil. I know--the last thing we need is some new, indestructible cyber-organism with pulse laser emitters and the intelligence of a poodle and the ability to reproduce unchecked and destroy the world. But I had no choice.

My first prototype is in development now. Here's a scene from the training camp behind the koi pond.

OK. It's just a silly video, but you get the idea.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure if dung beetles are better than weevils. that ball of dung is pretty big.