Ciliates can eat viruses

Researchers at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln have discovered a “species of Halteria – microscopic ciliates that populate freshwater worldwide – can eat huge numbers of infectious chloroviruses that share their aquatic habitat”.


When I read something like this, my imagination invariably goes to thoughts of apocalypse. I think of genetically modified ciliates in a vaccine. Once in your system they start to feed on your body, consuming you from the inside, creating a biological grey goo that sweeps over the Earth, eating everything in its path.

What if engineered ciliates make it possible to convert food into energy, lots and lots of energy, causing all kinds of uncontrolled mutations in mammals? A planet of dinosaur size animals and humans roaming the planet.

Would living forever allow interstellar travel? Vast ships sent deep into space. People able to live long enough to travel beyond our solar system, find life on other planets.

What if ciliates lead to the cure for ageing? Generations living for two or three hundred, a thousand, years. What happens to people who no longer fear death? Will it bring cults of people who want to commit suicide to escape the purgatory to living too long?

The science is interesting. The possibilities endless.


Spiders can fly hundreds of miles using electricity

This is an intriguing piece of science, from Ed Yong in The Atlantic, that started the what-ifs in my head going.

The Atlantic

I don’t think it’s enough to be a film, unless it’s some kind of superhero movie. It makes me think Magneto-Spider-Man. What if Magneto was female and has an affair with Spider-Man, and they had a child. It could be the child’s genesis story.

If expanded out I can imagine a world populated by warring clans of superheroes, the magnetics and the spiders. A spider finds love in the arms of a magnetic, Capulet versus Montague style.

Alternatively it would make a great piece on a science programme or one of those Be Amazed style videos.

Scientists read ancient sealed documents without opening them

Scientists in Switzerland can now read fragile documents without opening them. The Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), uses X-ray tomography to scan an entire book, page by page, without even touching it.

This is definitely a great subject for a documentary. The only thing I would say is we need to find something explosive. The technique is fascinating, but it needs to offer an insight into a document that changes our understanding of the world.

Spyware is used to target dissidents

Prompted by a Jon Swaine and Stephanie Kirchgaessner article in The Guardian, about “UK rights advocate co-owns firm whose spyware is ‘used to target dissidents’”, I think about what kind of film the story might be.

This article is full to the brim with all kinds political intrigue, hypocrisy, big money, hacking, terrorism, repressive governments, dissidents, and the glamour of the art world.

There are a dozen ways to build a plot around what’s on offer. There’s the journalist uncovering a conspiracy version. I have in mind something like The Parallax View (1974) or State of Play (2003). There’s an innocent accused of a crime version. Think Enemy of the State (1998) or The Pelican Brief (1993). There’s a version from inside law enforcement. Something like The International (2009) or Serpico (1973). It could easily be part of the plot for a spy film like Casino Royal (2006) or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011).

My initial thoughts have the husband of an imprisoned dissident kidnap a wealthy art dealer Jill, and hold her hostage. The kidnapper starts to make demands of the art dealer’s husband, Jack. Conspiring with each new demand to expose his corrupt activity. As the plot drips through it becomes apparent it’s actually Jill’s spyware being used to hack Jack’s phone. All kinds of his secrets are exposed to the world. The kidnapper holds one last secret about Jill’s husband. When the two men finally meet to exchange their partners, Jill demands to know the final secret. When the kidnapper finally has his wife, he reveals Jack’s last secret to Jill. The news is so devastating to her, she kills Jack. We are left wondering, never knowing, his secret.

Interesting update: 03 February 2023

In a statement on 28 January 2020 The Guardian printed a retraction, accepting “that Mrs Peel is not, and was not, involved in the management, operations or control of NSO, an Israeli cyber intelligence company”.

The Guardian

Deadly swine fever is ravaging China’s pork industry

This piece by Amy Gunia in Time has me thinking, how would this be a film?


There are many interesting details that could imagine in a plot. The first is the sheer scale of China’s pork consumption. How much environmental damage is that causing? Not to mention the amount of suffering involved in rearing and killing of so many animals? Both of those element are interesting, but nothing more than background to something else.

The thing that really stands out is African Swine Fever, a virus with no cure. The obvious plot would centre around the mutation of this incurable virus, one that jumps the species barrier, and infects humans.

Steven Soderbergh ploughed this same furrow in Contagion (2011). In his film the CDC tries to stop the spread of a deadly flu virus. Soderbergh’s movie stops short of the full apocalyptic seen in Fukkatsu no hi (1980). In Kinji Fukasaku’s film most of the planet’s population have been wiped out by a virus, leaving only an isolated group, surviving in the frozen wastes of Antarctica, to try an find a cure.

I’ve always found survivors in the aftermath of an apocalypse compelling. With the trappings of civilisation gone, what do we become?

I’m reminded of Margaret Atwood‘s novel MaddAddam (2013). When a plague kills most of the worlds population, a group of survivors try to rebuild civilisation alongside Crakers, a species of post-humans, bioengineered to survive the plague.

There’s something in the existence of both human and post-human. There’s an inherent conflict between nature and nurture, instinct and conditioning, that is ripe for exploration.

I have the opening and a revelation at the end of a story. A group of human survivors flee though the wasteland of a city, chased by bioengineered post-humans, perfectly designed to thrive in this harsh new world. How do the humans survive when their pursuers are like a pack of wolves chasing Elke? There’s plenty of opportunities for action, horrific violence, and bloody scares. In the closing moments, we realise our group of survivors are actually a hunting party. They stalked the tribe of post-humans, and killed one for food. The post-humans are simply trying to drive these predators out of their territory.

A transparent film could reflect 70% of solar heat

We’re going to need a lot more of this as global warming overwhelms our thermostats. Perhaps the guys at MIT could integrate it into vast floating domes, the habitats we’ll be surviving in when sea levels rise, submerging cities like London.

There’s a story idea in there somewhere. Perhaps, in a post-apocalyptic world, submerged under rising sea level, a vast floating dome is habitat to city of people only just surviving. With the dome crumbling, their home falling apart, how will the inhabitant of “Atmosphere” survive?

How a therapist coaches couples who decide to have sex with other people

This by Wednesday Martin in Time piqued my interest. I thought “there’s a story idea in there somewhere”.

Upon reflection, I’m not so sure. There are so many films that explore themes of non-monogamy, consensual or otherwise.

Any new story would have to take all of these other stories into account, and be more than the tensions within a relationship, although? Perhaps exploring themes around shifting or repressive morality. A couple living happily in consensual non-monogamy. A new authoritarian power with an oppressive moral code takes control. What happens to the couple? I just realised I’ve described the scenario of The Handmaid’s Tale. There is something in there, I’m just not sure what it is?

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