Murphy’s Law – The mutant butterfly effect

Joel Murphy

Thanks to our friends the Mayans, we have known for a very long time when the world will end – December 21, 2012. (Which thankfully spares us all from Christmas shopping this year.) The only question that remained was how it would happen.

My money was always on robots. Our scientists seem hellbent on making lifelike robots with high intelligence, despite the fact that this ends badly in every sci-fi movie ever made. So naturally, I always assumed the metal ones would one day rise up in unison to enslave their fleshy masters. But boy, was I wrong.

It turns out that civilization’s downfall will be butterflies. That’s right, those adorable, brightly-colored bastards will be the architects of our demise. Reports are coming back from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, which had three reactors melt down when the country was hit with a massive earthquake and tsunami earlier this year. While the full extent of the damage won’t be known for years to come (if we all survive that long), there is one thing researchers have already discovered … the butterflies are mutating.

According to Slate: “In a new paper published in Nature‘s online journal Scientific Reports, a Japanese research team reports that adult pale grass blue butterflies have shown mutations to their wings, legs and antennae at rates far higher than those of the normal population.”

Now, the first thing I thought when I read this was that The Pale Grass Blue Butterflies would be a great name for my folk rock band. But just as I was about to grab my banjo and work on a new tune, this next paragraph in the article caught my eye: “What’s alarming — though not entirely unexpected — is that the relatively mild mutations found in the butterflies initially collected at the scene seem to be getting worse in their offspring. That’s true for offspring bred offsite as well as second-generation butterflies found at Fukushima, indicating that the radiation has caused lasting genetic damage to the species.”

Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jeff Goldblum’s character from Jurassic Park, once warned us: “A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.” And that was just your regular, run-of-the-mill butterfly. Imagine what kind of chaos a mutant butterfly could bring. One flap of those giant, mutated wings and Florida could be ripped apart from the rest of America (which, let’s be honest, wouldn’t be the worst thing, though there would be a marked decline in alligator-related golf course attacks, zombie face-eatings and stupid criminal stories).

Now I’m no scientist, but if each new butterfly offspring continues to mutate at a higher rate than its parents, it’s safe to assume that in just a few short breeding cycles we will have giant butterflies that tower over Japan. We don’t know what these giant butterfly-like mutant creatures could be capable of, but imagine if the radiation gave them super powers, like psychic abilities, a silken spray that can immobilize foes or a yellow poisonous gas capable of destroying their enemies. If you close your eyes, it’s easy to picture hundreds of scared Japanese villagers fleeing from one of these gigantic butterfly-like mutants as it wrecks downtown Tokyo.

And that’s just the butterflies. What if other creatures have been mutated too (which seems likely)? For instance – and I’m just pulling this example off the top of my head – what if the lizard population has also been altered by the radiation? Before long, we could have a giant fire-breathing lizard doing battle with this giant butterfly-like creature while the citizens of Japan stand by watching helplessly.

That’s why, as much as it pains me to say it, I think there is only one thing that can save us all. I think all of our scientists need to drop whatever they are doing and focus all of their efforts on mechanical engineering. In short, we need to build a giant robot … before it’s too late.

With any luck, this giant, laser beam shooting robot can defeat the giant lizard and the giant butterfly-like creature. Then, once the two creatures have been taken care of, we can enjoy a few serene months of peace before the towering robot inevitably decides to enslave us all.

Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at

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