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Oct. 03, 2012

Roundup the Goats

by Sam Flatow

Click to enlarge images
Ok, everyone’s thinking the same thing, so I’m just gonna put it out there already:

All the good jobs are taken by goats.

There, I said it.

They just eat. That’s it. It’s the cushiest job since panda-pooping (a topic covered extensively as both a radio broadcast and a previous blog). And the perks are amazing: free housing, free food, free milking, and free end-of-life care -- in that their lives will be ended for my carefully constructed gyro. And they eat anything, including weeds, brush and shrubs, as well as the olive and grape leaves that many farmers don’t want to feed them.

And that’s fine -- they were never competing with us for jobs because goats have a rare skill set including dairy production and being delicious. We just can’t compete with them there. But soon they’ll be taking jobs from hard working humans.

But first, here’s a little story about meat-sauce.

This one time, I ate meat sauce (that is not the end of the story). Also, I had apparently contracted a stomach bug and it chose that night to strike. For years, I couldn’t even look at the stuff. Hamburgers and other ground beef were fine. Ravioli? Meatballs? Not an issue. Even sloppy joes, which are basically meat-sauce on a bun, never bothered me. But put it on pasta and it never felt right. My saucy catastrophe happened in grade school and I’m still not a fan.

See, when you eat something and get sick, your brain associates that food with the sickness, even if the two were unrelated.  If smelling or tasting a particular type of alcohol makes you nauseous due to a particularly bad experience, then you might know what I’m talking about. That’s called conditioned taste aversion, and it’s your brain’s way of telling your hunter-gatherer self:

“Oh hey, about those berries you found, the one that turned your digestive tract into Pompeii? Your stomach and I have been talking and, um...yeah that was awful. Just...just really awful. We want to believe that it’ll never happen again, but we’re not sure how much we can trust the guy in the fuzzy speedo, so we’re going to make sure that it doesn’t. No offense.”

This same property works for lots of animals: rats, sheep, and even goats. So, researchers took those goats who eat everything, and convinced them to avoid the olive crop, making goats clear the fields of unwanted brush and weeds. It's just a matter of time until we employ these goats in massive numbers. “But won’t you have to make those poor goats sick?” Yeah, that’s called job training, and it makes me sick too.
 
But what really makes me want to puke is the herbicide industry -- how are they supposed to compete? Goats work for less than minimum wage! A lot less! Zero dollars! How do you undercut nothing? You can't. So, the whole industry will have to change occupations into goat herders. Goat herders! Can you believe that? I can’t, so I’m just going to say it again: Goat herders.
 


 

About Sam Flatow

Sam is an assistant producer at Science Friday where he prepares the tasty SciFri snacks and blogs about smart cephalopods and zombie ants.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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