Approximately 1.4 million people have emailed me with a link to this article on body modification (I’m not complaining, do feel free to send me stuff). It includes this picture.


I’m sorry, but no thanks. That’s a wanna-be kluge. It’s pathetic. The guy has just had some kind of silicone rings stuck under his skin, and I am unimpressed.

Here’s what I want.


Give me a call when we’ve got gene modification and some method of reiterating ontogenesis in my arms. I want neural control of a sophisticated muscular structure, not some inert faux lump. Adding sharp-edged teeth to the structure is optional, but highly desirable.

And all those tatoos? Bugger those, too. I want these:


Imagine a whole network of those under your skin, linked by nerves to your brain, with the ability to change color and pattern under conscious control.

I sneer at anything less. The body-modification crowd is hampered by feeble imaginations that think needles and ink and holes and bumps are impressive — I’m holding out for something a little more substantial than cosmetic geegaws.


  1. Whodunnit says

    I couldn’t agree more! Imagine flashing dirty words on your forehead.

    Well, that’s why I study biology.
    (insert mad laugther here)!!!!!!

  2. Cris says

    Keep us posted, because when that color-changing chromatophore surgery becomes available, I want it too.

    The first time I saw a cuttlefish flashing its markings, I thought I was hallucinating. Actually, it was on TV, so I thought my set was on the fritz. (Could have been both, really.)

  3. Vernon says

    I’ve always wondered what kind of brainpower would be needed to control a bunch of chromatophores. It would be incredibly cool to do that, but to do detailed changes such as being able to match backgrounds and the like would require quite a bit of concentration. It would be a lot more difficult than picking up an object with your hand.

  4. says

    While I do agree that these implants are nothing more then a visual representation, I think it is important to note that there is alot more going on in the body modification scene.

    I have several teflon and silicone implants for nothing more then aesthetic or tactile purposes, but I think my tongue split offers more then just a shock and awe. It provides me with an amazing sensation of being able to control the separate sides of my tongue, and the tissue that grew in between the split is more sensitive to sweets and sours. I can hardly remember how it even felt to not have my tongue split. All you one-tongues don’t know what your missing.

    I also have an rfid implant between my knuckles on my right hand for implementation for door access and computer access. What we are starting to see in the body modification is people’s desire to meld cheaper technologies with the way we live our daily lives.

    And you have Stelarc out there trying to push these technologies into something new and exciting.

  5. jack lecou says

    To be fair to the body-modding community, I think many of them probably are at least imagining things like true genetically modified suckers.

    In the end they’re just a lot more willing to make do with phony silicone rings.

  6. uncle noel says

    A human-cephalopod chimera would be cool, but I think the boat has sailed for us: that kind of mod. is going to require alterations at an earlier stage (oh, to be a zygote again!). Who wants to volunteer to mate with a cuttlefish?

  7. MRL says

    I’m holding out for a prehensile tail, myself. Two grasping limbs just aren’t enough.

    And as for the tongue split – I’ve heard that there can be some really serious complications from that! I’ve seen pictures of the operation for a tongue being split, and…it kind of squicked me. As interesting as the results can be, I think I’ll pass for the moment.

  8. Sven DiMilo says

    To each his or her own, I guess. Takes all kinds and like that. I’m not even interested in shaving, or wearing a watch or ring, let alone tattoos, piercing, or other “body modification” (sorry, Nick, but you creep me out, man).
    Now, neurally controlled chromatophores I’d consider.

  9. Muffin says

    Of course, the body modification crowd has the decided advantage of actually getting things done…

    To each their own, of course, it’s silly to chastise people for not going further when isn’t currently any way to go further. :)

    (Not that I otherwise don’t agree with you: there’s a ton of modifications I’d like to have done that are currently impossible and will likely stay so for a long time.)

  10. SeanH says

    I’ve always wondered what kind of brainpower would be needed to control a bunch of chromatophores.

    Flounders can do it, so my (totally uneducated) guess is it wouldn’t take much.

  11. Pdiff says

    Wow PZ! With those body mods, you could battle Spiderman! In the words of some famous person of dubious intellect, “Bring it on!” Your fans are waiting!


  12. figment says

    Ideally of course one would like to modify one’s genome on the fly, assimulate new gene code at will.

    How about the generating your own ink…..given the price of printer ink……

  13. Scientia says

    *cracks up* Nice to know that one of the preeminent science bloggers of our day is such a modest and undemanding guy.

    I don’t know of any cosmetic surgeons (or indeed, general or neurosurgeons), or any genetic researchers, who can produce any results at all in the areas in which you’re interested. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for any random fairy godmothers- or mutationally gifted Pastafarian pirates- though.

  14. Kseniya says

    I’ve always wondered what kind of brainpower would be needed to control a bunch of chromatophores. It would be incredibly cool to do that, but to do detailed changes such as being able to match backgrounds and the like would require quite a bit of concentration. It would be a lot more difficult than picking up an object with your hand.

    This is very interesting! I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that background-matching may not require any more concentration than other physiological responses such as, for example, getting goose-bumps on a cold day. The process is more complex, certainly, but may be no less automatic and may require no concentration whatsoever.

    I’m totally prepared to be COMPLETELY wrong about this. :-)

  15. Great White Wonder says

    I wish you had posted this earlier.

    Last week, in an effort to win your undying admiration, I had all my teeth removed and replaced with a hard beak-like structure for puncturing crab shells.


  16. OrchidGrowinMan says

    Well, I think that for FUNCTIONAL mods, we’ll have to start small; no inverting the retina for now. I’d be happy with the addition of a few autotrophic pathways for amino acid synthesis, fixing my broken acorbate synthesis (there’s a theory that some people MAY not have the bad mutation), and maybe an ethernet port. ‘Course, ink would be cool, and the ability to exsert my stomach would be great at parties. See the book by Greg Bear “Eon.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eon_%28novel%29

    Oh, and Pdiff: Why would PZ FIGHT Spiderman? I think Spidey would become his sidekick.

    Since PZ is a fan of the New York Dolls, let me add this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5P8lrgBtcU&NR=1
    Spiderman AND The Ramones!

  17. PikaPikaChick says

    I have to admit that when I first saw that picture you were the first person I thought of.


  18. lytefoot says

    OMZeus! siliCONE not siliCON PZ!

    Huh. You learn something new every day. I hadn’t realized those were distinct words. Thank you, elements kitteh!

  19. kmarissa says


    Although it isn’t in the article linked above, one commentor posting on a different article about this body mod explained something about the skin on underside the forearms being too thin to safely have this type of implant done there. I have no idea if that’s true.

  20. Michael X says

    Careful Inkadu,
    Adding gills to your body is known to cause tv and movie cameras to follow you around, creating large and dangerous box office bombshells. You may want to go for something like spider webs, or metal claws. Those seem to do well…

  21. Michael X says

    I wonder if there is any animal that does something similar to “suspension?” Which is hanging yourself from something by inserting metal hooks into your back.

    If not, then I think the body mod group might win in that case. Though, I’m not sure what the prize should be.

  22. Miykael Poly says

    I would skip with the suckers, but the ability to change ones skin color? YES please… Also I would want improved eyes, with wider receivable spectrum.

    For Self defence, I would take cat like claws mixed with the fangs of a poisonous snake. In essence a hollow retractable claw, that could be used to deliver poison. If one had to have suckers in their hand, I would have them in palm, so that when you strike with the poison claws your hand sticks long enough to deliver the poison.

    But most importantly I would want bone structure, that would not lose its calsium while in space.

  23. Spaulding says

    I’d be first in line for chromatophores. My understanding is that cephalopods have dedicated brain structures for managing chromatophores, which isn’t going to be something I can pick up at the corner tattoo parlor in my lifetime. However, I’m still optimistic – neural interfaces for controlling prostheses, wheelchairs, computer systems, etc. have shown the remarkable plasticity of the brain in its ability to adapt to control of new functional systems.

    Is anyone aware of any experiments that have introduced chromatophores to mammals?

  24. stogoe says

    We always talked about getting chloroplasts, but I enjoy the taste of food. Then again, it’s doubtful that I could really sustain myself on photosynthesis alone, unless I quit my job and became a naturist. Nah, I sunburn almost immediately upon exposure. Never mind.

    I really want to get my retinas flipped the right way around, though. No more seeing dimly through a web of capillaries for me, no sir. It may be a little disorienting at first, but I’m sure I would adjust.

    Oh, and chromatophores, of course. Who wouldn’t?

  25. Overstroming says

    Right on dude! We have no idea what it’s like to be as supremely adapted as our cephalopod superiors! I want jet propulsion, ink clouds, stealth camouflage and tentacles. I want them here, and I want them now!

  26. Vadjong says

    An elephants trunk for me, please. And some dolphin echo location, too.
    How ’bout a Pistol shrimp’s ehm .. pistol ?

    oooh, what possibilities ! Somebody call David Cronenberg !

  27. noncarborundum says

    Ideally of course one would like to modify one’s genome on the fly,

    Just as long as you don’t modify your genome with a fly. As Seth Brundle could tell you, that turns out to be a total bummer.

  28. says

    I’m with you on the color changing. I’ve always wanted that. Imagine our brains powering color changing skin? Lizards and stuff that do that are stupid, if they’re on a window, they match whatever they can see, as opposed to what a predator can see. so they see my patio, which is wooden, and i see grass, which is green. Guess what color the lizard is? brown. If it were green, i’d have a harder time picking it out against the background noise.
    Our brains would be able to process that a little easier i think, especially if it was part subconscious and part conscious. The subconscious part might get a little embarrassing at times – haha!

  29. Mary says

    Not getting excited until the suckers actually work and allow one to climb up walls like Spiderman Squidman.

  30. Doc Bill says

    Obviously the sucker was intelligently designed and is irreducibly complex.

    What use is half a sucker? Name an animal with either a suc or a ker. No, you can’t!

    And, your diagram proves it! Just look in the middle of the suc-ker and there it is big as day: IC.

    To cap it all note the “OC,” Obviously Complex.

    Explain that Mister Thinks He’s So Smart Biology Man.

  31. MikeM says

    You know, if it was me, I’d go for the flight implants. Wings, tail, feathers, the whole shebang.

    That’d be cool.

    Suckers. Hah! I laugh at your suckers!

  32. Michael X says

    The OC was created for suckers?

    It’s a catch22. The only way to know is to watch. But, you’re a sucker if ya do.

  33. SEF says

    The best things in life are free
    But I’m not talkin’ ’bout the birds and bees;
    Now give me suckers (that’s what I want)
    … yeah, that’s what I want.

    Your tattoos give me such a thrill,
    But your markings don’t lead to bills;
    Chromatophore cells (that’s what I want)
    … yeah, that’s what I want.

    Molluscs don’t get everything it’s true,
    What they don’t get I can’t use;
    Now give me suckers (that’s what I want)
    Chromatophore cells (that’s what I want)
    Oh yeah, those ceph’lopod eyes (that’s what I want)
    And also ink sacs (that’s what I want)
    … yeah, that’s what I want.

  34. Carlie says

    I don’t think I’d want chromatophores. From what I understand they can change with stress levels. I have a bad enough poker face as it is; I don’t need big color advertisements showing when I’m perturbed.

  35. says

    Reworked spine and knee, three more cone types in the eye, a mechanism for expelling bacterial cysts from the body, same thing for cancerous masses. Just a few items.

    Just thought of another, the ability to sense and manipulate electrical fields through the fingertips.

  36. says

    If biotechnology ever got advanced enough for a cephalopod-like color change graft, I’d just go for the best mod and extend my lifespan to something about… oh, 1000 years. Then I’d top it up for 5000 more.