Sex and Einstein
As surely as you breathe the air around you, while you are reading this there are humans engaged in reproduction near you. Sex. The prime directive of life itself, to merge your gametes with another of your species in order to produce offspring. All life that reproduces sexually, from the lowliest microscopic plants and animals, to humans, whales and elephants, produce a gamete, a reproductive cell with one half the normal numbers of chromosomes for that species. Males produce sperm, females produce eggs. Life, all life, everywhere, is about getting those two together. However possible, and whenever possible.
We humans produce gametes with 23 chromosomes each, one half of the 46 chromosomes needed to make a living human being. Each chromosome is made up of individual genes, some 21,500 of them. Each gene, has millions, well, really hundreds of millions, of variants possible for it. No two people will ever have the same fingerprints, or the same retinal configuration. The possible variations are too immense, too great too even comprehend. Some of us look similar, same hair color, same facial structure, same shape; the genes that control these attributes have relatively small variance within them. But there will always be differences. The internal structure of the human body has even fewer differences, the same heart, the same lungs, and the same liver. Or nearly the same anyway. When Albert Einstein died, his autopsy revealed that the artery leading to his brain was one millimeter larger in diameter than the average human. One millimeter larger allows for an increased blood flow to the brain; and it seems, at least in this instance, to promote greater intelligence. Or perhaps, an ability to comprehend that is greater than average. The likelihood of that specific combination of genes occurring and being in dominance, the chances of this anomaly producing a viable human baby is about one in one billion. Einstein, probably Descartes, Newton , Galileo, and a few others had it. And in the last 30 years or so, five more viable human embryos have been produced with it. These are their stories.
Late one evening toward the end of June, 1988 just outside of Ruhingari in Rwanda , Mbo was lying between his wife Gyosh’s thighs thrusting inside of her. She was too tired to care what he did, malnourished, and with her stomach already distended, her 4 month old daughter suckling from her left breast and her 3 year old son sitting off to one side crying himself to sleep from hunger; she cared little as to what he did. That morning she had walked nearly 8 miles with a bundle of sticks that had taken her almost 4 hours to collect from the thinning jungle so that they would have firewood to cook their meager food. He had carried 10 gallons of water the 10 miles from the stream 4 times so that he could water the beans and potatoes on the tiny plot of ground behind the dirt floored shack in which they now were having frantic sex. He was tired too, but the driving force of all life itself; that of reproduction, forced him to mount his wife for the act of procreation.
Thrusting deeply as he neared his climax, he deposited a small amount of sperm into her. By morning, as she made a small fire inside the shack to warm some weak porridge for their morning meal; the sperm were finally at their destination. Thousands of sperm were wiggling, beating in a frenzy of activity that belied the condition of the donor as they attempted to gain entrance into the egg that had just the morning before been released from the ovary above. As one sperm breaks through the weakening membrane of the egg, it swims toward the nucleus, their chromosomes meet. Life begins.
Another day of drudgery follows another, and another. Rain comes once, but deposits little enough to stave off drought. Daily the journeys are made to bring water, fuel, and the sustenance of life. The river is drier, more tainted with the feces of local cattle. The forest is over harvested of fuel, and greater distances must be traveled to gather fewer and fewer sticks. Beans, seeds from local grasses and shriveled potatoes along with some local green weeds that are not too bitter comprise their diet. Slowly the embryo grows within the womb of Gyosh. The needs of the new life superseding that of her own as more and more nutrients are scavenged from her body to fuel the growth. Gyosh’s digestive system expands and swells in a desperate attempt to maximize the absorption of nutrients that she ingests.
Two hundred and fifty-three days after the joining of their gametes, a baby girl is born to Gyosh. Two weeks premature, Gyosh’s body could no longer sustain the drain of energy. The child was named Gyono, after her grandmother. The next morning she was a parcel of living being that now had to be carried the 8 miles to the forest where she clung to her mother who collected sticks to bundle for firewood. And then carried back along with the next days’ worth of fuel. A tiresome and demanding ordeal for anyone, but especially so for one that is malnourished and recovering from childbirth.
Gyono grew slowly, the drought that ravaged her country continued, and food was ever scarcer. At age four, she was playing near the roadway that led from their home toward the river. RPA soldiers driving toward Kigali saw what they believed to be a Hutu child standing at the roadside. In retaliation of all their perceived atrocities against their Tutsi brethren, there was a single shearing slice of a machete thrust out the rear of the truck that wildly sliced off the upper portion of her left arm, just below the elbow. Gyono stared at the stump as the blood squirted out and onto the ground around her. Glassy eyed, she felt the pain as a dull change in her immediate environment, but was unable to comprehend what had happened. Although the arteries leading to her brain were larger than normal, the malnourishment she suffered in the womb, and in infancy caused developmental retardation and brain atrophy.
Gyono continued to look at the stump as the blood squirted out onto the ground around her. As the blood level in her system diminished, so did the spray. Finally she collapsed on the roadside, unconscious. Within two minutes her heart stopped beating due to lack of blood in her system. Her mother found her there several hours later when she returned bearing her bundle of sticks. Opportunity for greatness, lost due to conflicts in ancestral strife.
In late November of 1995 Jiang had just received a promotion at the manufacturing plant where both he and his wife Huidai worked in Tianjin China. On his way home that evening he was already planning the ways that they would spend the increase in their income. They would be able to afford to move from the 400 square foot apartment they now rented and up to a luxurious 2 bedroom 720 square foot palace on the upper floor of the same building. Better food, even fresh beef would not just be a luxury anymore, but a staple. And of course, a child. They were only allowed the one child, and now they could really afford one.
His job at the factory had been one of drudgery and mind numbing tedium as he soldered small parts into place for the components of the laptop computers that were for Americans. Then one day 8 months previously, one of the American supervisors had been stopped by the police in the downtown night club district. Jiang was on his way to meet Huidai and had just happened to see the altercation. He interceded in the supervisor’s behalf and spoke to the officers and calmed down the misunderstanding. The next day Jiang was called into the office and given a different job, one with responsibilities. He worked hard and now, this new promotion, and new wealth.
Jiang came home with a bottle of American wine, and a package of beef, marinating in onions, ginger and sesame oil. Huidai was surprised to see him nearly a half hour earlier than when he should be home, and was delighted at the news. The beef was cooked, the wine was drunk, and furious lovemaking was done, in several places in the apartment. And in their slightly inebriated state, the use of a condom was forgotten. By the next evening, their gametes had merged and new life had begun.
Success came easily to Jiang and he prospered at his position. After four months, when Huidai began to look a bit rounder in her midsection, they both told their friends and family the news. Jiang spared none of the new found payroll and bought the best fresh fruit, vegetables and meats for her to eat so they could give their child every advantage. Huidai blossomed and became happier with each day as she awaited the birth. They moved upstairs and outfitted the extra bedroom with toys and baseball decorations preparing for the birth of their son.
When the day of the birth was upon them, Huidai’s mother was there to serve as midwife. After 30 hours of labor, she finally gave birth, to a beautiful perfect baby girl, pretty even at birth; and with enlarged arteries leading to her well formed brain. Jiang looked at the baby, and then left the room. Nothing was said between Huidai and her mother as the old woman bundled the baby up in a blanket and walked out. Jiang would not even look her way as she left the apartment. She hurried out of the building and walked a half hour until she came to the river. There, at the river’s edge, she took some large stones and inserted them into the blanket with the baby. She tied the blanket up and dropped it into the dark waters. Then she returned to her own home. The next day Jiang went to work and was greeted with the question of how the baby was doing. Jiang would lower his head and say that unfortunately the baby had been still born. No one asked the sex of the baby, it was understood that it had been female. No more was ever said again about it. Opportunity once again, lost. Nurtured, and then drowned for the fatal mistake of being female in a growing society that prizes male offspring.
In late May 1991 just outside of Jerusalem , Tzabar had just finished his duties as one of the guards directing traffic in and out of the West Bank . Riding back to the Jewish part of the city in the army transport along with the other guards, he was anxious to remove the uniform and return to the apartment and wait for his bride Hadara. Married just three months now, they were spending most of their time in the bedroom, as young lovers do. Today was the last of her finals at University. Tzabar was anxious to learn how well she had done. Brilliant, beautiful, she was more than he had ever imagined could happen to him. Why she chose to be with him he was still uncertain, at just twenty, she would graduate now with her bachelor’s in physics. Today's grades would of course determine her placement in the graduating class; either first or second. She would of course continue on to graduate school and with the financial aid and scholarships being offered to her they would not have any trouble maintaining their lifestyle.
Tzabar had just gotten out of the shower when he heard her running up the stairs to their apartment. As he stepped out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around him, Hadara burst into the room. She stopped short when she saw him standing in the doorway. Dropping her slacks in a move that amazed Tzabar, she was next to him tearing off her top as her mouth met his. Her tongue was searching his as she huskily breathed into his mouth, "Want to make love to the valedictorian?" Before he could answer, she had thrown him on the bed. Her enthusiasm was incredible, and infectious. Before midnight, they had made love three times. By mid afternoon, his gametes joined with hers, and new life had begun.
Three months went by and Hadara was working on details of what she hoped would be a brilliant master's thesis. She stopped suddenly and looked panic stricken. It suddenly dawned on her that she had missed her period twice now. Horror stricken, she ran to the phone to call Tzabar to tell him. She believed this to be a bad thing, too much interference into her time needed to finish her Master's and then her Doctorate. As he came to the phone she breathlessly told him her fears, and then answered him about how the birth control pills are not effective 100% of the time. Tzabar then reassured her about how everything would work out all right. His compulsory service with the military would be ending before the baby would ever be born, the baby could be cared for by him and their lives and family would go on, just sooner than they had planned.
Six months later, Shai was born. A beautiful baby girl with a well developed brain and enlarged arteries leading to it. As she grew in the little apartment in Jerusalem everyone around her was amazed. She walked at age 9 months, she spoke in intelligible sentences by age 2 and at age 3 and a half was reading both English and Hebrew. No one was surprised given how intelligent her mother was. On Shai's fourth birthday Tzabar was downtown waiting for Hadara to arrive at the restaurant so they could celebrate. A Palestinian man walked into the restaurant wearing a large heavy overcoat, not so unusual for that time of year. The 20 sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest were what were unusual. Taking a seat at the table next to Tzabar and Shia, he furtively watched the actions of those around him. When Tzabar saw Hadara at the front door he rose to be seen. The already nervous Palestinian at that moment squeezed the trigger on his bomb, secure in the knowledge that his handlers were correct and that he was on his way to Paradise and his blessed virgins. Hadara's white lab coat was splattered with bits of blood and flesh from her husband and daughter as she was blown out the doorway and into the street. Opportunity lost once again in a violent conflagration of ideology.
Just after Christmas in 1993 Radnath was walking home late one evening from his job as clerk in a men's pleasure store on the south side of the red light district in Amsterdam . Walking home he was anxious to get to work on the computer that he had cobbled together from a mish mash of parts he had traded for over a bulletin board on the new system of communication called the World Wide Web. Walking just a bit faster as he relived the excitement he felt at the discovery of all the pornography he had found. Although he sold VCR tapes of all sorts of sexual varieties at his job, this was something new, something that aroused him sexually, and stimulated his intellect with the entire concept of this new "internet". As he walked past the alleyway just before his street, a call came at him from the shadows. "Radnath, is that you? Where are you going in such a hurry?"
Stopping abruptly at the call of his name, he thought he recognized the voice coming at him from the dark. "Sacha, is that you? Why are you here in the alley, why aren't you at the shop working?"
Stepping out into the light, she looked pale and drawn, "I have been out with this terrible flu for over a week now. They won't let me back in to work for a few more days. I was just out for a bit of fresh air. Hey Rad, if you aren't scared of a few flu bugs remaining, I could give you a quickie cheap."
On several occasions, Radnath had availed himself of her services. Now the thought of actual sex was interfering with the excitement he had been feeling toward his computer. But real sex, and at a discount, was always better than looking at pictures. They took off toward his apartment, arms interlocked, and negotiating price. Once there, they raced up the three flights of stairs and burst into the little studio. Turning on the light, Sacha asked him to keep it off. In the dim illumination from the street light below, they undressed then jumped into the unmade bed against the wall. He climaxed inside her and only then did he realize that she had not placed a condom on him first. By mid morning the next day, his sperm had found an opening in the cell wall of her egg and their gametes had joined together to begin a new life. However, a tiny drop of vaginal secretion that had been on the tip of his penis after his climax had already been absorbed into his blood stream and the HIV retrovirus was attaching itself to his CD4*T cells.
Three weeks later Radnath came down with what seemed to be a cold. Within 9 years he would die alone, having never sought any treatment for his AIDS. He never saw Sacha again, she had gone back to live with her parents on their farm outside Amhem in the Gelderland . As the flu she thought she had never abated, she was unable to work. Then the rashes began and she developed persistent pneumonia. There were no other options left. Her parents welcomed her back, and were happy to hear that she was pregnant with their first grandchild.
In late September she gave birth to a son, Maeykin. With enlarged carotid arteries and HIV retroviruses pumping through his system, the only partially developed immune system of the newborn was rapidly overrun. Growing slowly, he was a sickly child. By his second birthday he had had recurring bronchitis, pneumonia, numerous staph infections and Kaposi's carcinoma. Sacha had died before he was 6 months old, and now Maeykin's grandparents were left with the task of caring for this potential genius. Poor farm people that worked hard all their lives, they knew little of what to do for a child that was never healthy, never well, never thriving. Good sturdy food did little for him and just after turning 6 he was buried next to his mother in the family plot overlooking the farm. Opportunity devastated by an insidious virus.
Late October 2006, with her left foot awkwardly balanced on the center console and her right leg dangling out the window of the Maserati, Karen was barely able to find enough leverage to thrust herself up and down. Wishing he had completely pulled his pants down instead of just unzipping them, she knew she was getting a raw abrasion on the inside of her thigh from the zipper. Just as she was about to tell him that she could not continue, he gasped and closed his eyes, turning his head upward in a motion and movement that she had quickly become familiar with, he orgasmed. Selfishly occupied with his own pleasure, he squeezed both of her breasts as though trying to harvest the last tiny bit out of the toothpaste tube.
Pulling herself up, she threw her leg over his head and plopped back onto the passenger seat. She rapidly grabbed her panties and raised herself up to pull them on thereby avoiding his admonishing her to not stain the leather with his semen.
“Why can’t we get a hotel room?” she asked.
“Because of the risk of being found out, I can’t have anyone finding out that we are having this little relationship dear. Just a little bit longer, after the election and I am once again returning to Washington to represent the good people of this state, then we can think about a divorce, and then, you and I can begin our lives together.”
“Oh you are so full of it Derek. Are you really going to divorce your wife and marry me?”
Looking deep into her eyes he lied as eloquently as any politician that has achieved the status of Congressman can, “Yes, Karen, you know that I love you more than anything in this world and want to make you Mrs. Congressman Reynolds.”
With that, she smiled; laid her head on his chest and smiled again as she breathed in the delightful smells of their recent sex coming from his lap. She sighed, and thought what the hell; she would do him again for saying those things and took him in her mouth for a second go around. Later that night as he drove her to the end of her block and carefully searched for any prying eyes before he let her out of the car; she realized that she had not taken her birth control pills with her when they had gone on the campaign trip. Three days without a pill, well, she thought, she would just take them all tonight. By morning the rash along the inside of her left thigh was irritatingly red and raw, and their gametes had joined together in the creation of new life.
Karen saw the Congressman one more time after that. Sex, in his Maserati again. But then after the election, he became unavailable. Thanking everyone that helped him win the election, he stood hand in hand with his wife at the victory party on election night. Karen was in the banquet room, off with the other campaign workers celebrating their success. As the campaign wound down, the office was closed and packed up, only a few of the staff were going to Washington to continue working within the Congressman’s permanent staff. Or as permanent as a politician’s staff can be.
Later, at the ceremony for his swearing into office, she was three months pregnant and desperate to speak to him. He had successfully avoided her for those entire three months. She was off to one side of the congressman as he was congratulated by dignitaries attending the inaugural dinner. Karen worked her way through the crowd toward him. Jostling between the hordes, she found herself next to Mrs. Reynolds, standing on the right hand side of her husband the Congressman. She reached across and grabbed his hand before he could say anything and deftly slipped the note into his hand. “Congratulations on winning for a third term congressman, all of us that helped you want to wish you the best.” And he stared at her blankly, feeling the note, saying nothing as the shock of seeing her next to his wife showed on his face.
Waiting for a week for him to respond, Karen felt helpless. Now without a job and her cash reserve nearly gone, she wondered what to do. Hope had finally evaporated. It was obvious that his need for her was sexual, and that he had no intentions of fulfilling the promises he made. Just as she was picking up the phone to dial her parents and ask to come home to live with them, the doorbell rang. A well dressed man, a drone for the Congressman. I was there to offer her money. Money and silence. A young woman without prospects, without money, without hope, she accepted.
Later she had the abortion, and continued to accept gratuity from the congressman for her continued silence. Opportunity lost once again, for convenience, to cover up an indiscretion, and to forward the life of a young woman who was no longer innocent.
And what has been lost to humankind with the loss of these potential geniuses. Who can guess, perhaps solving the hydrogen fusion problem, or defining vaccines against AIDS. Or even discovering methods of feeding the world’s population with the limited resources we have left. As the population continues to grow unchecked the possible permutations that will engender more viable children with the enlarged artery anomaly will increase as well. But as malnutrition, disease, war, poverty, persecution and genocide pervade our world, what will become of the next ones. It is up to us, but then our future, as always, is up to us.