On the Hunger Games trilogy

Not So Weird Science

Why Tracker Jackers and Other Mutts Might Be Coming Soon to a Lab Near You

By Cara Lockwood

I will admit right now that I am entirely too critical of most sci-fi. I’m the one sitting in the movie theater grumbling, “that could never happen.” Or, more concisely, I’ll just say: “Seriously?”

Could there be some crazy disease somewhere in a lab that would turn the entire planet into brain-eating zombies or sunlight-fearing vampires? No way. Beefing up shark brains to make them super-smart predators? I don’t think so. Crazed prehistoric- sized piranhas that will devour anybody with an inflatable floatie and a cooler? Please. They want us to believe this stuff?

Like take the insane DNA-spliced mutant monsters that make terrifying cameos throughout the Hunger Games. I’m supposed to believe that one day we could be ripped apart by mutant wolves with tribute eyes? Stung by poisonous and relentless tracker jackers? Or get devoured by giant lizard men?

Seriously?

As it turns out . . . maybe so.

Not only do muttations–“mutts” for short–already exist in our world, but the stuff real scientists are doing is far wackier and sometimes scarier than what we see in the Hunger Games–if you can imagine that.

In this essay, you’ll read about some of the movie-worthy stuff going on in labs right now that makes jabberjays seem quaint. We’ll talk about why real-life sci-fi is way scarier than anything you might find in the Hunger Games, and about the lesson we can learn from Panem about not playing God and using science wisely.

But first: let’s talk about the science that makes mutts possible: genetic engineering.

Could Tracker Jackers Exist?

In the real world, genetic engineering–the science of altering DNA by adding or subtracting genes in order to create  …

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