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The Norn Lab

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The Drozzy Norn Project

Perhaps it is the very cuteness of Norns that has led some people to make them immortal. The aim of the Drozzy Project is to breed the opposite- Norns that breed quickly and then die. From an evolutionary perspective immortality is not that interesting. In one sense immortality was achieved long ago by creatures that reproduce through binary fission - they do not get old. To die they must be eaten. Death is what makes evolution possible and evolution has produced such wondrous creatures as butterflies, chameleons and humans. So, the aim of the Drozzy project is not to produce Norns with longevity - this is nice for individual norns, but bad for evolution. To see evolution in action you need self-sustaining populations.

The Drozzy project was initiated with this in mind and inspired by the humble fruit fly. Evolutionary studies are easier with animals that have short generation spans. This is one reason why fruit flies have been the mainstay of so many genetic and evolutionary studies. Norns already have shorts life spans (around 10 hours) and, as such, provide a useful evolutionary subject. The Drozzy Project seeks to reduce this further. Why "Drozzy"? This was the affectionate name we gave to Drosophila (the fruit fly) as Zoology students.
The fruit fly has another great asset. It produces many eggs at the same time. Norns, as you will gather from the FAQS available on the Internet, are only capable of producing one egg at a time. As far as I know, there is no way of producing norns that are genetically capable of doing better than this. But, that doesn't mean they can't do it. It's cheating a bit, but I have produced a Cob that will enable your norns to have twins- yes, twins! This will help to ensure a stable population size for your feral runs.

C1 Drozzy Norn

Two norns: male and female.

Life-cycle speeded-up.

Can mate within the hour from birth.

Amorous gene: sex drive increase not punished.

Lethal gene switches on in late adulthood.

Longevity about three hours.

C2 Drozzy Norn

Two norns: male and female.

Life-cycle speeded up.

Can mate within twenty minutes from birth!

Very Amorous.

Lethal gene removed due to public demand.

Longevity about seven hours

Speciation Norns

The pack contains a Norn couple (Hugh and Shirley) named in honour of evolutionary biologist, Professor Paterson and his wife.

The norns require the speciation Cob.

Hugh originated the concept of Specific Mate Recognition Systems that has a much better theoretical underpinning than the Biological Species Concept.

Speciation Cob

For the first time norns can genuinely speciate. In speciation, a population of norns changes into two populations that have different specific mate recognition systems (SMRS's). Note that speciation is not the same as morphological divergence. It sometime happens in nature that two species, called sibling species, do not interbreed and yet are morphologically indistinguishable. Once speciation has occurred, genes will no longer mix and the populations can continue to diverge in other ways. Notice that while speciation can now occur in Norns, it does not mean that they have no creator. Just as I should get   some credit for the speciation process in the Noirn world, shouldn't God get credit for speciation in our world?


I injected 12 Norns + 8 eggs from a cross between Sylvestris and Miranda into the Terra Nornia world. After 36 hours the population was still going strong with lots of eggs. In this time, about 10 generations, over 200 Norns were born. The average life span of the norns was three hours. They started reproducing within the first hour. Here is a system that lends itself to studying simulated evolution. The experiment can be run for a week (say) and the ancestral and descendant genomes compared. One could gradually introduce some new stress into the environment (e.g. extra grendels) and observe how the Norn population responds.

One run, using the Live-bearing Brood Size Determinator and Puffer Fish, lasted 11 generations with two norns remaining. A generation lasts about one hour. The population was started with 10 Generation One eggs. The Cactus Killer Cob was not used.

How do you make Drozzies?

I cross bred quick reproducing Bunny Norns, quick aging Norns and hardy Norns all of which are available on the WWW (see links below). I let the Norns get on with life with as little intervention from me as possible. This is called a feral run. (My daughter, who doesn't share my sentiments, very occasionally gets into the programme and tries to revive sick Norns). Generally, however, those Norns who can't make it on their own don't pass their genes onto the next generation. Further, the offspring were genetically engineered to develop quickly.  An extra gene, the "pasture gene" (a euphemism for lethal gene), was added to the C1 norn genomes.

Beyond Albia

I suppose I should try to justify this tough approach to all you norn-lovers out there. It seems to me that there is something deficient about my Norns if I have to constantly intervene and something elegant about Norns that evolve independence. The genius of Creatures is that such a world is possible. It is made possible through evolution. My training in evolutionary biology has, naturally, left me fascinated by the power of natural selection. I am also absorbed by questions about the meaning of evolution. Interestingly, the Albian world can help us think through the issues.

The Meaning of Albian Evolution

The world of Albia can help us avoid some of the pitfalls in thinking about the question of the meaning of evolution. We have to do a thought experiment. Imagine that Norns developed sufficient intelligence to contemplate their existence. Eventually they might conclude that they are products of an evolutionary process. A Norn might even make a statement similar to the celebrated one of G G Simpson in his book "The Meaning of Evolution" (1967): "Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind". No doubt our evolutionist Norn will get flack from some creationist norns. "How could something as wonderful as us come from a mindless process," they might exclaim, "impossible!"

Now, it is easy to get into some muddled thinking. There are several ways to interpret our evolutionist Norn. In one interpretation he or she is merely saying that purpose cannot be read off from evolutionary history. The process itself is mindless. To find mind in the process is locate the programmer, or programmers, in the wrong place. Another interpretation is the far more ambitious claim that Norns have no purpose. This would be a logical leap. Norns might have a purpose that they cannot see from within their frame of reference. Well, clearly they do have a purpose. They provide fun to users and income to programmers.


But how could Norns know that? How could a Norn possibly find purpose and meaning to its life? The thought that are merely  an evolutionary accident might drive the sensitive Norn to despair. (The alternative - that they provide amusement to humans - isn't great either but it is arguably better than no point to their existence). How could we reassure a Norn that its life has meaning in a world beyond Albia?

It's difficult. From the Norns perspective we are not very real. The closest they get to interfacing with us visually is a disembodied hand which seems less than a worthy object for faith. From our perspective the problem is that the Norns are not real enough. If they were made of flesh and blood we could communicate better.


One could imagine technology developing to the point whereby a programmer could reconstitute himself as a Norn into Albia. The programmer could confront other norns with the fact that he or she is not merely a norn, but the programmer of the Albian universe. The question to other Norns is how could they know? Anyone can make claims. An unusual entrance into and exit out of the world and ability to alter the laws of the programme amongst other things should alert Norns that the programmer-Norn is not bound to natural process. He or she has access to something beyond Albia.


Humans and Norns share a similar problems in discovering meaning. There could be a world beyond ours. Some artificial life researchers have reported the creepy feeling that, just maybe, as they gaze upon their own creations of life, Someone could be gazing upon them. A creepy feeling is not a good basis for belief. But what is? The trouble is that our sensory abilities are inadequate to the task. If there is a Programmer behind the universe He or She does not seem very real to us. From the perspective of the Programmer it is us who are not very real! How could the problem be solved?


One way for the Programmer to bridge the gulf would be to import Himself or Herself as flesh and blood in our world. An unusual entrance and exit into our world would alert us of an "intrusion" from "outside" as would the ability to alter the laws of the game. We would also discover the Programmer's character. For instance, merely condescending to enter our world reveals a remarkable humility.


The question for us as humans is whether such a thing has happened in our history. If so, it suggests that there is something beyond our evolutionary world. Meaning and purpose can be found -not through evolution - but beyond it. Strange as it might seem it does seem to have happened once. Would you like to find out more?  Contact me 


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