The Death Of “Ming”

It was just a clam, living peacefully in the briny deep off the coast of Iceland.  Its existence was simple and unremarkable.  It siphoned water in and filtered it for food and oxygen, as clams do.  It was content and as happy as, well, a clam.

But this clam was a bit different.  It had lived for centuries, capably performing the simple functions it needed to survive.  It first began its life sometime around the year 1500, when Henry VII was the King of England and Nicolaus Copernicus was getting ready to announce his theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun and not the other way around.  The clam lived in those cold Icelandic waters, not bothering a soul, as Shakespeare wrote his epic plays, as Newton developed the theory of gravity, as the American Revolution and the French Revolution changed the world, as wars were fought and genocides raged and fashions changed and railroads and motor cars and airplanes and rocket ships were invented.

Then, in 2006, the clam’s fortune changed.  “Researchers” found the clam and realized that it was incredibly old.  They called it “Ming,” after the Chinese dynasty in power when the clam first came into the world, even though the clam really didn’t have that name, or any name.  The researchers didn’t know precisely how old the clam was, however, and were of an inquisitive mindset — so they concluded that they should open the clam to try to precisely determine its true age.  The clam was not consulted in this decision.

In the process of opening the clam to satisfy their curiosity, the scientists killed the clam — which may have been the oldest living creature in the world.  Sometimes, science is just like that.  Sometimes, curiosity kills the clam.

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