How to Make a WITCHER with Science

How to Make a WITCHER with Science


(upbeat techno music)
(spider rattling) – Back you beasts, back! Being a witcher means walking a path filled with monsters and magic, but is there a way to make
a Geralt of Rivia for real? Let’s get technical, back! Gary jeez, I said, come on. (upbeat techno music) From the book and video game
series of the same name, a witcher is a professional
monster hunter, trained to be incredibly
proficient in combat and mutated to have all the
physical traits necessary to bring in supernatural bounties. I have spent a lot of time
with the Witcher game, so I think it’s finally
time to figure out how, in a world of hard fantasy, you could make a witcher in real life. Yeah, that only took a few hundred hours. First, what I love about
Witcher lore is that, although we are in a world
of spirits and magic, there is a reason. There are explanations
for everything happening, unlike explanations for how Superman flies or how the force works,
adorable though it may be. It’s explained why our
protagonist has the abilities that he does, what they can
do, and where he got them, and we will start with maybe
his most striking feature, cat eyes, that allow him
to see in the deepest caves and with perfect clarity
on the darkest nights. Cat-like eyes would be a seriously-useful biological modification. In cats, this ocular occurrence boosts low-light sensitivity by almost 50%. (fingers snapping) This allows felines to
render images from light that is imperceptible to humans, and they do this with what’s
called a tapetum lucidem. (object slamming)
Ooh, novacraft! (switch clicking)
(light bulb humming) Okay, many animals have a tapetem lucidem. It’s just a fancy name
for a very thin piece of reflective tissue that
sits inside of the eye, but behind the retina. Now when I first learned
about this structure, I just naively assumed how it worked. I thought that light rays
would enter the cat’s eye, and then bounce off the tapetem, and then get all over the
place and hit the retina more, and therefore just bestow
night vision, but no, there is much cooler physics going on. The tapetem lucidem is what’s
called a retroreflector which is any device that takes
incoming rays of radiation and reflects them back towards the source. In a cat’s eye, here’s what happens. So incoming light passes
into the cat’s eye, crosses the retina, and then
bounces off of the tapetem, but instead of scattering
the light just any which way which I naively thought would happen, instead reflects it back across the retina in the same orientation,
therefore enhancing the image through constructive interference. (fingers snapping)
This specific reflectivity is also why, when it’s very
dark and you shine a light at a cat’s eyes, they
appear to shine so much. Now I just have to find my way. (object slamming) Ooh, Triss Marigold, my shins! (shoes slapping) Humans lack a tapetem lucidem,
so suddenly developing them would require a radical
tissue transformation. At least witchers do go through
a whole-body metamorphosis like this during their
so-called Trial of the Grasses, and that adds a hint of plausibility here. Retroreflecting eyes would
gift Geralt and other witchers an edge in low-light conditions, giving their eyes a second
chance to observe monsters hiding in the darkness. Ah, a witcher actually
has to fight monsters once they find them, and so
that means we’re gonna be messing around with Geralt’s genes. Ah, that feels, ah top spiders! To keep up with Bruxa and
the rest of the bestiary, witchers, witchers are
treated with various mutagens which is a real term for
anything that can cause mutations in your cells,
your DNA, your genes. Your body is an
incomprehensibly-complicated machine, and so most of the time, mutations, changes to this delicate machine, are going to be harmful, and accordingly, most witchers treated with mutagens do not survive the process, but those that do become superhuman. Inside of the DNA in
one of your chromosomes right now sits the MSTN gene
which produces the chemical known as myostatin which
helps regulate muscle growth. As we’ve talked about
on a previous episode of this program, a mutation
to this gene can therefore lead to changes in the
expression of myostatin, a lack of myostatin even, and this can lead to
unregulated muscle growth, which leads to some abnormally-buff boys. I mean, just look at these
ripped cows and muscle mice and buff dogs and thick sheep. A mutagen could therefore
possibly mutate a witcher in a similar way, which
would increase muscle mass and strength, lower
body fat, and (mumbles) (harp music) I gotta, I gotta put
something away real quick. Don’t, don’t worry about it. Witchers lacking in myostatin
might be crazy-strong, but strength isn’t everything when tracking cockatrices
across a continent. (exhales) That’s why witchers also need superhuman endurance. When we talk about mutations
doing something to you or to a witcher, what we
specifically mean is changing DNA to change the chemicals
that are either produced or not produced inside of the body, and for monster-slaying stamina, we might look to the kidney. There, the ipogene produces
a chemical that encourages the production of red
(exhales) red blood cells. Sorry, I’m just a little tired. I’m just gonna meditate for a bit. Just, I’ll see you in a.
(clock ticking) Oh sorry, that must have
looked really weird to you. What side quest were
we on, red blood cells? Oh, yeah, right. Right now inside of
your circulatory system, your lungs are transferring oxygen into your red blood cells. The oxygen binds to a
molecule known as hemoglobin, and then those red blood
cells and that hemoglobin go throughout the body,
and then deliver oxygen to all of your tissues that need it. This process is especially important for hard-working muscles. In theory then, more
red blood cells flowing throughout your body would
mean more oxygen delivery and better performance for your muscles when you’re swinging silver swords around. If a witcher was mutated
to produce more ipoprotein and therefore produce more red blood cells than the average human,
they might get the stamina they need to face down all
of there world’s horrors. We know that it would
at least do something because right now in our world, humans are abusing ipoprotein
to get an edge in sport with blood-doping.
(spider rattling) Jeez, Craig, come on man! Super strength and cat eyes are great, but a witcher won’t last
very long unless their bodies can handle all the damage
that they’re dished out. Does it look cool at least? Witchers can heal damage like cuts, burns, and bruises extremely quickly. They have to. Your genes of course
play a role in regulating the repair and replacement of your body, and so witcher mutagens
could feasibly make a swipe from some spirit much
less of a death sentence. Ow, come on! As we’ve gone through
before on this program when talking about Deadpool and Wolverine, wound-healing is one of
the most complex things that your body does, and
so a simple mutation, like a single mutation,
is unlikely to produce witcher-like healing. However, there are a number
of different growth factors, chemicals, proteins like vascular
endothelial growth factor that a witcher’s mutated
cells could produce more of to accelerate their own healing
in response to some damage Ah, the healing won’t be perfect,
but scars are cool, right? (Kyle growling) Mastering magic and silver
swords and a library’s worth of monster facts takes time,
and so the final witcher trait that separates them from
society is their life span. In the books and games, Geralt
appears to be around 40, but in reality is closer to 100. Time just doesn’t affect a
witcher’s body in the same way. I mean, just look at Henry Cavil. (Kyle blowing) The most accepted general
theory for why we age is that over time, the
body just builds up damage. Cellular repair mechanisms fail. Mutations, harmful ones, accumulate, and organs and cellular
structures, proteins, all that stuff just
changes enough to cause the general condition known
as not being alive any more. Aging is very complicated, but there might be a number
of ways a witcher could theoretically extend their
lifespan and winds howling. Sorry, I have to say
that every few minutes. A witcher could be changed
in a number of ways to increase longevity, but I
wanna focus on just one way that mutated genes and
cells might help with. This is a dot diagram of elemental oxygen, and notice that instead of
the normal eight electrons in its outer-most shell,
this only has seven. Do you know what that makes it? You’ve heard the term before. This is a free radical. Atoms and molecules missing an
electron, especially oxygen, become electron-hungry. In the presence of other electrons, say on other atoms and molecules, they can rip these electrons
away to become whole again. This, when it goes unchecked
in something like a body, can change how those atoms and molecules interact with the body, causing
that accumulating damage that aging, disease, and eventually death. Here’s what I’m suggesting. Geralt and other witchers,
through mutagens, have an increased resistance
to this oxidative stress within the body which could theoretically increase their lifespan. In fact, this increased
resistance has been linked in our world in a number of
studies to increased lifespan. It wouldn’t make Geralt immortal, but it could make him
as vivacious as Vesemir for decades, centuries even. But not like Vesemir though because he snapped his neck, he’s dead. So how do you make a witcher for real? Well, the canon here I think
is more or less correct. You would want to exact
pressure on Geralt’s genetics to theoretically increase
his stamina and lifespan and get him all ripped,
though more radical changes would be necessary for
something like cat eyes. The Witcher may be full
of monsters and magic, but in real life, if Geralt
was a true professional, it would be because science. See you in like three days or whatever. (upbeat techno music) There’s one more witcher
aspect that we didn’t touch on, and that’s sterility. Witchers are also sterile,
and I don’t know if they do this on purpose to witchers,
or it’s just a side effect. I don’t know all the lore, but it has some ethical implications. If you make something that is
genetically modified sterile, it cannot pass on those
genes to other generations, to its offspring, and so this
could be a way for witchers to make sure that they’re
the only ones who have to go through life with all these mutations because they cannot pass them on, and this is a real concern in bioethics. If we alter people down
at the genetic level, they could pass on
those genetics to people who didn’t choose to
be altered in that way, so the sterility is
actually a very interesting bioethical conundrum, and again, you find it in hard fantasy, I love that. I also like the hairdo.
(logo chiming)