In the fifties, the threat of a nuclear obliteration was clear and present. MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) doctrine guaranteed almost zero survivability of human species in case of a nuclear exchange. The aftermath of such exchange would almost certainly trigger a global biotic crisis or an extinction-level event.
Initially most of the protection efforts were focused on immediate effects of a nuclear strike, i.e. habitat destruction, structural damage to the buildings and infrastructure, lack of essentials (food, water, medical assistance…), and later collapse of economy and society.
However, the real threat to the few humans who would survive the initial ordeal would be radiation. A harsh DNA-splitting radiation that would wipe what’s left of humanity off the face of the Earth in agonizing pain and unimaginable suffering.
It was clear that in order to repopulate scorched Earth, something had to be done, fast. Evolution of the human body needed to be catalyzed, put on a fast track, to eventually achieve radiation-resilience. But dealing with human embryos and feti, would inevitably cause many ethical barriers and mass outrage, resentment and indignation, similar to that of Japan’s Unit 731.
Fearing excessive oversight and red tape, US government bypassed AEC (United States Atomic Energy Commission) and formed a Biological Atomic-Radiation Resistant Organism/Newborn (BARRON), a covert operation responsible only to top echelons of US Armed Forces.
BARRON’s main goal was to create a human-like organism resistant to any kind of particle radiation. There were numerous of tasks to be addressed. One of top priorities was human’s bone structure, deemed one of the weakest points in battling radiation. Bone complications of radiation include osteopenia, growth arrest, fracture, and malignancy, to name just a few. Radiation-proof frame (skeleton) was considered a foundation of any medium to large organisms and as was as such addressed first.
After few years of intensive research and tests, scientists concluded that the main problem is metal calcium, a keystone in bone’s rigidity and strength. They proposed replacing calcium with another, more inert and heavier metal. After intense studies, gold was chosen as a replacement metal in bone structure.
Not only is gold much heavier and most inert material, but it can also be constantly produced in extremely toxic environments. Scientists discovered that the metal-tolerant bacteria Cupriavidus Metallidurans can grow on massive concentrations of gold chloride, a toxic chemical compound found in nature. Researchers fed the bacteria unprecedented amounts of gold chloride, mimicking the process in nature. In about a week, the bacteria transformed the toxins and produced a Voronoi-like fibrous golden mesh.
BARRON’s top Army brass decided to test the results on human embryo. Scientists were reluctant at first but then caved under the pressure. After they found a suitable donor in 1952, researchers started to slowly replace calcium with gold in organism’s structure. When organism reached fetus phase, 50% of all calcium was successfully replaced with gold.
Keeping the fetus in gold chloride solution, eventually all calcium was replaced. However, the problem was, that the organism didn’t physically develop past the fetus-phase. Still, it developed psychically and mentally.
By the 8th month, the organism, still suspended in chloride solution, started to communicate with researchers. After one year, the organism, now lovingly called “The Golden Boy”, was cognitively on par with normal toddlers. But sadly, the organism soon started to lag behind and stopped developing on 38th month, clinical growth arrest occured on day one of 39th month.
On 40th month organism’s well being turned to the worse. After a month of inactivity, the bacteria went into overdrive and stared producing gold at a way faster rate that expected, resulting in malignant growths on it’s skull, eventually seriously damaging the brain tissue. Bones resembled cancerous growths on normal calcium-based bone material.
After numerous unsuccessful attempts to stop the disease and restart the development process, BARRON’s top echelon decided to end the project.
It was later found that replacing CaH4P2O8 in the bones with gold (both have similar molar mass) would actually render the skeleton radiation-resistant. Sadly, like many advanced projects in the 50s, BARRON was permanently terminated.
Golden Boy’s skeleton was preserved and is now kept in a souvenir box at Nellis Air Force Base Complex in Nevada.