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Explore the Homunculus

41490_big"Homunculus" is a great word.

Classically, it is described as a frankenstein-like creature created with assistance from the black arts. Designed to serve its master, it would often take on a mind of its own. Think 'The Dummy' episode from The Twilight Zone or the creature from Dr. Who's "The Talons of Weng Chiang".

"The alchemist Paracelsus once proposed that he had created a false human being through his science. Called a homunculus, this creature stood no more than 12 inches tall and does the work usually associated with a golem. However, after a short time, the homunculus was known to turn on it's creator and run away. The recipe consisted of a bag of bones, sperm, skin fragments and hair from any animal you wanted it to be a hybrid of. This was to be laid in the ground surrounded by horse manure for forty days, at which point the embryo would form. This supposed beast relied upon the theories of spontaneous generation."
After this metaphysical definition fell out of favor, the homunculus became known as the microscopic, yet fully formed, human which was believed to live in the head of each sperm. Thanks to the invention of the microscope, Mr. Sperm Man has left us!

Nevertheless, a modern homunculus, although completely different in character, bears an eerie resemblance to the unholy creature of the alchemists. You know how a cut on your lip feels huge but, when you look in the mirror, it's the tiniest of wounds? That's the modern homunculus: a human drawn so that it appears as we see ourselves from inside our own minds.

August 12, 2004 in Science | Permalink