Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for biology researchers, academics, and students. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In the scifi novel Lucifer's Hammer, one of the characters (a biologist, if I remember correctly) finds himself in a post-apocalyptic world and tries to make penicillin to save his own life. To do this, he repeatedly states that he needs "a goat" - for some reason which is never explained.

I know that penicillin (in its various forms) is a byproduct of some types of fungi (see Wikipedia), but I can't make sense of the statement "I need a goat to make it". Assuming you don't have a chemical lab at your disposal (think "post-apocalyptic world"), does this requirement make any sense to any of you (apart from "I need to eat the goat to stay alive long enough to find a deserted biochemical lab" :-) )?

If not, how would you go about finding or making penicillin in such an environment?

share|improve this question
add comment

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Here is a link to a survivalist blog with a protocol for making penicillin. (I'm not recommending this by the way.)

Is it possible that the reference to the goat in Lucifer's Hammer is for the extraction of insulin (from the pancreas)? Have a look at the Wikipedia entry for Eva Saxl - in Shanghai during WWII her husband kept her alive with insulin extracted from water buffalo pancreas.

share|improve this answer
    
I'm kind of lost... what does insulin have to do with penicillin? –  nico Sep 1 '12 at 15:24
1  
I gather from my research that the post-apocalyptic manufacture of insulin is a plot element in the novel - just thought the questioner might have mixed things up a little. –  Alan Boyd Sep 1 '12 at 15:41
    
ahhh... OK, now it makes sense! :) –  nico Sep 1 '12 at 15:47
    
Absolutely. I read the novel years ago and I did indeed mix up insulin and penicillin. Thank you for this hint, I feel a little stupid now but at least I got two correct answers for one question. :-) –  Jens Sep 2 '12 at 17:35
    
By the way, it would not necessarily need to be a goat, insulin has for many years been extracted from the pancreas of pigs. –  nico Sep 2 '12 at 20:24
show 2 more comments

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.