Or so a U.S. Army Colonel explained to a a group of zoologists and predatory animal experts, gathered in a clandestine military meeting...
In his autobiography, A Primate's Memoir, neuroendocrinologist and Stanford University Professor Robert Sapolsky relates a strange story about a colleague who was invited to participate in a conference at the request of the U.S. Army. Sapolsky himself has spent countless hours over the years observing wild Baboons in his research of behavior and the affects of stress on the brain. It was the work of others in the related field of African carnivores that garnered an invitation for some fellow field-researchers to speak to an audience of military personnel.
Sapolsky steals the show in this cool doc about the affects of stress.
This discreetly amassed group of biologists and behavior experts presented all sorts of details about the hunting strategies of hyenas, the social dynamics of wolf packs, and on and on. Finally after hours of presentations, the frustrated experts gained the nerve to confront their U.S. Army Colonel host. Why in the world could the U.S. Army be so interested in carnivorous land animals as to fill a hotel conference hall with experts from across the country. When pressed, Colonel "Chuck" explained:
You fellas have all seen the Star Wars movies, haven't you? Nearly everyone. Well, remember in that second installment, there are those Imperial Walker things? Those big transporters that kinda look liked like elephants and went walking through the snow and over everything and stomped down on the rebels?...Well, the U.S. Army is designing something like an Imperial Walker. We've spent a bundle on a prototype, working like crazy on it, and it still has problems. (pg 121, A Primate's Memoir)
Of course, let's not forget Boston Dynamics is
doing a good job of scaring the hell out of us...
After everyone's jaw had been picked up from the floor, the group pressed again for more information. As they needled more and more, the Imperial Walker angle soon gave way to a hushed revelation that the military was indeed working on a tank, albeit not one up in the air on four legs. This next generation super tank would be fast, agile, nearly unstoppable -- but there was indeed a problem. In warfare, tank strategies hadn't progressed much further than Rommel's Panzer tactics of land-based blitzkrieg.
The Colonel eventually explained to the biologists that this new tank would need crews that knew how to think less like a stampeding elephant and more like a cunning, swift cheetah or hyena. The military had gathered these carnivore experts to "teach our tank crews to hunt like your animals."
After the conference, some of the biologists washed their hands of the affair in disgust, while others submitted proposals for research if only to divert money, however small a sum away from building super tanks and toward academic research in the field. In the end, no one ever heard back from anyone connected with the conference or the military and to this day have been left to postulate what was the real reason behind the whole affair.
When the military gets involved, science runs amok!
Sapolsky's interpretation of the story may still be the most likely, that Colonel Chuck and his army pals were actually herbivores in disguise, trying to gain information about carnivore hunting strategies. That, or you may find yourself squished underfoot at the next G20 Summit.