CHAPEL HILL, NC—Since its opening in the fall of 2012, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gnome Science Building has housed many of the nation’s leading experts in every field of gnome science. In an era of limited funding and deep cuts, gnome science has continued to thrive.
“Gnomes are one of the few mysteries science has yet to unravel,” said Terry Marker, a researcher at the Gnome Science Building. “Humans and gnomes have coexisted for millennia, but we know relatively little about our relationship. What can we learn from gnomes about the natural world? Can gnomes be used to meet human needs? These are the questions we’re trying to answer.”
Much of the work at the Gnome Science Building is funded by public-private partnerships between the University of North Carolina and agriculture companies like Monsanto and Cargill, who are interested in using gnomes to increase output.
“We’ve known for a long time that gnomes can make or break a domestic garden,” explained Gayatri Agrawal, an agricultural scientist who works with gnomes, “but we don’t know how or why. If we can figure that out, then maybe we can begin to use gnomes for large scale corporate farming.”
Using gnomes for modern agriculture is easier said than done, Stephen Daniels, a population biologist, cautioned.
“There’s a reason you don’t find gnomes in wheat fields,” he said. “Gnomes live in small warlike bands. A single garden can support one, maybe two, grumbles of gnomes. They lack the social organization to thrive in a single crop environment. Besides, gnomes are prone to mischief. Our breeding programs are designed to produce a more docile, industrious gnome. If we can successfully restructure gnome society, we could raise wheat production per acre by fifteen percent and corn production by as much as twenty.”
“This is the kind of research the university needs to be doing,” said Art Pope, former Budget Director for Governor Pat McCrory and a candidate for student body president. “Research with direct commercial applications, research that will help students get jobs.”
But not all of the research at the Gnome Science Building is aimed at agriculture. Several physicists and geologists are studying gnome locomotion in the hopes of developing new methods of high speed travel.
“Gnomes were originally earth dwelling spirits,” said lead researcher Melanie Brooks, “even today they can move through dirt as fast as humans move through the air. Our current understanding of mechanics can’t really explain their speed, but maybe one day we can build subway trains that work by the same gnomic principles.”
The humanities are even jumping into a field traditionally dominated by science.
“The nomenclature of how we talk about gnomes, that’s what I find interesting,” said Debra Sherdon, a professor of linguistics.
“At the Gnome Science Building we are all able to collaborate across disciplines. We have so many resources to delve deeper into something that we see everyday, that affects every piece of academia and that can change how we all perceive the world: gnomes,” she added.
Other scientists are intent on mastering the most esoteric areas of gnome science.
“Genetically, the gnome is unlike any other creature on earth. All the accepted principles of evolutionary biology fail to explain how the gnome came to be, but if we can fully map the gnome genome, the possibilities are limitless,” said Terry Magnuson, chair of the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Genetics. “We might even be able to reverse-engineer a fairy.”