FEV as it is described and my thoughts on the matter
The way FEV is rationalized in Fallout is that it creates a duplicate DNA binary helix perpendicular to the existing binary helix creating a quadruple helix DNA structure.
With the quadruple helix, the DNA is practically immune to transcription errors from infection by pathogens or mutation by radiation because the peculiar genome structure cannot be "read" or "altered" as easily. The author of this blog believes that the writers either misconstrued true Quadruplex structures beyond their capabilities or forgot to mention that their purpose in real life is to merely cap the ends of DNA and never meant to be altered so as to protect the vital DNA in the center from hazardous forces on the outside. Otherwise referred to from this point on, as Telomeres.
Supplemental link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dna#Quadruplex_structures
Of course, they could've intended this the way it is described believing it to work. But this author knows that many enzymes are involved in the transcription (reading of) and synthesis (generating of) of DNA.
Going back to the articles: The quadruple helix was created by mitosis where and when the chromosomes (the genome) was replicated and prevented from splitting by radiated amino acids (RAA), or basically irradiated "segments" of DNA. The result was a single cell with two diploid, or 4n, number of chromatids or 2n chromosomes. The usual is half this.
RAA wouldn't cause the quadruple helix formation or the prevention of splitting. All of this would require genes that coded for protein complexes that were separate from the normal genome to form enzymes able to skip the splitting process and go on to code for themselves and other enzymes to finish the process and mash together the two helixes.
Note that radiation is also not involved in FEV, the rooms of Vault 87 were irradiated because the vault suffered direct hits by nuclear bombs and the ventilation/sanitation systems suffered from the ensuing damage and neglect.
The way FEV is described as working usually involves a controlled infection and in the Master and Mariposa's case as involving vats of goo and in Vault 87's case, vapor. The vats were merely nutrient solutions containing FEV to allow for both immediate infection by forced exposure and the immediate growth of it. It is in this author's opinion that the vapor in Vault 87 was the same.
As an interesting fact: it is accepted canon that even though the FEV (on the West Coast at least) has codes for genius-level intellects, that the instantaneous growth suffocates and strangles the organs of the body itself and often damages more than it grows. This is no more apparent than in the brain were the damage is both irreversible (in terms of collected knowledge) and plasticity can only work as long as new experiences fill in the blanks. And this is ignoring the fact that most plasticity works because it happens early in a person's development. In this author's opinion... the FEV used to make mutants seems too grossly imprecise to account in for that.
In the Alpha experiment disk it states that only 80% of collected tissue samples were affected, which is on par with a viral infection being purged from the body but also compliant with the fact that it is designed to infect and therefore has a high viral load (virii per desired amount of body fluid). Not to forget that it was also forcibly inserted.
In the FEV experiment disk it as well states that both metabolic rate, which the mitochondria are involved in, and chloroplasts are unaffected by the virion (FEV). This makes perfect sense as both Mitochondria and Chloroplasts have their own set of DNA, which is believed to be a result of symbiosis, (an ancient combination of bacteria, that had the same functions as today's chloroplasts and mitochondria, with primitive eukaryote cells who engulfed them in phagocytosis - the engulfing of other cells) and would most likely remain unaffected by the virion. The virion would have to be a bacteriophage to have the proper receptor sites which would have to get past the receptor sites on the eukaryote cell to make it to the mitochondria and chloroplasts and be able to latch on their receptor sites.
What's weird, though, is that Harold came about as a plant-like being despite chloroplasts being unaffected, but it still makes some sense. The chloroplasts may not be affected but the cells containing them surely can, so all Harold needed was some plant on him or in that particular strain to be infected with the virus and the thing would grow as if it were an animal affected by the virus, growing until Harold became what he was in Fallout:3, a man imprisoned within a tree. A tree that is surprisingly normal, on a mutant that's surprisingly ghoulish. Perhaps as a result of the FEV being specifically developed to vastly change animals and not so much plants, replicating factors similar to that in animals such as growth and digestion (as with the Venus fly traps) but not factors unique to plants such as structure and form take the ultimate manifestation.
As for the thoughts on him seemingly a ghoul: it is in this author's opinion that ghoulism itself is actually FEV. To briefly explain the situation at question, the ghoul genes are in lysogenic cycle (or dormant) waiting for a proper stimulus or trigger. Whether it be radiation like normal, carcinogens like the trogs or in this case more FEV.
It is in this author's understanding that Harold's exposure was unclear, but his results were unique. In order to fill in the blanks, a connection can be made between a similar case where a person was infected in the vats but turned into a ghoul. The case in question: Talius. Talius was briefly dipped in FEV and in the end became a ghoul and not a mutant; it is in this author's opinion that ghoulism activates upon coming into contact with more FEV and unless the infected is continually submerged, the ghoulism genes will win out, creating both Harold and Tallius. Further supported by Harold going on to live 205 years into the events of Fallout 3, but mostly because he's not a hulking mutant.
Another interesting note in the FEV experiment disk was that two of the chimpanzees that were exposed to batch 11-111 died of epileptic seizures; probably as a result to increased mass in all affected cells which in this case would be the corpus callosum (bundle of nerve cells that connect the two hemispheres of the brain). Over-sized corpus callosum has been linked to epilepsy, a possible link to the future madness of the Nightkin that was onset by the radiation (presumably microwave radiation associated with meta-materials of today) of Stealth Boys.
Another phenomenon that can be linked to Harold but is better represented by Richard Grey is the instantaneous symbiosis between him and other organisms, which would account for Harold not being consumed by or even linked to Bob/Herbert (the tree growing on his head) and Richard being improved by it. To continue my speculation, I would say that the growth processes involved with FEV affected Grey and Harold in such a way that it extended to whatever it was that they consumed, perhaps as a result of being covered with it in Harold's case (providing a growing plant on one's skin with the virus) or almost being drowned by it in Richard's case (allowing for internal organisms to mutate and grow inside Richard's body resulting in its instant symbiosis with other organisms - and even a computer - as well as his grotesque and disorganized appearance).
Vree's autopsy report contains consistent information in regards to FEV but also some unique aspects as well. The unique description is that all of the recessive alleles (expressed aspects of an organism) for genetic ailments were completely eliminated, something that sounds on par with the desires of today's genetic engineering. Another interesting note is that the messenger RNA or mRNA (RNA that travels outside of cells to either express genes by providing a code for a protein that triggers a cellular response in the affected cell or creates a protein structure that is simply not found in the affected cell's nucleus) appears to have been improved as well, which is indicative of yet another benefit abnormal to nature but familiar to the FEV and the wishes of real life genetic engineering.
Here's the problem I have with the whole idea of FEV as is described in Fallout. Never once do they mention that they created the batch nor did they alter it, they make it sound as if they just stumbled across a viral strain that vastly improves those who are infected by causing their cells to merely grow more and reach a dynamic equilibrium with their replication (where the cells will divide as much and as often as when they die) and finally that can magically determine which genetic sequences code for recessive alleles for genetically caused diseases.
My problem is that it is a magical virus that just does all these things that just seemingly came out of nowhere, a product of an effort to make people immune from disease, an effort that I might add as never really being described in detail beyond its purpose. All I wish to see is something to fill in the blanks as well as make sense.
And that is what I wish to accomplish in this blog.
Atoms - Molecules - Macro-molecules - Cells - Tissues - Organs - Organ Systems - Organism - Ecosystem - Biosphere
Every time you jump a level, the organization of the level below it creates new properties in it.
You can have two Hydrogens and an Oxygen but unless they are combined together, you won't get water and then you won't get the diffusion of water and then you won't get transpiration in plants and then you won't get Oxygen fixation.
All these things, impossible without the first step, and also... unpredictable.
Those were just some examples of how that disorganization affected plants, I didn't even begin to take into account what happens with animals, insects, bacteria, and then all their effects on each other.
Why didn't I take everything into account? Because I can't, because I would have to devote my entire life to the study of how ecosystems and animals interact stemming from amino acid sequences that code for protein and quite frankly, I don't even think I possess the thinking capacity to even scratch the surface of that monumental endeavor.
So then how can a virus, something that isn't even considered to be alive, a simple complex of molecules, be able to pick out genes that could best prepare the organism at question for the environment of the world by anticipating all the emergent properties?
The rationalization of the excuse that it can is that it bases itself off of the knowledge of science during the 50s.
Now all I seek to accomplish in this blog is to apply a real-world spin on FEV to achieve the same results whilst maintaining realistic data.
So here it is: FEV was nothing more than the use of a counter-virus to the New Plague created by the PVP - the program that FEV came from - to be used as a genetic engineering medium. It is probably a retro-virus (a virus that utilizes reverse transcriptase to encode snippets of RNA from its own genome into the hosts DNA or its permanent genome) that has a high viral load and infection rate.
This concept satisfies claims within Dr. Curling's claim from The Project that the FEV virus was originally a virulent toxin, an artificial plague designed to be one which is on par with the New Plague.
The symptoms of the New Plague are as follows: Flu-like, profuse sweating, unexplained contusions/swelling, massive external hemorrhaging and clogged respiration, sterility; which ultimately resulted in death within three to five days.
The symptoms of the toxin created by the Enclave from FEV or Curling-13 are as follows: Subdurmal hemorrhaging and convulsions; with most deaths being in the first hour and any others an average of 14.5-hours.
The shared similarities are external hemorrhaging with this toxin, as well as the sterility in super mutants exposed to it and linking the unexplained swelling as uncontrolled growth/cellular division.
How the government, or West-Tek, would create FEV from the New Plague is innocent and simple, they were trying to make people immune from viral infection but developing a counter-virus to it, figured it out, and then realized that they could use their counter-virus as the medium to carry out those means.
But when they figured it out, they decided to take it a step further and go beyond making people simply immune from disease and give people genes that correct genetic ailments and give them boosted abilities and aptitude. Thus creating the super-soldiers that we know as super mutants.
To get back to my original concept, one would have to fill in the blanks as to what and how they figured out how to get the snippets of DNA that code for boosted immunity into the retrovirus that is the New Plague, why they picked West-Tek and not something like Med-Tek and who exactly spilled the beans on the whole project later on.
This explanation is currently in progress.