The Ballad of Bedbug Eddie and the Golden Rule

Written by: Stephen Hsu

Primary Source: Information Processing

This is a bedtime story I made up for my kids when they were small. See also Isabel and the dwarf king.

Once upon a time, there was a tiny bedbug named Eddie, who was no bigger than a sesame seed. Like all bedbugs, Eddie lived by eating the blood of humans. Every night he crawled out of the bedding and bit his sleeping victim.

One night a strange idea entered Eddie’s mind. Are there little bugs that bite me when I sleep? he wondered. That would be terrible! (Little did Eddie know that there was a much smaller bug named Mini who lived in his left antenna, and who drank his blood! But that is another story…)

Suddenly, Eddie had an inspiration. It was wrong to bite other people and drink their blood. If I don’t like it, he thought, I shouldn’t do it to other people!

From that moment on, Eddie resolved to never bite another creature. He would have to find a source of food other than blood!

Eddie lay in his bedding nest and wondered what he would do next. He had never eaten any other kind of food. He realized that to survive, he would have to search out a new kind of meal.

When the sun came up, Eddie decided he should leave his bed in search of food. He wandered through the giant house, with its fuzzy carpeting and enormous potted plants. Finally he came upon the cool, smooth floor of the kitchen. Smelling something edible, he continued toward the breakfast table.

Soon enough, he encountered the biggest chunk of food he had ever seen. It was a hundred times bigger than Eddie, and smelled of peanut butter — it was a crumb of toast! Then Eddie realized the entire floor under the table was covered with crumbs — bread, cracker, muffin, even fruit and vegetable crumbs!

Eddie jumped onto the peanut butter toast crumb and started to eat. He was very hungry after missing his usual midnight meal. He ate until he was very full. It took some getting used to peanut butter — not his usual blood meal! But he would manage.

Suddenly, a huge crumb fell from the sky and almost crushed Eddie. He barely managed to jump out of the way of the huge block of cereal, wet with milk. Looking up, he saw a giant figure on a chair, who was spraying crumbs all around as he gobbled up his breakfast.

The Crumb King! exclaimed Eddie. The Crumb King provides us with sustenance!

Hello Crumb King, shouted Eddie. Look out below! You almost crushed me with that cereal! he yelled.

Between crunches of cereal, Max heard a tiny voice from below. Surprised, he looked down at the small black dot, no bigger than a sesame seed. Are you a bug? he asked.

I am bedbug Eddie! responded Eddie. Don’t crush me with crumbs! he shouted.

From that day on, Eddie and Max were great friends.

Eddie became a vegetarian and devoted his life to teaching the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12)

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Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu is vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. He also serves as scientific adviser to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) and as a member of its Cognitive Genomics Lab. Hsu’s primary work has been in applications of quantum field theory, particularly to problems in quantum chromodynamics, dark energy, black holes, entropy bounds, and particle physics beyond the standard model. He has also made contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, the theory of modern finance, and in encryption and information security. Founder of two Silicon Valley companies—SafeWeb, a pioneer in SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks) appliances, which was acquired by Symantec in 2003, and Robot Genius Inc., which developed anti-malware technologies—Hsu has given invited research seminars and colloquia at leading research universities and laboratories around the world.