Is violence innate?

WNYC — Radi­o­lab: New Nor­mal? (Octo­ber 02, 2009)

John Hor­gan exam­ines how Amer­i­cans seem to have a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent atti­tude toward war than we did thir­ty years ago. He takes us on a stroll through Hobo­ken, ask­ing strangers one of the great unan­swer­able ques­tions: “Will humans ever stop fight­ing wars?” Strange­ly, every­one seems to know the answer. Robert Sapol­sky brings us far­ther afield — to east­ern Africa, where a pop­u­la­tion of baboons defies his expec­ta­tions of vio­lent behav­ior. Robert is sur­prised to feel hope­ful for a gen­tler future, but then pri­ma­tol­o­gist Richard Wrang­ham asserts that their aggres­sive nature is innate, unchang­ing, and hang­ing over them like a guil­lo­tine.


Fas­ci­nat­ing, as this show always is.

I’m curi­ous about the most­ly unex­plored rea­sons why we humans feel so dif­fer­ent­ly about the inevitabil­i­ty of war than we did 30 years ago.

And Wrang­ham makes a good point about genet­ic inher­ence — I wouldn’t expect these baboons to be genet­i­cal­ly more peace­ful, but the envi­ron­ment seems to be pre­vail­ing in Sapolsky’s pop­u­la­tion. “Nature ver­sus nur­ture?” As ever, the answer would seem to be “Both.”

Agriculture: “The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race”?

Jared Dia­mond:

Archae­ol­o­gists study­ing the rise of farm­ing have recon­struct­ed a cru­cial stage at which we made the worst mis­take in human his­to­ry. Forced to choose between lim­it­ing pop­u­la­tion or try­ing to increase food pro­duc­tion, we chose the lat­ter and end­ed up with star­va­tion, war­fare, and tyran­ny.
Hunter-gath­er­ers prac­ticed the most suc­cess­ful and longest last­ing lifestyle in human his­to­ry. In con­trast, we’re still strug­gling with the mess into which agri­cul­ture has tum­bled us, and it’s unclear whether we can solve it. Sup­pose that an archae­ol­o­gist who had vis­it­ed us from out­er space were try­ing to explain human his­to­ry to his fel­low spacel­ings. He might illus­trate the results of his digs by a twen­ty-four hour clock on which one hour rep­re­sents 100,000 years of real past time. If the his­to­ry of the human race began at mid­night, then we would now be almost at the end of our first day. We lived as hunter-gath­er­ers for near­ly the whole of that day, from mid­night through dawn, noon, and sun­set. Final­ly, at 11:54 p.m., we adopt­ed agri­cul­ture. As our sec­ond mid­night approach­es, will the plight of famine-strick­en peas­ants grad­u­al­ly spread to engulf us all? Or will we some­how achieve those seduc­tive bless­ings that we imag­ine behind agriculture’s glit­ter­ing facade and that have so far elud­ed us?

Light-powered batteries and chargers

Charge your cell phone using light, cour­tesy Sun­Core

[SunCore’s] Nova­cell is an exter­nal charg­er that will pow­er mobile devices via a USB con­nec­tion. That’s the con­nec­tion found on most cell phone charg­ers today.

That’s not all Sun­Core is work­ing on.

The com­pa­ny also devel­ops embed­ded light-pow­ered bat­ter­ies.

The only thing that would make this cool­er would be the abil­i­ty to charge a device screen-side up.

…or a kinet­i­cal­ly charged bat­tery like in those wrist­watch­es.


Baby Boomer Drug Abuse Res­onates With Lis­ten­ers : NPR

[In late August] we talked about a dis­turb­ing report by the U.S. Sub­stance Abuse and Men­tal Health Ser­vices Admin­is­tra­tion. […]

Now, at the close of that con­ver­sa­tion, we asked our lis­ten­ers to tell us more about how these find­ings might be play­ing out in their own lives, and folks reached out to us with very reveal­ing and emo­tion­al sto­ries […]:

“I am 38 years old. My dad is 58 years old, and he has been a func­tion­ing alcoholic/drug addict my entire life, and lis­ten­ing to your seg­ment made my eyes open real­ly wide. It’s very dif­fi­cult for the chil­dren, but you know, as you grow old­er you start to accept peo­ple for how they are and you find a way to accept them on terms that you can deal with.”

Preventing the Higgs boson… from the future?

Essay — The Col­lid­er, the Par­ti­cle and a The­o­ry About Fate — NYTimes​.com

A pair of oth­er­wise dis­tin­guished physi­cists have sug­gest­ed that the hypoth­e­sized Hig­gs boson, which physi­cists hope to pro­duce with the col­lid­er, might be so abhor­rent to nature that its cre­ation would rip­ple back­ward through time and stop the col­lid­er before it could make one, like a time trav­el­er who goes back in time to kill his grand­fa­ther.

via GOOD

What I want to know is how far in the future it is that we a) dis­cov­er the Hig­gs boson and b) real­ize its dan­ger. It must be a while, unless time trav­el is immi­nent­ly pos­si­ble.