“… modern humans have more in common with some ants than we do with our closest relatives the chimpanzees. With a maximum size of about 100, no chimpanzee group has to deal with issues of public health, infrastructure, distribution of goods and services, market economies, mass transit problems, assembly lines and complex teamwork, agriculture and animal domestication, warfare and slavery.”
He studied ant societies, one so large that its trillions of members stretch 621 miles across California, and found that the ability of a “society” (it feels weird to equate ant colonies to such a thing) requires accepting that many members will be anonymous and that recognizing one another doesn’t really matter in the scope of the whole society.
He draws lines to things like nationalism and patriotism, ideas that have popped up fairly recently in human evolution, and right about the time that our populations exploded. So anonymity might be the very thing that lets a society grow to the limits of its environment.
I’ll leave it to you to decide if that’s a good or bad thing.
Mariette DiChristina, editor-in-chief of Scientific American, reports from the Neuromagic conference last week. Magicians and neuroscientists came together to discuss the science behind their illusions and how they use the human mind against itself.
Our internally produced picture of reality is subjective—and subject to influence. “Magicians are the performance artists of attention and awareness,” [Stephen] Macknick said. They use a number of techniques, including misdirection, to manage attention. They also take advantage of the brain’s fallibility, including its inability to notice small alterations in a scene (“change blindness”), the multiple ways humans communicate, and more. Ultimately, says Macknik, “Magicians use the spotlight of attention to perform a kind of mental jujitsu.”
The idea that performance magic could lead to insights in the working of the brain is pretty amazing. I also like the idea of “mental jujitsu”. Check out the full article at SciAm.
Alice in Wonderland got its start as a simple story, told by a mathematics professor to a colleague’s daughter. It’s a strange story that seems to be the result of a drug trip, but is actually a scathing satire of the new-fangled math that the professor was seeing invade his area of study.
Europe is a landscape; East Asia a seascape. Because the span of the decades, the demographic and economic axis of the Earth has shifted to the opposite end of Eurasia, where the spaces between major population centers are overwhelmingly maritime, the 21st century’s defining battleground is going to be on water.
“When we’re incomplete, we’re always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we’re still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on—series polygamy—until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimensions to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.”—Tom Robbins (via myquotelibrary)