REVscene - Vancouver Automotive Forum

Welcome to the REVscene Automotive Forum forums.

Registration is Free!You are currently viewing our boards as a guest which gives you limited access to view most discussions and access our other features. By joining our free community you will have access to post topics, communicate privately with other members (PM), respond to polls, upload content and access many other special features. Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free so please, join our community today! The banners on the left side and below do not show for registered users!

If you have any problems with the registration process or your account login, please contact contact us.

Go Back   REVscene Automotive Forum > Automotive Chat > Vancouver Off-Topic / Current Events

Vancouver Off-Topic / Current Events The off-topic forum for Vancouver, funnies, non-auto centered discussions, WORK SAFE. While the rules are more relaxed here, there are still rules. Please refer to sticky thread in this forum.

Thread Tools
Old 02-24-2015, 09:41 PM   #1
Zombie Mod
Presto's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Langley
Posts: 8,903
Thanked 4,080 Times in 1,151 Posts
Universe 25 - a utopia for mice that became hell

This is a bit of a long read, but I found it to be a really interesting experiment. I wonder if he just let the experiment run until the last mouse died, or if he just 'called it' when the collapse of society was imminent.

How do you design a utopia? In 1972, John B. Calhoun detailed the specifications of his Mortality-Inhibiting Environment for Mice: a practical utopia built in the laboratory. Every aspect of Universe 25—as this particular model was called—was pitched to cater for the well-being of its rodent residents and increase their lifespan. The Universe took the form of a tank, 101 inches square, enclosed by walls 54 inches high. The first 37 inches of wall was structured so the mice could climb up, but they were prevented from escaping by 17 inches of bare wall above. Each wall had sixteen vertical mesh tunnels—call them stairwells—soldered to it. Four horizontal corridors opened off each stairwell, each leading to four nesting boxes. That means 256 boxes in total, each capable of housing fifteen mice. There was abundant clean food, water, and nesting material. The Universe was cleaned every four to eight weeks. There were no predators, the temperature was kept at a steady 68F, and the mice were a disease-free elite selected from the National Institutes of Health’s breeding colony. Heaven.

Four breeding pairs of mice were moved in on day one. After 104 days of upheaval as they familiarized themselves with their new world, they started to reproduce. In their fully catered paradise, the population increased exponentially, doubling every fifty-five days. Those were the good times, as the mice feasted on the fruited plain. To its members, the mouse civilization of Universe 25 must have seemed prosperous indeed. But its downfall was already certain—not just stagnation, but total and inevitable destruction.

Calhoun’s concern was the problem of abundance: overpopulation. As the name Universe 25 suggests, it was not the first time Calhoun had built a world for rodents. He had been building utopian environments for rats and mice since the 1940s, with thoroughly consistent results. Heaven always turned into hell. They were a warning, made in a postwar society already rife with alarm over the soaring population of the United States and the world. Pioneering ecologists such as William Vogt and Fairfield Osborn were cautioning that the growing population was putting pressure on food and other natural resources as early as 1948, and both published bestsellers on the subject. The issue made the cover of Time magazine in January 1960. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, an alarmist work suggesting that the overcrowded world was about to be swept by famine and resource wars. After Ehrlich appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1970, his book became a phenomenal success. By 1972, the issue reached its mainstream peak with the report of the Rockefeller Commission on US Population, which recommended that population growth be slowed or even reversed.

But Calhoun’s work was different. Vogt, Ehrlich, and the others were neo-Malthusians, arguing that population growth would cause our demise by exhausting our natural resources, leading to starvation and conflict. But there was no scarcity of food and water in Calhoun’s universe. The only thing that was in short supply was space. This was, after all, “heaven”—a title Calhoun deliberately used with pitch-black irony. The point was that crowding itself could destroy a society before famine even got a chance. In Calhoun’s heaven, hell was other mice.

So what exactly happened in Universe 25? Past day 315, population growth slowed. More than six hundred mice now lived in Universe 25, constantly rubbing shoulders on their way up and down the stairwells to eat, drink, and sleep. Mice found themselves born into a world that was more crowded every day, and there were far more mice than meaningful social roles. With more and more peers to defend against, males found it difficult and stressful to defend their territory, so they abandoned the activity. Normal social discourse within the mouse community broke down, and with it the ability of mice to form social bonds. The failures and dropouts congregated in large groups in the middle of the enclosure, their listless withdrawal occasionally interrupted by spasms and waves of pointless violence. The victims of these random attacks became attackers. Left on their own in nests subject to invasion, nursing females attacked their own young. Procreation slumped, infant abandonment and mortality soared. Lone females retreated to isolated nesting boxes on penthouse levels. Other males, a group Calhoun termed “the beautiful ones,” never sought sex and never fought—they just ate, slept, and groomed, wrapped in narcissistic introspection. Elsewhere, cannibalism, pansexualism, and violence became endemic. Mouse society had collapsed.

On day 560, a little more than eighteen months into the experiment, the population peaked at 2,200 mice and its growth ceased. A few mice survived past weaning until day six hundred, after which there were few pregnancies and no surviving young. As the population had ceased to regenerate itself, its path to extinction was clear. There would be no recovery, not even after numbers had dwindled back to those of the heady early days of the Universe. The mice had lost the capacity to rebuild their numbers—many of the mice that could still conceive, such as the “beautiful ones” and their secluded singleton female counterparts, had lost the social ability to do so. In a way, the creatures had ceased to be mice long before their death—a “first death,” as Calhoun put it, ruining their spirit and their society as thoroughly as the later “second death” of the physical body.

Calhoun had built his career on this basic experiment and its consistent results ever since erecting his first “rat city” on a quarter-acre of land adjacent to his home in Towson, Maryland, in 1947. The population of that first pen had peaked at 200 and stabilized at 150, when Calhoun had estimated that it could rise to as many as 5,000—something was evidently amiss. In 1954, Calhoun was employed by the National Institute of Mental Health in Rockville, Maryland, where he would remain for three decades. He built a ten-by-fourteen-foot “universe” for a small population of rats, divided by electrified barriers into four rooms connected by narrow ramps. Food and water were plentiful, but space was tight, capable of supporting a maximum of forty-eight rats. The population reached eighty before succumbing to the same catastrophes that would afflict Universe 25: explosive violence, hypersexual activity followed by asexuality, and self-destruction.

In 1962, Calhoun published a paper called “Population Density and Social Pathology” in Scientific American, laying out his conclusion: overpopulation meant social collapse followed by extinction. The more he repeated the experiment, the more the outcome came to seem inevitable, fixed with the rigor of a scientific equation. By the time he wrote about the decline and fall of Universe 25 in 1972, he even laid out its fate in equation form:

Mortality, bodily death = the second death
Drastic reduction of mortality
= death of the second death
= death squared
= (death)2
(Death)2 leads to dissolution of social organization
= death of the establishment
Death of the establishment leads to spiritual death
= loss of capacity to engage in behaviors essential to species survival
= the first death
(Death)2 = the first death

This formula might apply to rats and mice—but could the same happen to humankind? For Calhoun, there was little question about it. No matter how sophisticated we considered ourselves to be, once the number of individuals capable of filling roles greatly exceeded the number of roles,

only violence and disruption of social organization can follow. ... Individuals born under these circumstances will be so out of touch with reality as to be incapable even of alienation. Their most complex behaviors will become fragmented. Acquisition, creation and utilization of ideas appropriate for life in a post-industrial cultural-conceptual-technological society will have been blocked.

If its growth continued unchecked, human society would succumb to nihilism and collapse, meaning the death of the species. Calhoun’s death-squared formula was for social pessimists what the laws of thermodynamics are for physicists. It was a sandwich board with “The End Is Nigh” written on one side, and “QED” on the other. Indeed, the plight of Calhoun’s rats and mice is one we easily identify with—we put ourselves in the place of the mice, mentally inhabit the mouse universe, and cannot help but see ways in which it is like our own crowding world.

This is precisely what Calhoun intended, in the design of his experiments and the language he used to describe them. Universe 25 resembles the utopian, modernist urban fantasies of architects such as Ludwig Hilberseimer. Calhoun referred to the dwelling places within his Universes as “tower blocks” and “walk-up apartments.” As well as the preening “beautiful ones,” he refers to “juvenile delinquents” and “dropouts.” This handy use of anthropomorphism is unusual in a scientist—we are being invited to draw parallels with human society.

And that lesson found a ready audience. “Population Density and Social Pathology” was, for an academic paper, a smash hit, being cited up to 150 times a year. Particularly effective was Calhoun’s name for the point past which the slide into breakdown becomes irretrievable: the “behavioral sink.” “The unhealthy connotations of the term are not accidental,” Calhoun noted drily. The “sink,” a para-pathology of shared hopelessness, drew in pathological behavior and exacerbated its effects. Once the event horizon of the behavioral sink was passed, the end was certain. Pathological behavior would escalate beyond any possibility of control. The writer Tom Wolfe alighted on the phrase and deployed it in his lament for the declining New York City, “O Rotten Gotham! Sliding Down into the Behavioral Sink,” anthologized in The Pump House Gang in 1968. “It got to be easy to look at New Yorkers as animals,” Wolfe wrote, “especially looking down from some place like a balcony at Grand Central at the rush hour Friday afternoon. The floor was filled with the poor white humans, running around, dodging, blinking their eyes, making a sound like a pen full of starlings or rats or something.” The behavioral sink meshed neatly with Wolfe’s pessimism about the modern city, and his grim view of modernist housing projects as breeding grounds for degeneration and atavism.

Wolfe wasn’t alone. The warnings inherent in Calhoun’s research fell on fertile ground in the 1960s, with social policy grappling helplessly with the problems of the inner cities: violence, rape, drugs, family breakdown. A rich literature of overpopulation emerged from the stew, and when we look at Calhoun’s rodent universes today, we can see in them aspects of that literature. In the 1973 film Soylent Green, based on Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room!, the population of a grotesquely crowded New York is mired in passivity and dependent on food handouts which, it emerges, are derived from human corpses. In Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner’s 1972 novel of a hyperactive, overpopulated world, society is plagued by “muckers,” individuals who suddenly and for no obvious reason run amok, killing and wounding others. When we hear of the death throes of Universe 25—the cannibalism, withdrawal, and random violence—these are the works that come to mind. The ultraviolence-dispensing, gang-raping, purposeless “droogs” of Antony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange, which appeared in the same year as Calhoun’s Scientific American paper, are the very image of some of the uglier products of mouse utopia.

Calhoun’s research remains a touchstone for a particular kind of pessimistic worldview. And, in the way that writers like Wolfe and the historian Lewis Mumford deployed reference to it, it can be seen as bleakly reactionary, a warning against cosmopolitanism or welfare dependence, which might sap the spirit and put us on the skids to the behavioral sink. As such, it found fans among conservative Christians; Calhoun even met the pope in 1974. But in fact the full span of Calhoun’s research had a more positive slant. The misery of the rodent universes was not uniform—it had contours, and some did better than others. Calhoun consistently found that those animals better able to handle high numbers of social interactions fared comparatively well. “High social velocity” mice were the winners in hell. As for the losers, Calhoun found they sometimes became more creative, exhibiting an un-mouse-like drive to innovate. They were forced to, in order to survive.

Later in his career, Calhoun worked to build universes that maximized this kind of creativity and minimized the ill effects of overcrowding. He disagreed with Ehrlich and Vogt that restrictions on reproduction were the only possible response to overpopulation. Man, he argued, was a positive animal, and creativity and design could solve our problems. He advocated overcoming the limitations of the planet, and as part of a multidisciplinary group called the Space Cadets promoted the colonization of space. It was a source of lasting dismay to Calhoun that his research primarily served as encouragement to pessimists and reactionaries, rather than stimulating the kind of hopeful approach to mankind’s problems that he preferred. More cheerfully, however, the one work of fiction that stems directly from Calhoun’s work, rather than the stew of gloom that it was stirred into, is optimistic, and expands imaginatively on his attempts to spur creative thought in rodents. This is Robert C. O’Brien’s book for children, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, about a colony of super-intelligent and self-reliant rats that have escaped from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Romans 10:9
Presto is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2015, 10:05 AM   #2 has a homepage?!
604STIG's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Burnaby
Posts: 1,234
Thanked 471 Times in 252 Posts
Interesting read.
2000 Honda Civic
2002 Honda Accord
2005 Ford F-150 XLT
2008 Mercedes C300 - Current
2012 Ford F-150 XLT
2014 Ford F-150 FX4- Current

1995 Kawasaki ZX-6R
2005 Yamaha R6 - RIP
2006 Yamaha R6 50th Anniversary Edition - Current

604STIG is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2015, 10:30 AM   #3
Rs has made me the woman i am today!
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Tres Ciudades
Posts: 4,029
Thanked 2,587 Times in 1,072 Posts
we need a new plague.
6o4__boi is offline  
Reply With Quote
This post thanked by:
This post FAILED by:
Old 02-25-2015, 10:52 AM   #4
The Brown Reason
BrRsn's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Whalley
Posts: 4,582
Thanked 5,836 Times in 1,517 Posts
Originally Posted by 6o4__boi View Post
we need a new plague.
Yes. Preferably on every continent but north america
Originally Posted by bcrdukes
fuck this shit, i'm out
BrRsn is offline  
Reply With Quote
This post thanked by:
Old 02-25-2015, 12:12 PM   #5
Willing to sell body for a few minutes on RS
underscore's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Kel-pwn-a
Posts: 11,067
Thanked 4,207 Times in 1,860 Posts
Originally Posted by BrRsn View Post
Yes. Preferably on every continent but north america
Err, why?
1987 Celica GT-S crushed :( // 1992 Celica GT-S TSD toy // 1991 Celica GTFour RC project ??? // 2000 Jeep Cherokee ski hauler // 1992 Jeep YJ dirt toy //2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel for sale // 1997 Honda Prelude for sale

Originally Posted by maksimizer View Post
half those dudes are hotter than ,my GF.
Originally Posted by RevYouUp View Post
reading this thread is like waiting for goku to charge up a spirit bomb in dragon ball z
Originally Posted by Good_KarMa View Post
OH thank god. I thought u had sex with my wife. :cry:
underscore is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-25-2015, 12:33 PM   #6
My homepage has been set to RS
SpeedStars's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Vancouver
Posts: 2,323
Thanked 3,384 Times in 778 Posts
So me and you dont die
'16 WRX
SpeedStars is offline  
Reply With Quote
This post thanked by:
Old 02-25-2015, 11:14 PM   #7
I keep RS good
Ulic Qel-Droma's Avatar
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Cosmos
Posts: 28,238
Thanked 5,275 Times in 1,369 Posts
there's plenty of virtual reality space left.
nipples neways...wat is with those fuck'n asians! i mean you would think they've never seen a dentist in their life. are dentists really that rare over there in ricey ricey and? looks like they're star trek ferrengi rejects! fuck'n have broken glass for teeth! goddaymn! and the smell....did a rat crawl in there and shit itself then marinate in its own shit as it decayed?ewwwwwwwwww! i swear...if one of those ferrengi asian girls gave head...when u pull the dick out it looks like it went thru a meat grinder! prolly shaved off a few slices of meat! *shudder*
Greebo i t-boned some guy and killed their baby, it was funny
silvia i have a couple asian guy friends that do very well with the ladies. but guess what, they go to the gym, they dont have long hair, they dont wear orange pants, and they dont play counterstrike. its not the ethnicity that the girls dont like, its the style and personality.
450HP Supra I am about to use your eye sockets as a shoe rack for my nuts. ...something about chinks, j-bodys, I can't quite remember as I was drunk and looking for a girl to punch in the clit. Think of it as a digital urinal, and you are the mint, except, instead of actually smelling mint, you smell like mothballs, rotten kimchee and virginity. I'm about to start drinking heavily now and you better be gone before I get back or I swear to god I will break the internet over my knee and use the pieces to beat you in the deformed skull with, cock muffler.
Iceman-19 If your gf cooks and cleans, good, tell the guy to take a fucking hike. If she doesnt, fuck, that joker can have her. Lifes too short to cook your own meals and do your own laundry, thats what women are for!
Ulic Qel-Droma is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-27-2015, 02:20 AM   #8
Diagonally parked in a parallel universe
rice cooker's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: .
Posts: 1,469
Thanked 214 Times in 81 Posts
Originally Posted by 6o4__boi View Post
we need a new plague. the middle east like fucking ASAP
rice cooker is offline  
Reply With Quote
This post FAILED by:
Old 02-27-2015, 12:30 PM   #9
I Will not Admit my Addiction to RS
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Vancouver
Posts: 546
Thanked 31 Times in 22 Posts
Great citation!
the article filled my lunch break! awesome reading
My Buyer / Seller Rating
Y2K_o__o is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-27-2015, 12:45 PM   #10
My homepage has been set to RS
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Vancouver
Posts: 2,432
Thanked 857 Times in 334 Posts
tl;dr would be nice, but i guess i'll save this for a bedtime story.
mr_chin is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-27-2015, 01:01 PM   #11
I contribute to threads in the offtopic forum
mos_skeeto's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: 604
Posts: 2,942
Thanked 552 Times in 163 Posts
This is like my Sim City when I ran out of room and the yellow industrial sections were side by side with my blue commercial and green residential.
mos_skeeto is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-27-2015, 02:38 PM   #12
Rs has made me the woman i am today!
meme405's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Vancouver
Posts: 4,377
Thanked 6,648 Times in 2,045 Posts
Originally Posted by rice cooker View Post the middle east like fucking ASAP

Strong username to racism correlation.

Barney Fucking Purple FX35
Brianna - 2008 FX35 - Build Thread
meme405 is online now  
Reply With Quote
This post thanked by:
Old 02-27-2015, 04:06 PM   #13
Where's my RS Christmas Lobster?!
Tone Loc's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Vancouver, BC
Posts: 847
Thanked 1,361 Times in 392 Posts
Originally Posted by mr_chin View Post
tl;dr would be nice, but i guess i'll save this for a bedtime story.

- Scientists build rat "world" and watch how population increase affects society.
- Rats overpopulate their "world" and completely destroy it.
- Why? Too many entities, not enough social roles to fill.
- This creates apathy, it spreads until rats don't bother to fill roles even when there is space.
- Asexuality ensues.
- Rat population peaks and dies out very fast, with no replacement of new rats due to asexuality.
- Scientists conclude that overpopulation will prove to be the ultimate demise of humanity.
- Even an event that would reduce our population after the "critical mass" point would not save us.
- Wear a condom.
Tone Loc is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old 02-27-2015, 07:29 PM   #14
Even when im right, is still right!
corollagtSr5's Avatar
Join Date: May 2002
Location: vancouver
Posts: 1,940
Thanked 985 Times in 260 Posts
How a 24-Year-Old Aspiring Space Colonist is Preparing to Give Birth on Mars | NextShark
Human version of utopia for mice. The one way trip to Mars.
corollagtSr5 is online now  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:16 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
SEO by vBSEO ©2011, Crawlability, Inc. cannot be held accountable for the actions of its members nor does the opinions of the members represent that of