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The Beautiful Ones

The content below is from Episode 81 of the Who’d A Thunk It? Podcast.

ANNOUNCEMENT

  • Welcome Who’d a Thunkers to the 2nd FrightFest episode of 2021.
    • Every Episode this month will be within the realm of terrifying!
    • But First lets do this week’s recommendation segment.

RECOMMENDATION SEGMENT

Amazon.com: PANDORUM - Movie Poster - Double-Sided - 27x40 - Original -  VERSION A - DENNIS QUAID - BEN FOSTER - NORMAN REEDUS: Posters & Prints
  • There is a little known movie that came out in 2009 called Pandorum.
    • It is a British-German science fiction horror film, with elements of Lovecraftian horror and survival adventure.
    • Starring Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid with supporting actors like Norman Reedus this movie blew my mind when I first saw it.
Pandorum (2009) - IMDb
  • There is space, mental instability, and like Cube (the movie I recommended last week) it has some very claustrophobic feels to it.
Pandorum' has a few sci-fi chills and thrills, but not enough originality -  New York Daily News
  • And I know I can say this without spoiling anything because you’ll never guess what it is, but there is a major twist at the end that will make you think about this movie long after it is over.
    • Why have you never heard of it? Well because it lost money. It had a $33 million dollar budget and didn’t even make $21 million in box office sales.
      • But like I always say: just because the masses didn’t pay for it doesn’t mean it was a bad movie.
      • Movies like:
        • Children of Men,
        • Bladerunner 2049,
        • The BFG,
        • Citizen Kane,
        • Event Horizon,
        • Fight Club,
        • The Iron Giant,
        • ShawShank Redemption,
        • and Willy Wonka
        • All did poorly in Box office sales and I can honestly say I love every single one of those movies.
    • Remember that next time you judge a movie or any form of story based on how much commercial success it has achieved.
Pandorum - Wikipedia

NOW FOR THE MAIN EVENT

  • Alright Who’d a Thunkers, you survived last week’s Fright Fest topic of killer lakes and their limnic eruptions… but can you survive this week’s episode on rodents?
    • I know there are people like my mother who hate rodents so I hope this horrifies you!
  • THIS is about Mouse Utopia. THIS is a possible bleak look in to our own future. THIS… is Universe 25.
    • In the Mid 20th century a science experiment was conducted on mice and rats to try and gain a deeper understanding of the possible consequences of humanity’s then (and still) rapidly growing population across the globe.
    • The experiments were conducted and then the results were published in the Scientific America Journal
      • These reports terrified the masses into thinking the world would become over populated and we humans would turn out just like the rodents. But of course that didn’t happen…. or did it?
    • Strap in Who’d a Thunkers! this is gonna be a wild one!
      • oh and if you are a member of PETA or if experimenting on animals bothers you… maybe sit this one out. … SPOILER ALERT – things don’t go so well for the rodents.
  • What motivated such experiments? Well that can be answered by some quick history and like most history this is about some old dead white dudes.
  • Starting with Thomas Robert Malthus
    • Malthus was an English cleric, scholar and influential economist in the fields of political economy and demography during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
    • Malthus said the human population might increase exponentially, but our food will only increase linearly… aka, we gonna run out of food! Which would lead to a massive food shortage. This crisis was called a Malthusian catastrophe.
    • This specific fear surrounding humanity’s overpopulation permeated the mainstream media over the decades. There have been popular stories of overcrowding degrading our society through the centuries.
    • So by the 1950’s and 60’s research was done to determine what problems might arise from overpopulation.
    • Introducing John B Calhoun.
Thomas Malthus | Biography, Theory, Overpopulation, Poverty, & Facts |  Britannica
Malthus
Darwin reads Malthus 1838
Malthus’s theory can be summarized with just 2 lines.
  • John Bumpass Calhoun
    • I heard he went by John B Calhoun and well, with a middle name like Bumpass could you blame him?
    • Calhoun was an American ethologist and behavioral researcher noted for his studies of population density and its effects on behavior. He claimed that the bleak effects of overpopulation on rodents were a grim model for the future of the human race.
John B. Calhoun - Wikipedia
Calhoun
  • His experiments
    • started as rats being contained in an outdoor pen. Then in the 1960’s his research graduated mice being kept in a large pen at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH).
      • The public kind of freaked out over Scientific America’s reports on the experiments. A lot of people interpreted them as evidence of what we humans would become in the future if our population continued to grow at an exponential rate.
      • During his experiments, Calhoun coined a few of his own terms. One such term “behavioral sinks” is what he used to name the catastrophic behaviors of the mice that lead to their own doom.
  • One of these experiments was dubbed Universe 25… because it was Calhoun’s 25th attempt
    • Side note: one of the reasons why Calhoun did so many experiments is because he tried making minor adjustments such as using powdered food vs pellet food AND in one enclosure he made the mean with which the rodents got around longer to get around… stuff like that
    • He built what he thought was a mouse paradise with beautiful buildings and limitless food. He introduced eight mice to the population. Two years later, the mice had created their own apocalypse and were all dead.
    • Universe 25, the actual physical experiment was made up of a big ol’ box designed to be a rodent utopia. It was divided into main squares, subdivided in to levels, and used ramps that went to different rodent apartments. The rodents always had plenty of food.
      • The pen was2.7-square-meter enclosure consisting of four pens, 256 living compartments and 16 burrows that led to food and water supplies.
      • There was tons of food, no predators, no chance of a plague or anything so the mice were given all the luxuries of our human life.
John B Calhoun – Medicine on Screen
Young Calhoun
  • For the first 104 days 
    • Calhoun labeled different phases of his experiment and the first 104 days he called the “Strive Period
    • This is when the mice stretched their legs, explored, marked their territory, and nestled in.
    • Next was the “EXPLOIT PERIOD” where the mice population doubled over 55 days. By day 315, Universe 25 had a population of 620.
    • This is when Calhoun noticed something peculiar.
      • The enclosure could hold up to 3,000 mice and each compartment or “apartment” as Calhoun called them, could hold 15 mice. However, It seemed that eating was a communal event. It looked as if the mice preferred to crowd in to certain areas and eat from the same feeding sources instead of nesting in their own apartments.
    • For whatever reason, the same time the crowding together started to happen so did a drop in mating. The birthrate in Universe 25 fell to a third of where it was at the beginning of the experiment and there was some weird social stuff going on…
      • One-third emerged as socially dominant.
      • The other two-thirds turned out less socially adept than their forbearers.
      • As bonding skills diminished among the mice, Universe 25 went into a slow but irreversible decline.
  • By Day 315,
    • There was a bigger gap between the high and low-status male mice. The lowest status males known as “Omega males” were rejected from females and stopped mating completely. These outcast males left the larger groups to be by themselves. They ate and slept alone and occasionally fought each other.
    • The high-status males got meaner and fought a lot more often… usually with no apparent reason. These high-status or “alpha males” would even go around the pen indiscriminately raping other mice regardless of their gender.
      • I’ll be honest, at this point in researching this I was thinking “just how observant was Calhoun and his staff? LOL these guys know about mice motivations and statuses. I believe it because similar kinds of observations are done on all kinds of animal species, but I can’t imagine the toil of just watching hundreds or thousands of mice trying to remember their social statuses or the last time they ate, mated, or even took a crap. I mean, how does one know if a mouse is being raped? I don’t actually want to know the logistics of that, I’m just saying it is wild that those logistics exist at all. You know that if they were making notes of these mice rapes that there exists somewhere a scientific definition on how to spot a mice rape apart from a regular rape. It is mind-boggling to me.
    • Then the class of males between the alphas and omegas known as Beta Males was just picked on all the time. They weren’t shunned from the larger groups like the omegas, but they weren’t at the top of the pecking order so they just took a lot of mouse aggression.
      • Here is a quote from one of the articles I read “In several instances, bloodbaths ended with a cannibalistic feast for the victors.
      • And if all that mouse raping and cannibalizing wasn’t bad enough, At this point the infant mortality rate hit 90%
    • With the males morphing in to a hellscape of social hierarchy they stopped playing out their usual roles and the females had to protect their nests alone. These females became more aggressive and horrifyingly enough this aggression spilled over to their own young.
      • Other females just didn’t care for their offspring at all. They abandoned their young and banished them. There were entire litters left to fend for themselves. These derelict babies, as you can imagine, didn’t do so well. And for whatever reason, their mothers rarely ever mated again.
    • Calhoun named this pleasant little part of the experiment the “stagnation phase,” alternately known as the “equilibrium period” referencing the equilibrium of over-aggressive mice to the super passive mice.
      • He attributed the overly aggressive and passive behavioral patterns to the breakdown of social roles and rampant over-clustering.
  • By the 560th day,
    • the population increase stopped altogether and the mortality rate was at about 100%.
    • This marked the start of the “death phase” or just as cheerful of a name the “die period.
      • This is when the rodent utopia slid toward extinction. And from what I just read about the last phase, maybe extinction was a good thing. holy hell.
      • You see, with all the violent raping and cannibalistic murdering going on the latest generation of youngster mice were raised without being taught how to act like normal mice. They didn’t know how to act like healthy mice with healthy mice relations. They didn’t know how to properly mate, parent, or mark territory. All they did was eat, drink, sleep, and groom themselves.
    • These mice were known by Calhoun as the “beautiful ones,” because they didn’t have scars on their coats from battling it out with other mice.
      • I must say, “Beautiful Ones” just sounds like some horror movie shit to me. It is just so creepy!
    • Although the Beautiful Ones were spared the violence of the larger crowds, they didn’t contribute anything… at all. They were like little hedonistic mice that just lived in seclusion from the other mice away from the violent crowded areas.
    • According to Calhoun, the death phase consisted of two stages: the “first death” and “second death.” The former was characterized by the loss of purpose in life beyond mere existence.
    • But the reports said they noted the mice had no desire to mate, raise young or establish a role within society. This first death was represented by the lackadaisical lives of the beautiful ones, whereas the second death was marked by the literal end of life and the extinction of Universe 25.
  • Notes towards the end
    • Using the Beautiful Ones as a reference, Calhoun surmised that mice, as humans, thrive on a sense of identity and purpose within the world at large. He argued experiences such as tension, stress, anxiety and the need to survive make it necessary to engage in society.
      • Basically: we need struggle to survive just like mice.
    • When all needs are accounted for, and no conflict exists, the act of living is stripped to its barest physiological essentials of food and sleep. In Calhoun’s view:
      • Herein is the paradox of a life without work or conflict.
      • When all sense of necessity is stripped from the life of an individual, life ceases to have purpose.
      • The individual dies in spirit
    • Gradually, the mice that refused to mate or engage in society came to outnumber those that formed gangs, raped and plundered, and fed off their own.
  • The last known conception in Universe 25 occurred on Day 920, at which point the population was capped at 2,200, well short of the enclosure’s 3,000 capacity.
    • An endless supply of food, water and other resources were still there for the mice, but it didn’t matter. The behavior sink had set in, and there was no stopping Universe 25 from careening to its self-made demise. Soon enough, there was not a single living mouse left in the enclosure..
  • Attempt at redemption
    • Before the rodent utopia imploded entirely, Calhoun removed some of the beautiful ones to see whether they would live more productive lives if released into a new society, free of social strife and carnage. Placing these mice in a fresh setting with few pre-existing residents — a scenario similar to that which greeted the initial pairs placed in Universe 25 — he expected the beautiful ones to awake from their asocial haze and answer nature’s call to populate the barren environment.
    • However, the relocated mice showed no signs of change from their earlier behavioral patterns. Refusing to mate or even interact among their new peers, the reclusive mice eventually died of natural causes, and the fledgling society folded without a single new birth.

In Calhoun’s view, the rise and fall of Universe 25 proved five basic points about mice, as well as humans:

  1. The mouse is a simple creature, but it must develop the skills for courtship, child-rearing, territorial defense and personal role fulfillment on the domestic and communal front. If such skills fail to develop, the individual will neither reproduce nor find a productive role within society.
  2. As with mice, all species will grow older and gradually die out. There is nothing to suggest human society isn’t prone to the same developments that led to the demise of Universe 25.
  3. If the number of qualified individuals exceeds the number of openings in society, chaos and alienation will be the inevitable outcomes.
  4. Individuals raised under the latter conditions will lack any relation to the real world. Physiological fulfillment will be their only drive in life.
  5. Just as mice thrive on a set of complex behaviors, the concern for others developed in post-industrial human skills and understandings is vital to man’s continuance as a species. The loss of these attributes within a civilization could lead to its collapse.
  • Criticisms:
    • Nowadays the scientific community seems to be less fearful of Calhoun’s experiments and their implications.
    • John B Calhoun isn’t a rodent himself so some people think he got it wrong. He also had designed quite a few mouse environments before he got to the 25th one, and didn’t expect to be watching a happy story.
    • The general consensus now is that The habitats that Calhoun created were not actually overcrowded. It is the isolation factor that fostered the hyper aggression among the rodents. They were forced to fight over territory and this lead to the isolation of the beautiful ones. Behavioral scientists today don’t think it was an overcrowded problem, but a fairness distribution problem.
    • And then National Institute of Mental Health’s Edmund Ramsden said:
      • “Ultimately, “[r]ats may suffer from crowding; human beings can cope. Calhoun’s research was seen not only as questionable, but also as dangerous.”
    • Another researcher, Jonathan Freedman,
      • turned to studying actual people — they were just high school and university students, but definitely human. His work suggested a different interpretation. Moral decay could arise “not from density, but from excessive social interaction. Not all of Calhoun’s rats had gone berserk. Those who managed to control space led relatively normal lives.”
  • My skepticism comes from how farfetched Calhoun’s conclusions were.
    • The man’s research claimed to know when a mouse had a lack of purpose…. I don’t care how many behaviors you cite to back up your hypothesis, I’m always going to have trouble believing a person who thinks they cracked the code to mouse psychology.
    • And I agree with Edmund Ramsden when he said Calhoun’s research was dangerous
      • Don’t get me wrong, I think the experiment did give a lot of interesting insight into social interactions, but it is not a 1:1 ratio from rodent to humans. We are very different creatures.
      • And I think this research’s conclusions WERE dangerous. Calhoun’s predictions of the human race based on his rodent experiments were almost fear-mongering to a population of baby boomers just starting to grow up and see all the riots and “sinful” way of life in the cities.
    • And my chief criticism was how Calhoun basically played god over this small community of rodents and watched as they violently raped and ate each other.
      • I mean, I know they are rodents and people hate rodents, but I’d like to think I would have a hard time just sitting back and watching these living creatures do this to each other all while knowing it was by my literal grand design that they do so.
    • yuck… gives me the heebee jeebees.
  • Thanks for listening Who’d a Thunkers! To the 2nd Fright Fest Episode of the year.
    • hope you enjoyed the episode. A few episodes back I said I would be making the material a bit more mature since 0 of my listeners are minors and I finally kept my word seeing as this episode had the most mature talking point so far… that being “rat rape.”
      • sorry, not sorry if I offended anyone. I did warn you and sometimes learning more about the world does include some vile-ass shit you know.
  • Special shout out to my mother who absolutely HATES rodents and does NOT enjoy horror movies or stories at all… but undoubtedly still tuned in anyway because she’s my mom and my biggest fan.
    • Love you mom!
    • catchya next week Who’d a thunkers!

CREDIT

Mouse Utopia Experiment | Mr. Pest Guy

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