The anthropologist named Jared Diamond has gotten loads of press over the past few years for a couple of great books he's written, "Guns, Germs and Steel" and "Collapse." It was an essay he wrote back in the 1980s that really got to me, though. Called "The worst mistake in the history of the human race," Diamond comes up with the radical but thoroughly plausible hypothesis that the introduction of agriculture was the worst choice humankind ever made.
After the advent of agriculture, humans became sedentary. Our lives centered around our cropland, and with an abundance of food, a lot of people could live in one place. Cities arose, and so too did all manner of problems we humans didn't have before we started raising crops and livestock.
Living in close quarters allowed epidemic disease to spread. Crop failures led to famine. Crop surpluses led to the rise of currency...
This just in from CNN.com - the case of the eighth grade girl who was strip searched in her middle school is now heading to the Supreme Court.
Some details if you aren't familiar:
In 2003, Savana Redding was an eight grade honor student in a middle school in Arizona and was pulled into the principal's office after a fellow student accused her of providing prescription-strength ibuprofen pills. She denied it, so they searched her backpack and found nothing. Even though she had never been in any kind of trouble before, she was then taken to a private room and by three female school employees and made to strip to her underwear. They also had her pull her bra out for further inspection. No drugs.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons why I'd like a time machine. Each one's for my own benefit; I believe too much in time travel paradoxes to assassinate Adolf Hitler or Idi Amin or anything like that. Sure, there's a pretty good chance the deaths of millions of people would never take place, but there's an equally good chance that a disaster of even greater proportions might transpire. No, I leave the big stuff in history to the course of history.
I would like to travel back in time so I could purchase Coca-Cola stock in 1919 during it's initial public offering. Then I'd likely head futureward and find Jackson Pollock to pick on him because his paintings were so terrible and he was a big jerk. Then I'd probably get something to eat somewhere and go home and go to bed. That's just one of the jaunts I have planned after everything ... falls into place.
On this weeks edition of "Podcast Goodness" we'll reflect back on the week of April 13th.
Tuesday's episode of Stuff You Should Know was all about money laundering - how it's done, why it's done, who is doing and who is trying to stop it from being done. We learned that it's really not the most complicated thing in the world. It's essentially a system that makes it harder to track large amounts of money you want to hide for one reason or another. There are a number of methods, including Josh's favorite, the "Colombian Peso Exchange." In the end, they all accomplish the same goal, to clean your money.
Many of you may have seen or heard about the recent stink Domino's Pizza finds itself in with the online video showing a Domino's employee defiling some sandwiches being prepped for delivery. The video was shot by "Kristy," who rather obviously inserts herself into the film like she's M. Night Shyamalan, only to proclaim that she "likes to be lazy." Hear hear, Kristy - which is why you find yourself filming a friend fart on some salami in your early 30s in a Domino's Pizza in Conover, North Carolina.
Here's the premise of her film: A lazy auteur filmmaker shoots co-worker Michael Setzer, also in his early 30s, doing all kinds of fun things like putting cheese up his nose, poking his finger into a hot sandwich and sneezing on the ingredients. It was transcendent, as if a hidden camera had captured a nursery school bus full of chimpanzees set free in a vacant commercial kitchen.
The beautiful, heartbreaking, triumphant ritual of human courtship has come a long way since the days when we pounced onto gazelles from tree limbs and beat their heads in with rocks. This kind of behavior can actually drive away prospective mates these days. Although I assume girls really think it's cool deep down, that they're just playing it off in front of their friends, it's been pointed out to me that this is a creepy and perhaps overconfident assumption.
Toads have a reputation as wart-spreaders, but they're not actually to blame for the unsightly growths. Viruses are. Tune in to this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com to get the skinny on toads, warts and viruses.
Thanks to HowStuffWorks.com staff writer (extraordinaire) Molly Edmunds for pointing me in the direction of this cool article from Live Science. Researchers at DePauw University in Indiana did a little study that examined the smiles of college yearbook photos to see if there was any correlation to later success in marriage. Turns out that it may an indicator.
Smiles were based on a scale of one to 10, one being a not very smiley person and 10 being off the charts happy. They found that not one of the top 10 percent of smiley folks was divorced. Nearly one in four of the bottom 10 percent had suffered through at least one divorce. They went a step further and collected photos from people over the age of 65 and rated their smiles as well. In this group, 11 percent of the top smiles had gone through a divorce, compared to 31 percent in the bottom lot.
I can't get over the haunting concept described by zoologist Richard Dawkins' hypothesis that we humans are merely vessels for our genes, which both use and control us. Everything from our hair color, to our HDL cholesterol levels, to our propensity for bipolar disorder can all be traced back to our specific genomes. Even those clearly environmental influences, like pickling one's brain with alcohol, find roots in genetic predisposition. The genes are the thing; and the idea that they use us to stay alive by eternally hopping from parent to offspring again and again strikes me as both utterly true and oddly reminiscent of the basic teachings of Scientology.
Dawkins' hypothesis has been coming up a lot lately in my life for some reason, and here it comes again. Reuters news agency reports this morning that the ire of a conservative Polish politician has been raised by the lifestyle of a ten-year-old elephant named Ninio.
I'm sure by now you've all read the story about the Somali pirates that were dumb enough to hijack a U.S. merchant ship carrying aid to Africa. If not, here's a brief recap:
Somali pirates were dumb enough to hijack a U.S. merchant ship carrying aid to Africa.
Money laundering -- the practice of disguising illegal funds -- can be domestic or international in nature. Join Josh and Chuck as they take a look at the history, practice and future of money laundering in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.
There are advantages to being one of only nine people in existence to suffer from an affliction. Chief among them is the ability to walk into any research hospital and command the attention of the world's foremost physicians with little or no effort. Just say something like, "Hi, doctor, how are you today? That's great. Listen, I've got this phantom third limb. What do you think of that?" The doctor will likely say that he or she thinks very much of that.
Such is the case with a 64-year-old Swiss woman who recently complained of an imaginary third limb. Whoa, whoa, you may say. I've heard of this before. No you haven't. Sure, there are other, similar conditions. Phantom limb comes to mind; the phenomenon some amputees experience where they feel pain or other sensation where their former limbs used to be. There's also alien hand syndrome, made famous by Dr. Strangelove...
You remember that horrible slapping around you took a couple years back when you turned down the wrong alley late at night? Remember the dread that welled up in your stomach as you realized three men were particularly interested in keeping you there longer than you'd cared to?
Do you remember the pain of the assault and the fear and terror that followed and stayed with you like a blanket always hung over your shoulders? Yeah, well, you wouldn't remember any of this if you'd taken an experimental drug researchers at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn have come up with. You'd especially not remember your traumatic assault if you're a rat, since the clinical trials are still in the animal research stages.
The New York Times reports that neurological researchers have managed to come up with a drug that blocks the substance that enables memory recollection, called PKMzeta.
So the Stuff You Should Know team was indeed able to go to New York on Thursday to record what we thought would be a taped interview to go on ABC News Now online. Here's how it went down instead...
We get to New York and have about an hour to kill , so we take a jaunt around Central Park with the very awesome marketing VP from here at the HQ. We spied in on a little fashion shoot with a super model that made me feel like I was about three feet tall, breezed by Besthesda Fountain (which was empty), took a stroll past the John Lennon memorial and it was time to head toward lunch.
We meet our super nice and cool agency rep who works with the Web site at a sweet place near ABC studios on the Upper West Side. Delicious burgers and great conversation. A little cupcake action after (Magnolia Bakery) and we make our way to the studio.
This week on Stuff You Should Know, Dr. Clark and I hit on some interesting information about growing old despite some unhealthy habits and a very relevant show on Ponzi schemes, aka (insert Italian accent) it'sa Ponzi scheme!
On Tuesday's show, we discussed centenarians and how some of them are able to achieve the 100 year mark while partaking in things like alcohol and cigarettes for decades on end. It inspired Josh to keep up his unhealthy habits, so there's that. We also talked about Old Tom Parr - who supposedly lived to be 152 years old in the 1600s. We've gotten some listener mail that indicated some have doubted his age and claim that it was a mix up with his grandfather's birth certificate. So that may actually be true, but even so he'd still have lived a long time for the time period and fathered children as an old man.
There's been a lot in the news about Ponzi schemes lately. How do they work? And who's Ponzi? Check out this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com to discover how an Italian immigrant created a classic con that's still fleecing investors today.
I read a very sad story today from Time Magazine about the alarming suicide rate of U.S. Army recruiters. The United States is in the longest running war waged by an all-volunteer Army in history. Early on, patriotism in the wake of 9/11 made a recruiter's gig pretty steady. Now things aren't so easy. The longer the war drags on, the harder it is to convince young men and women to sign up for what will most likely mean a long tour of duty in an inhospitable land. The problem is, recruiters are still expected to sign two recruits per month, even if it means working 15 hour days, seven days a week.
Burnout is typical during wartime and suicide is no stranger to the military. But last year alone, the number of suicides by recruiters was three times the rate for the rest of the Army.
Back in 2001 in Altapuerca, Spain, a group of archaeologists from Madrid uncovered the remains of several Homo heidelbergensis (Neanderthal's ancestors). Recently, the researchers were able to reconstruct the bones enough to discover that among the prehuman rubble was Earth's earliest known special needs kid.
National Geographic reports that the skull of a ten-year-old -- it's unclear whether it was a boy or girl -- showed signs of a severe developmental disability known these days as craniosynostosis. When a child develops in utero, the skull is actually in pieces, held together by fibrous joints that eventually fuse the skull bones into one comprehensive mass we know and love as the skull. This process allows for the brain to develop fully before it becomes encased within the confines of the skull until it slides out again in search of a new home upon the death of the puppet it controlled.
That's right folks, your favorite little podcasting duo is being flown to New York on Thursday to get interviewed by a big time news group for a prime-time spot. Or something like that. I'll get back to you with more details, but we do know that it's an interview about our podcast, the new spoken word album we released (available at the iTunes store) and it's for one of the Web sites of one of the major networks. How's that for vague?
You'd think that centenarians -- people age 100 and older -- would owe their longevity to healthy habits, but that's not always the case. Tune in to this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com to learn more about genes, longevity and unhealthy habits.