The Best Stuff We've Read This Week

Great articles on the surveillance, life in prison and lots more stuff.

How Animal Domestication Works

It's strange to hear, but the transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture, including the domestication of wild animals, is the single biggest thing to ever happen to humanity. You can thank it for everything from kingdoms to Ebola.

How Royalty Works

In some nations royals are so ingrained in the national fabric they are considered part of the country. Join Josh and Chuck as they take a look backward in time at the ancient tradition of despotism and unbridled privilege in this episode.

The Best Stuff We've Read This Week

Every week Josh and Chuck read tons of articles and many of them are pretty good. Here are the best of the bunch.

Doorways and the Mind; or the Deeper Meaning of Walking into a Glass Door

I don't really have much to add to the post that was published on the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog, but the study they wrote about bears more than just simply passing along the link, I think. The post, "How walking through a doorway increases forgetting," concerns a study out of Notre Dame that sought to get to the bottom of how the mind carves experience up into episodic memory.

How Booze Gave Rise to Civilization

Somewhere around 10,000 or so years ago something big happened to humanity. We stopped wandering around, pulling berries from shrubs and jumping out of trees onto gazelles to feed ourselves. We settled down. We chose the most desirable plants from our surroundings and cultivated them into crops that could reliably produce sustenance for us. We chose the tastiest, least dangerous animals we could find and taught them to stay in pens until we got around to slaughtering them. This moment in human history (a moment that developed over thousands of years) is called the Neolithic Revolution, and not for nothing.

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...