How We Get Along

i-5f262b906f9a4df69427ce47ab6e161d-sharebuzz.jpgOn The Primate Diaries, Eric Michael Johnson writes “not acting our age may be the very reason why we’re so successful as a species.” Like the bonobo which can be seen unlocking the cage of an unrelated individual just to share food, humans may retain juvenile characteristics that help us to “cooperate and share with others.” But while sharing food is laudable, telling the world how drunk you got last night can be a bit less noble. Jonah Lehrer on The Frontal Cortex calls Facebook “a perfect example of too much information” and says that despite technological platforms, “our social lives haven’t changed that much since we were hairy apes patrolling the African forest.” And Sharon Astyk blurs the lines of genealogy on Casaubon’s Book, saying the tribe is due for a comeback as the future makes new demands on our lifestyle. Sharon writes, “sometimes the tribes will be biological in nature. Sometimes they will be mostly chosen. Most often, I think they will be odd intersections of both.” So let’s get together; here’s to one big happy family.

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Efficiency: Mould vs. Man

i-0bc6ced0a4f57c48def4f8b1a11424e8-mouldbuzz.jpgRobert Burns wrote that the best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew, but Tokyo railway planners seem to have arranged things just right. Ed Yong on Not Exactly Rocket Science reports that Japanese researchers are exploring “better network design through biological principles,” by setting a “slime mould” cell loose on an in vitro model of the greater Tokyo area. Food sources in the wet dish simulated nearby cities, and slime-repellant light approximated mountains and other natural barriers. As the cell grew, latching onto food sources and refining its connections, it settled into a network nearly identical to the actual Tokyo rail system. So why risk laying schemes when a mindless organism will do it for you? But while efficiency comes naturally to Physarum polycephalum, we humans have to work a little harder for it. Sharon Astyk on Casaubon’s Book writes that it’s easy for people to “get confused about what matters and how much,” and offers ten ways to start doing more with less. And on The World’s Fair, Vince LiCata criticizes the plague of onboard computers that is making fridges and other appliances useless before their time; as Vince says, “some things need computer control, some things really just don’t.”

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