Subido por Hector Morales

Cuando los ratones son colocados libremente sin límites

When mice are put into enclosures with limitless resources, their
social behaviour degenerates dramatically.
You always hear about scientists getting mice to run around in some
complicated maze in search of a single cube of cheese or pouring burning
hot liquids into their eyes. But in 1972 John B Calhoun deployed a seemingly
more mouse-friendly experiment called Mortality-Inhibiting Environment for
He built a mouse’s utopia (a pa-rat-ice ;] ) called Universe 25. It was a 101
square inch tank equipped with 37 inch climbing walls and an abundance of
food, water, and nesting material. There were no predators, the temperature
was kept at a steady 68 degrees, and all the mice were disease-free.
Naturally, one of the first things the mice did in their enviable new
environment was reproduce; the population doubled every 55 days. This
seemed fine at first, but eventually more proved to not be so merry; within
315 days the Universe 25 was crowded with 600 mice, each struggling to
cope with the overpopulation (there was still an abundant amount of food
and water in the Universe, but little space). Soon enough, there were more
mice than available social roles.
The mice lost their ability to form social bonds; some male rats would
randomly attack the others, some didn’t do anything but eat and groom,
females attacked their own nursing young, etc. With all this, the population
and consequently, the entire mouse society, collapsed.
As the number 25 will indicate, this wasn’t the first Universe experiment
Calhoun had conducted. All the other rat societies he’d experimented with
also spiraled into dystopia. In 1962, Calhoun used these results to publish a
paper called “Population Density and Social Pathology” in Scientific
American in which he stated that; “overpopulation means social collapse
followed by extinction.” Well, I guess this is why the Disney Universe only
contains 2 mice.
Issue 42 Forgetting Summer 2011
The Behavioral Sink
Will Wiles
See press about “The Behavioral Sink” on and
Cabinet and the author regret that a previous version of this
article omitted its sources. To readers who are interested in
learning more about Calhoun's research, we highly recommend
"Escaping the Laboratory: The Rodent Experiments of John B
Calhoun and Their Cultural Influence" by Edmund Ramsden and
Jon Adams, LSE Department of Economic History, 2008, to which
this article is indebted.
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
68°F, 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.
Mouse utopia/dystopia, as designed by John B. Calhoun (middle and bottom).
All images from Animal Populations: Nature’s Checks and Balances, 1983.
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.
Mouse utopia/dystopia, as designed by John B. Calhoun. All images from
Animal Populations: Nature’s Checks and Balances, 1983.
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 Therefore: (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-conceptualtechnological society will have been blocked.
Cover of John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, 1968. Brunner’s title comes from
the notion that the world’s population in 1968 could fit (if everyone were
standing tightly together) on the Isle of Man, while the projected population in
2010 would fit on the larger island of Zanzibar. Courtesy Grant
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
Poster for Soylent Green, 1973. The film depicts a futuristic society in which
overpopulation is so catastrophic and food in such short supply that the
populace survives on rations of the titular food product, which turns out to be
made from processed human flesh.
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 unmouse-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.
Sources: Edmund Ramsden & Jon Adams, "Escaping the Laboratory:
The Rodent Experiments of John B. Calhoun & Their Cultural Influence,"
The Journal of Social History, vol. 42, no. 3 (2009). Available as a
working paper at
John B. Calhoun,
"Death Squared: The Explosive Growth and Demise of a Mouse
Population," in Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, vol. 66
(January 1973), pp. 80–88. Available at
John B.
Calhoun, "Population Density and Social Pathology," Scientific American,
vol. 206, no. 2 (February 1962), pp. 139–150. Available at
Will Wiles is a London-based author and journalist. He is deputy editor
of Icon, a monthly architecture and design magazine. His debut novel,
Care of Wooden Floors, will be published by HarperPress in February
¿puede aplicarse esto a humanos? En las ciudades uno convive con millones d
epersonas porque hay miles de roles en la sociedad en los que podemos en cajar, a
veces en los pueblos se tiene mucho espacio pero no hay roles (Pueblo chico infierno
grande), ejemplo de comportamiento en situaciones cr´ticas la MISIÓN y el asesinato
de uno de los crios de una mujer ya que solo puede proteger uno.
¿Al parecer, el canibalismo, la homosexualidad (en crecimiento) son formas de ajuste
de una naturaleza para controlar una especie?