The Psychology of Mass Hysteria The Future of Sex Why We Deny: Global Warming Decoding Dystopia in Pop Culture Hofstra from the Ground Up
The Final Issue ? V isions o f the f uture: b ur ning br i g ht or b ur ning o ut ...
As I write this letter, I’m surveying the damage that Hurricane Sandy left on the path just outside my window. It’s November 2nd and the parking lot is covered in debris. The trees – though only some are left standing – are bare, and the sky is a milky gray. Beyond the view of my window are streets where homes are destroyed after fires sparked and great oaks collapsed. Ninety percent of Long Island is still without power, New Jersey has lost its beloved shore, and New York City is struggling to remain afloat as flooded blocks begin to add up. For many the losses have been devastating. Our thoughts go out to those families. Outside of our area, Hawaii has a tsunami warning, Arkansas just had an earthquake, and a drought is threatening the Midwest. It’s frightening to witness parts of the world crumbling before us under Mother Nature’s spell. And it’s ironic: this is what some people have been saying would happen when the Mayan calendar “ran out” on December 21, 2012. We’d be seeing natural disasters occurring all around us until finally, the world would simply come to an end. I have to admit that I always laughed and rolled my eyes at the idea. And yet, here we are. December 2012. There is no invention to
save us from natural disaster, no mighty superheroes to protect us. But we do have some things that Mother Nature can’t take away from us. And those, simply, are the facts. When the Pulse staff and I sat down at the beginning of the semester to discuss possible themes for our issue, we tossed around ideas about politics, young entrepreneurs, and technology. As we went around the room, another idea was brought to the table – doomsday. The timing was perfect. Our issue drops in December, the world was supposedly ending in December. The pieces fit. But what was supposed to be something clever turned into something dark. Then, quickly enough, we realized it didn’t need to be. After hearing about article ideas Photo by Gaby Chiha that would debunk the Mayan myth, Chelsea Tirrell, Editor-in-Chief challenge nature, open our minds, and enlighten our future, it was hard to believe that we had turned an issue that had your ambitions. You see, this is just the the potential to be so bleak into one that was beginning. When terror strikes, we fight and so optimistic. There are pieces to entertain like we rebuild. And when December 21, 2012 “Planet of the Octopuses,” page 30 and articles strikes, we’ll smile, and we’ll say, “Bring it on.” like “Try, Try Again,” page 6, “Your Future Project Awaits,” page 15, that reassure us of Sincerely, the bright path ahead. Chelsea Tirrell We’ve worked hard this semester to deliver content that will ease your fears and nurture Editor-in-Chief
Photo by Gaby Chiha Pulse Staff - Pictured from left to right - Emma Sugar, Grace Gavilanes, Victoria Powers, Akua Asomaning, Max Knoblauch, Chelsea Tirrell, Gaby Chiha, Katie Webb, Kristen Maldonado, Analicia Austin - Not Pictured - Cody Heintz, Ray Colavito
Pulse Fall 2012 Staff Editor-in-Chief
Webmaster/Social Media Manager Art Director
Assistant Art Director Art Contributor Videographer Business Manager Advertising/Promotions 2
Emma Sugar Analicia Austin Akua Asomaning Deanna Atkins Ray Colavito & Victoria Powers
Table of Contents Analicia Austin
Apocalypse Through Time
Victoria Powers 6 Why Are We So Bad at Predicting? Victoria Powers 7 World’s Worst Predictions Gaby Chiha
Hofstra from the Ground Up
Fashion Fast Forward
What’s Next in Sex
Your Future Project Awaits
Design Your Own Future
Photo Essay: Our Hopes and Fears
Dystopia in Pop Culture
May the End Be Ever in Your Favor
Q&A with Shattered Author
The Psychology of Mass Hysteria
Why We Deny: Global Warming
Planet of the Octopuses Photos Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Design by Katie Webb
A Brief History
of the apocalypse By Analicia Austin Art Contributer Predictions of the apocalypse have been prevalent throughout human history. So what’s the fascination? The word apocalypse derives from the Greek word apokalypsis, which means revelation or unveiling. For many over the centuries, belief in the apocalypse meant there was an order to the universe, and that someday the evil and suffering of humanity would cease to exist. “This sense of underlying design for history has traditionally characterized apocalyptic ideas and resembles ancient notions of fate as an absolute force in the universe that determines all things,” says Daniel Wojcik, director of the Folklore Program at the University of Oregon and author of The End of the World as We Know It: Faith, Fatalism, and Apocalypse in America. While it’s well-known that most civilizations have creation stories, like that of Adam and Eve in Genesis, most also have mythologies to explain the end of it all. Eschatology is the study of the “last things” and deals with such issues as the afterlife, judgments of our souls, and heaven and hell. The oldest known narratives of the end of the world involve some sort of cataclysmic flood sent by a deity or deities to destroy humanity. These stories appear in many world mythologies and religions. The most familiar is that of Noah’s Ark in Genesis. But cataclysmic floods also appear in other cultures, such as the mythology of Mesoamericans and various traditions of New Zealand, Native Americans, Australia and China. “In most of these narratives, the flood is sent to punish humanity and eliminate evil, and a culture hero survives the deluge by following divine warning and building an ark,
raft, canoe, or other vessel,” says Wojcik. Often in these stories, a few worthy survivors repopulate a world that has been cleansed of evil after the devastating flood. “Often those stories are based on events that actually happened for societies at the time, but it wasn’t the end of the world,” says John R. Hall, professor of Sociology at the University of California Davis and author of Apocalypse: from Antiquity to the Empire of Modernity. Another one of the world’s oldest apocalyptic traditions that bears some striking resemblances to Judeo-Christian mythologies comes from an ancient religion of Persia, or modern day Iran, Zoroastrianism. This religion is based on the revelations of the Persian prophet Zoroaster. The Zoroastrian apocalyptic belief--dating back to circa sixth century B.C.E. -- foretells a battle between Ahura Mazda, the god of light, and the spirit of evil. The power struggle concludes with the arrival of a savior, an apocalyptic battle, the defeat of evil, the raising of the dead, the flooding of the earth with molten metal, a final judgment, and the creation of a purified new world. The Zoroastrian text depicts a range of signs and tribulations announcing the end of time. With every passing decade, turn of the century, or millennia, there seems to be a story of how it all ends. Human nature and their speculations and obsession to explain how it all ends are what make up our fascinating history. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, said it best, when he stated, “In this century we have made remarkable material progress, but basically we are the same as we were thousands of years ago. Our spiritual needs are still very great.” For the full article, visit hupulse.com
Hey, Mayans? No.
The Mayans doomsday prediction is completely false. Here’s why. By Max Knoblauch Editor-at-Large A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that one in ten global citizens believes the world could end via the “Mayan Apocalypse Prophecy” on December 21st, 2012. Twelve percent of Americans hold this belief. The theory, as it turns out, has no scientific foundation. Scientists at both NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Hayden Planetarium have proved the theory’s claims to be false. Let’s look at exactly why the Mayan prediction should not be taken seriously. 1. The alignment of the Sun, the Earth, and the center of the galaxy is not exclusive to 2012. This occurs every year in late December, near the solstice. 2. The Mayans also believed the Earth was flat, with four corners. 3. The Mayans wrongly predicted the beginning of the Earth by 4.5 billion years. Why are we trusting them about the end? 4. The theory states that a rogue planet, Nibiru, will swing in from an outer solar system and collide with the earth. All major sources of gravity in the solar system are known, and this planet does not exist. 5. The Mayan calendar does not predict the end! It simply stops, implying the beginning of a new cycle.
Read more about the Mayan myth on our website, hupulse.com
ALYPSE D o o m s day F o r e c a s t s By Analicia Austin Art Contributer
Circa 1500 B.C. The Persian prophet Zoroaster speaks of a cosmic battle between good and evil ending in a new, perfect world for humanity.
485 B.C. The prophets in the Book of Isaiah speak of contemporary problems through poetry, often including future predictions. With its cosmic symbolism and introduction of the resurrection of the dead, Isaiah reveals important elements of the apocalyptic worldview.
999/1000 A.D. This marks the end of the first Christian Millennium. Pope Sylvester presides over a dramatic midnight mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, as pilgrims anticipated of the end of the world.
1348 The Black Death reached Western Europe. Jews are blamed for poisoning the wells and are killed in large numbers. The plague and ensuing chaos were viewed as the end of days.
1666 The great fire in London causes a chaos, leading people to believe it was the apocalypse. The calendric “666” cited in the Book of Revelation as the “number of the Beast” had already inspired fear in many. The Jewish Kabbalistic leader Shabbetai Tzevi at the time also predicts the end of history.
Oct 1, 1914
The Book of Revelation is written and becomes the source for believers of the Christian prophecy. Revelation has had tremendous influence on our culture and history, and has contributed to phrases in popular culture from the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” to the “mark of the beast.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses viewed World War I as the Battle of Armageddon.
The start of a new century brings on the Y2K phenomenon, which many viewed to be the end of the world.
Sextus Julius Africanus, a Roman official and early Christian scholar, writes his Chronografiai, the first universal chronology written from a Christian perspective. It is based on 5,000 years worth of history, from creation to the Jewish Babylonian exile. It calls for the Second Coming of Christ in the year 500. His chronology placed “The End” 6,000 years after creation.
247 A.D. There is an increase in Christian persecution by the Roman government, leading Christians to believe that “The End” was near.
Dec 1999/Jan 2000
May 21, 2011 This day was known as “The Rapture” and was many believe the end of day was near.
Dec 21, 2012 The Mayan calendar ends on this day. Some interpret it to signify the end of the world, though there is no historical archaeological evidence the Mayans actually believed this.
So why do we keep trying? By Victoria Powers Staff Writer Clearly, there’s no magic 8-ball that can accurately predict the future. Even some of the best scientific predictions have turned out to be epic failures. Author and host of the award-winning podcast, The Future and You, Stephen Euin Cobb believes movies and books that predict the end of the world (or downfall of civilization) have become so popular in part because they make for good stories. “People have always loved stories,” Cobb says. “And at their core, all stories are about conflict. “Writers are universally taught that they must start their stories with a conflict and end them the moment the conflict has ended. Something in the story must be at risk and the bigger the risk the better. And since nothing is bigger than the entire world there are an uncountable number of novels and movies in which the world itself hangs in the balance.” Cobb believes that even if civilization were
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Illustration by Kristin Sprague
to fall, the world would continue to thrive. “Personally, I don’t expect a fall of civilization anytime soon,” he says. “And even if a catastrophic fall were to happen on one continent, the world is not yet sufficiently interdependent for all the nations of the world to fall like a house of cards.” Author David Orrell also writes on the subject of predictions. In his book, The Future of Everything: The Science of Prediction, Orrell discusses different vehicles that have been used over time to predict the future, including stars and planets (astrology), palm reading (chiromancy), shape of head (phrenology), lightning and thunder (ceraunoscopy), tea leaves or coffee grounds (tasseomancy) and passages of sacred texts (bibliomancy), to name just a few. Any prediction necessarily involves a large dollop of subjectivity,” Orrell says, “like
Socrates himself, we only know that we know nothing.” Orrell agrees with the notion that the entertainment value behind end-of-the-world predictions is one of the main reasons they are so popular. “Forecasts are entertainment because it makes a good story, and builds up suspense. We make sense of the world by constructing a narrative, and as with a movie, we want to know how it will end.” Author of the Dutch book about the paranormal Dood geen Einde—which in English means “Death Does Not End”—and YouTube host, Michael Rogge thinks many who predict the future do it to attract an audience. “It is a news item that is guaranteed to attract attention. Either to ridicule predictions or to instill belief in them makes a hot item when other subjects have become exhausted.”
“...the world is not yet sufficiently interdependent for all the nations of the world to fall like a house of cards.”
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A list of how Sci-Fi movies and past predictors have lied to us By Victoria Powers Staff Writer In Back to the Future II, Marty McFly travels to 2015, a future filled with hover boards and flying cars. We still have three years, granted, but it seems unlikely that some of the movie’s predictions about the future will materialize. The Cubs winning a World Series? Really? Many predictions about the future haven’t quite panned out. Here are a few that fell flat. 1. The turn of the millennium went off like all other New Year’s. The ball in Times Square dropped, people wore pointy hats and drank too much, and Auld Lang Syne played without anyone actually knowing the lyrics. The one thing that didn’t happen was the huge Y2K scare. Computers around the world did not shut down and the giant frenzy and hysteria
seemed laughable the next day. 2. If you survived October 21, 2011, congratulations. Harold Camping, an American Christian radio broadcaster, predicted that on that day, after five months of plagues and disasters, the world would come to an end. “This is fact! May 21, 2011 is the day of the Rapture, it is the day that Judgment Day begins.” Camping said. Camping had predicted a previous end of the world in 1994 as well. His predictions gained a popular following through his radio program, which he retired from days after his 2011 prediction failed to pan out. 3. Even bands as talented as The Beatles didn’t have it easy making it to the top. They were rejected by many record labels. According to BCBusiness, in 1962, Dick Rowe, a Decca Records Executive told them: “Groups are out; four-piece groups with guitars particularly are finished…The Beatles have no future in show business.” 4. The 1962 World Fair was another event where people had high hopes for the future. They showed plans for flying cars that were “sure to be around by 2001.” They showed cities covered in giant domes to protect residents from the weather and people wearing rocket packs flying off the ground. 5. Most people are always within an
Illustration by Kristin Sprague The Tardis from Doctor Who
Illustration by Kristin Sprague Flying Car
arm’s length of their phone. If you leave your cell phone at home by accident, it feels like part of you is missing. Yet one of our own U.S. Presidents was not keen on jumping on the phone bandwagon. After experiencing Alexander Graham Bell’s invention, President Rutherford B. Hayes was less than impressed. He was quoted as saying, “It’s a great invention but who would want to use it anyway?” We’re guessing he had no clue his invention would eventually hold Angry Birds. Obviously, no one is expected to predict the future accurately. Where would be the fun in that? As long as technology keeps advancing and people keep creating new inventions, we have an exciting ride ahead. Walt Disney said it best: “We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
From the ground up Rebuilding Hofstra Post-Apocalypse
Photo by Gaby Chiha
By Gaby Chiha Photo Editor The year is 2013 and the apocalypse has happened. Whether it was from an extraterrestrial invasion, natural disaster, or zombie attack, the students of Hofstra University stand on grounds that are leveled. The academic side is gone, the residential side is gone, and the entire infrastructure has disappeared. The community, however, still stands and has but one task--to rebuild Hofstra. The scenario may be far-fetched, but Pulse magazine asked real students and faculty members what changes they would make on campus if they could rebuild Hofstra entirely from scratch. The wildest of dreams could come true - from altering academic programs, to moving the campus off of Long Island, to
not even having classes. Everything would be fair game. James Kalenderian, a sophomore biomedical engineering major, would like to see sports available as a major for students who come to Hofstra solely for athletics. He believes that student athletes who are constantly worrying about keeping their GPA up to stay on the team should have the opportunity to major in a subject pertaining to their field. “I would add Arabic as a major because it’s only [offered as] a minor, and I would also add International Relations,” says Priyanka Jaisinghani, a junior psychology major who
commutes to Hofstra. She would also like to see a major in hospitality “since we don’t have anything like that.” “Zoology,” is the idea Alexandra Weinstein, an undecided transfer student, has for the ‘new’ Hofstra curriculum. “What students wouldn’t want to interact with animals?” “Nursing [would] be a good program to be offered at the medical school,” Peter Libman, the Dean of Students, says in relation to what majors he’d ideally like to add. Moving toward the residential side of Hofstra, Jaisinghani “would have more places
‘Pulse’ asked students and faculty members what changes they would make on campus.
to eat...like bistros or cafes.” She would want these places to have more ethnic variety, like Chinese or Indian food. As for the physical campus, Libman believes reconstructing essential landmarks would be key. “I would try to rebuild a replica of Hofstra Hall to have a good landmark,” Dean Libman says, who would also bring back the library and the unispan. Not everyone was anxious to bring back certain buildings, however. Bob Papper, chair of the Department of Journalism, Media Studies, and Public Relations, has plans to completely transform Dempster Hall. “I would redesign this building so that [students in one] classroom didn’t wind up listening to another class half of the time. It’s like they built this building, and it was a surprise that we were going to have classes,” says Papper. He would also rethink the organization of departments. “Having dance with communication doesn’t really make any sense. We deal with studios
that require quiet, and dance is seldom that way,” he says. Like many on campus, Jaisinghani would try to retain Hofstra’s beauty. “Aesthetically, I like the beauty of Hofstra because we have a lot of different types of plants and trees, and it’s actually very beautiful to walk around,” says Jaisinghani, who also mentioned the agriculture on campus. Students and faculty also agreed on keeping the school’s location. “It’s close to New York, close to the beaches, and close to all the major airports,” says Dean Libman, pointing out Hofstra’s ideal campus setting. “I like the idea of being outside [the city] because in some respects it allows you to see the city better than if you’re in the middle of it,” adds Papper. Finally, comes one of the most debated questions among universities—students’ tuition. How low could we really make it?
The wildest of dreams could come true, from altering academic programs, to moving the campus off of Long Island, to not even having classes.
“[Tuition] should be lowered to $20,000 or $30,000,” says Kalenderian. “We don’t want to go broke,” says Weinstein. “Tuition should be more than a SUNY or CUNY school because [Hofstra’s] a private institution, but it should be lowered because everyone’s having problems paying loans and it’s not fair to students.” Jaisinghani has a different approach to the problem. “I would change Hofstra from private to public because then it would be much cheaper. We’d still have the same quality of education but at a lower price,” she says. Of course, if the apocalypse were still an active threat and the campus was in danger, it might call for a very different kind of restructuring. “I would change the academic buildings to survival houses,” says Kerri Iuorno, a senior accounting major. “The [Mack] arena could be one of the survival areas where people learn to fight and to live without anything.” Hofstra University’s future has many possible outcomes post-apocalypse, but it’s clear that students and faculty are ready, if need be, to rebuild from the ground up.
...students’ tuition—how low could we really make it?
Photo by Gaby Chiha
Artistic interpretation of an Alexander McQueens design Art by Katie Webb Photo editing by Gaby Chiha
Fashion A behind-the-scenes snapshot of visionaries in the design world and the technologically advanced materials they have been experimenting with By Akua Asomaning Videographer Imagine oddly shaped capes, see-through plastic helmets and abstract-like garments filling the pages of fashion magazines. Postapocalyptic fashion is based on a vision of the future of mankind after a major cataclysm. Many designers have used inspiration from architecture, scientific discoveries and everyday objects in society or from historical moments to create wardrobes that are labeled post-apocalyptic. Dystopic visions have seized the imagination of many visionary fashion designers. In recent shows such as Project Runway, runways are often crowded with extraterrestrial aliens, survivors of a post-nuclear disaster, and mutant models. Many designers have used inspiration from architecture, scientific discoveries and everyday objects to create wardrobes that are labeled post-apocalyptic. Kylie Cumbo, a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, describes post-apocalyptic fashion as “edgy and avant-garde.” She points out that post-apocalyptic designers have been creating such styles for decades. Designers, like Ara Jo, Alexander McQueen, Andreea Musat and Louise Goldin, have already used over-the-top futuristic approaches in their designs that has revolutionized fashion. Yet the future of fashion is not only a
question of image, but also of the more or less radical vision that fashion designers may conjure up on their runways, it is also a question of substance. When it comes to apocalyptic fashion, a lot these designers are using fabrics or materials in general that one wouldn’t think of normally wearing to create an outfit. For instance, the 2010 Video Music Awards had a lot of wild fashion. Kesha came wearing a surprisingly chic garbage bag and Lady Gaga arrived wearing an outfit made of meat. These outfits are apocalyptic in the sense that they show “shifts in silhouettes and shapes” that look like bodies mutating. The shapes can be inspired by mathematics, physics or geometric figures. Donna Davis, senior at the Fashion Institute of Technology, wonders whether fashion would even exist during a post-apocalyptic era. “I don’t even know if people would wear clothes, and if they did, I would imagine they would go back to the drawing boards like Adam and Eve and use nature and foliage,” she says. “Would fashion even be a priority?” Technology is helping to move fashion forward. Fashion designers and a fiber scientist at Cornell University collaborated to create a jacket that could prevent colds and flu. Instead of pathogens invading the body, they attach themselves to the fabric.In an article for the Cornell Chronicle, Cornell student Olivia Ong explained how “the fabrics were created by dipping them in solutions containing nanoparticles synthe-
sized” which “has the ability to oxidize smog.” This fabric can also destroy harmful gases and protects the wearer from smog and air pollution. Other designers are making new fabrics that are derived from plant-based polymers or conductive fibers, new elastic materials that include impact-resistant materials, and sunprotective and organic fabrics. Ama Kwakye, a fashion designer and current student at Syracuse University who has recently launched her own line of Afro-centric bowties, explains how post-apocalyptic designers are “ugly and atrociously chic.” “New designs are emerging -- some are keeping it classy, others trashy, but it all has a message to say and it usually lies within the style and fabric,” says Kwakye. “You have to be willing to read into it.” As the novelist Richard Bach once said: “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” PostApocalyptic fashion will be the “butterfly” in the eye of fashion.
Designers like Ara Jo, Alexander McQueen, Andreea Musat, and Louise Goldin have already used overthe-top futuristic approaches...
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I can have a kid on my own. I can have a baby, even if Iâ€™m infertile. I still want to be intimate with her.
I want to have my fi rst child with him.
Modeled by Alex Cheli and Kristin Sprague The feelings expressed above are not those of the models
Photo by Gaby Chiha Design by Katie Webb
Scientific advancements in reproductive science are taking away our need for sex. Will the desire follow? By Chelsea Tirrell Editor-in-Chief Kristin Sprague and Alex Cheli are smitten with one another. They hold hands, kiss intermittently, and laugh at one another’s jokes. As they part after our photoshoot, it’s evident that there’s passion between the two. It takes five minutes to say goodbye, and two smiles to know they’ll be seeing each other later. And somehow, it’s not uncomfortable. Just natural. With the anticipated advancements in science, however, one is left to wonder whether a relationship like theirs will be around in the distant future. Science is rapidly changing the rules of reproduction. Stem cell research promises to make it easier for infertile women to have babies. Male stem cells could someday yield viable sperm and eggs. And scientists are working on an artificial womb that could support an embryo outside a woman’s body. Will there come a day when it doesn’t take a man and a woman to produce a child? And if so, will that affect the purpose of, and even our feelings about, sexual relationships? In the United Kingdom, researchers and scientists are hard at work trying to obtain a license that will allow them to fertilize eggs grown entirely from stem cells in an attempt to generate an unlimited supply of human eggs. Doing so could eventually allow infertile women to have babies and perhaps even give older women the opportunity to have children later in life. “Stem cells are a kind of cell in our body which can become pretty much any other kind of cell if given the right instructions,” says Aarathi Prasad, author of Like A Virgin – How Science is Redesigning the Rules of Sex. “So, whilst a skin cell can only ever divide to give you another skin cell, a stem cell could become a skin cell, or even an egg or sperm cell.” However, the research is controversial because it involves the destruction of
embryos. And there are scientific challenges to overcome. “I don’t know that they could repopulate the ovaries and maintain normal menstrual cycles,” says obstetrician and gynecologist Mark Perloe, of Georgia Reproductive Specialists. “The issue of controlling and restoring monthly cycles is not really clear.” The research team, led by reproductive biologist Evelyn Telfer of Edinburgh University and Professor Jonathan Tilly of Harvard Medical School, is hoping to fertilize laboratory-grown egg cells with human sperm to see if they survive. If they do, they’ll be studied. But only for up to 14 days, which is the legal limit. With the license, which would be granted by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, the team will have more time. “The longer they can grow them, the more information you can get about the viability of pregnancy,” says Perloe. But Perloe cautions, “It’s a long way away from saying we can actually create embryos in a laboratory, put them in the woman, and then control them.” Tilly also published research that revealed stem cells exist in ovaries which, when stimulated, grow immature egg cells. “If they’re finding stem cells that can be coaxed into eggs, it would be likely that the ability to control eggs would be possible,” says Perloe. Prasad predicts that the generation of sperm and eggs from bone marrow or ovarian stem cells could be in clinical use within 15 to 20 years. Tilly’s research also showed that both sperm and eggs can be produced from male stem cells seeing as they have both X and Y chromosomes.
“Imagine a man has abnormal sperm they’re not moving properly, for example, so they cannot fertilize his partner’s eggs - some sperm abnormalities like this are also associated with chromosome abnormalities,” says Prasad. “So if you can use his bone marrow stem cells instead to create new sperm that is not defective, but that still contains his DNA, this could improve his chances of having a child who is healthy.” In addition to the research on stem cells is the creation of the artificial womb, which will allow embryos to grow outside of a woman’s body. Dr. Hung-Ching Liu, of Cornell University’s Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility, along with her colleagues, have removed cells from the endometrium, the lining of the womb, and have grown them by using hormones and growth factors, such as nutrients and estrogen. Once nurtured, they inserted them into the artificial womb. The research team kept them there for six days, but are looking to extend it to 14, similar to the stem cell research limit. In doing so, they’ll be able to see if the embryo would attach to the walls of the artificial womb and begin creating a placenta. “An artificial womb has already been developed for sharks and something similar was tested on goat fetuses [sic],” says Prasad. “But it is hard to say when one will be produced that humans could use. Research is ongoing and predictions are within 100 years that a womb outside the body will be available.” Perloe agrees with this timing. “An artificial womb would require development of a uterine lining for the pregnancy to implant, a blood supply and mimicking all the normal
In addition to the research on stem cells is the creation of the artificial womb, which will allow embryos to grow outside of a woman’s body.
he didn’t carry the fetus,” says Pineno. “But motherhood has the additional component. You’re nurturing the baby from the very conception of it. You already have some sort of special connection.” There are also ethical issues to consider. “Once we work out the science, then the question comes: what percent of people will accept it?” questioned Perloe. According to Scott Gelfand, associate professor and director of Oklahoma State University Ethics Center, that percentage won’t be very high. “It’s a political hot potato,” he says. Gelfand fears that coercion could affect how people feel about the advancements. For example, if the artificial womb becomes available, women may not have to leave work but she still may choose to. This would be reflected in her pay whereas maternity leave would not. This also translates to healthcare. The artificial womb could end up being cheaper than natural childbirth in that natural childbirth requires hospital and doctor fees, medication costs and prenatal care, according to Gelfand. If that ends up being the case, the woman’s healthcare provider may tell her that they’ll cover up to what it would cost artificially and for the rest, she’s on her own. There’s also the issue of abortion. With the artificial womb, scientists might be able to abort a fetus but still keep it alive, allowing it to grow to term in the artificial womb. “It seems to me that requiring a women to terminate a pregnancy and then place the fetus or embryo into an artificial womb is similar to the Photo courtesy of Wang Wei case of Roe vs. Wade,” Gelfand says. “Assuming Aarathi Prasad, author of ‘Like a Vigin: How science is one thing, that the Redefining the Rules of Sex’ removal of the fetus or embryo is no more invasive than an abortion.” the possibility of losing the mother-child Roe vs. Wade allows a woman to have an connection that’s typically established at birth. abortion so long as it’s balanced with the “The father has the connection even though interactions associated with pregnancy. I think this is 50 to 100 years off or more.” The artificial wombs will allow men to produce children alone. It will also help women who suffer from miscarriages, premature births, or who were born with damaged wombs making it impossible to conceive, have a child. “People who cannot do it the natural way, like people who have to reach out to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to conceive, will obviously make use of this technique,” says evolutionary psychology professor Oskar Pineno. It’s also possible that women who don’t wish to give up their appearance will vouch for this option. So long as money isn’t an option. “I can understand why some women may be worried about their looks declining after pregnancy,” says Pineno. “They want to stay in the market for a long time and look nice and look young. Therefore, they may decide to use these techniques.” While this a great opportunity for women who are unable to conceive naturally, or for those who simply don’t wish to, it risks
state’s regulations for protecting prenatal life and protecting women’s health. People, in general, are also scared of what could be next. “It seems so unnatural,” says Gelfand. “That’s kind of frightening.” Over time, however, Gelfand thinks it’s a concept that will become familiar, similar to the way IVF used to be taboo but now the majority of people accept it. So, once it does become familiar, what will happen to the relationship between men and women? When reproductive technologies allow men to produce children without women thanks to the eggs and sperm found in their stem cells, and the artificial womb allows women to have children despite reproduction struggles, could that be the end of sex? Pineno doesn’t believe so. “We have brains that enjoy sex,” he says. “The brain that enjoys sex is a product of evolution. We enjoy it because that activity leads to reproduction of genes. So, we’re still going to make babies in the old way.” Prasad agrees. “Most people [who are] having regular sex (or even occasional sex) detach that act and its social and recreational benefits from its role in reproduction,” she says. “So technology in this case is not a controller but a facilitator. People whom biology has not allowed to have children the natural way will be offered a helping hand by new technology.” People have been using IVF treatments since 1978. Other women use sperm donors to have children. And yet, we’re still having sex despite these artificial inseminations. “I still think we are going to have a lot of sex just because it’s fun,” says Pineno. “It’s not because we want to have babies. But indirectly, it will still lead to babies.” Relationships aren’t in danger, either. “The reason why we stay with someone for a long time is not because we want to make babies, but because we want to take care of the babies we make,” says Pineno. So Kristin and Alex don’t have to worry. Their relationship may naturally run its course in time, but not due to science. In the meantime, they can go on and enjoy their spark.
When reproductive technologies allow men to produce children without women... could that be the end of sex?
For polls, playlists and more articles on the end and the future check out Pulse online at hupulse.com
A national campaign pairs high school students with coaches for one year to create projects that will change the world
Photo courtesy of The Future Project Coaches and students pose for a picture at Revolution, an end-of-the-year event that brings teams together to present their projects.
By Grace Gavilanes Copy Chief Mariely Garcia was only a junior at Richard R. Green High School in New York when recruiters visited her school to enlist students for The Future Project. Their pitch impressed Garcia with its unique, modern take on extracurricular activities. “A lot of school clubs look for students with specific interests, but The Future Project welcomed diversity,” says Garcia. The Future Project pairs high school students with mentors—college students or young professionals—with one goal in mind: to help each teen create a larger-than-life project that will reignite a passion for learning and
a boldness to dream big. Created in 2011 by two recent Yale graduates, Kanya Balakrishna and Andrew Mangino, the non profit program has already reached 500 students in New York, Washington, D.C., and New Haven. With the help of her coach, Garcia created Perfectly Made, a social media campaign designed to help “all people, especially the youth of today, [feel] comfortable in their own shoes.” The project has a presence on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and has readers in China, Japan, and Australia. “I believe we each have a passion,” says
Garcia of her experience creating Perfectly Made. “And it’s our duty in life to act on that passion.” Stimulating passion is precisely what Balakrishna and Mangino set out to do. The two began their careers as speechwriters in Washington, D.C., Balakrishna at the Food and Drug Administration and Mangino at the U.S. Department of Justice. Each noticed in their generation an antsy eagerness to better their communities and improve the world, but also a paralyzing hesitance. Mangino recalls mentoring a student,
“...it’s high time in America to revolutionize education...”
Saidur Sarkur, at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. in fall 2009. They were speaking about his college essay, which Sarkur was struggling with. “I asked him what he was passionate about, and he said he’d never been asked that. After a deep conversation, we realized he had an inclination toward engineering—and that he imagined one day going back to Bangladesh and rebuilding his community that had been damaged in tsunamis and was behind the developed world in terms of infrastructure,” says Mangino. “As soon as he could see this future, and saw the relevance of education, he lit himself on fire, managed to get into his dream school, the University of Maryland, and is going strong today.” Mangino emphasizes that he does not believe that teachers are to blame for this lack of inspiration in the classroom. “The problem is that school, because of the flurry of complicated policies and misaligned priorities, has evolved to be something altogether different than what we all know it should be: a time to figure out what really matters to you,” says Mangino, “and to take that passion and put it into action, to develop the curiosity to learn about whatever it is that makes you so full of life and the grit to actually do something great with it.” Balakrishna and Mangino consulted visionary researchers and leaders like Deborah Bial, founder of the Posse Foundation, and Tim Shriver, CEO of the Special Olympics, for guidance. “They helped us tweak our model through great questions and all united around a single chorus: it’s high time in America to revolutionize education, and in order to do so, we must dare a truly human approach that gets people excited,” says Mangino. “That’s why we talk so much about movement. Because we believe movement is an effective tool for making change, but also because when people are moving, great things inevitably happen.” Their goal was in place: Balakrishna and Mangino aimed to transform schools into safe havens, where students’ passions would be valued and embraced, rather than ignored. And that’s exactly what they did in New York, New Haven, and Washington, D.C. with the launch of The Future Project. Fast forward to the fall of 2011, when Mariely Garcia and her coach Megan Quinn, a junior sociology major at New York University, begin to discuss possible options for Garcia’s project. “When I first met Megan, I thought it wasn’t going to work out,” says Garcia with
a laugh. Quinn and Garcia were paired due to similar passions and interests, but when it came time to meet for their weekly brainstorming session, they hit an unexpected obstacle. Originally, Garcia had wanted to create a project based on her pro-life stance, an issue she was adamant about pursuing. But Quinn had different beliefs. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness. What am I going to do?’ because I was super involved in prochoice activist work,” says Quinn. At their weekly meetings, The Future Project staff would hand out prompts related to each person’s passion, and how it could be applied to their own project. “One of the prompts was about root causes, so I would say, ‘We care about the same problem, which is teen pregnancy, so let’s look at root causes. We also care about the same problem, which is abortion, so let’s look at that root cause.’ ” Garcia and Quinn had finally found a common denominator that could be used as the basis for their project. “It’s my job as a coach to ask questions to force her to think outside the box, and that will lead to the project,” says Quinn. “We kept coming back to self-esteem, and people feeling like they have no support system or just not feeling good about themselves, and making decisions based on those feelings.” In November 2011, Garcia and Quinn attended Vision Day, an annual day of inspiration that took place in all three participating cities. The event featured speeches from visionaries from across the country, and served as an opportunity to meet other coaches and fellows. “I came out [of Vision Day] saying, ‘I’m going to change the world! I have no idea how, but I’m going to do it,’” says Garcia. “There’s nothing better than to have someone say, ‘I’m here with you, no matter how crazy your idea is,’ ” says Garcia of her experience. “That gives people the opportunity to dream big, with no limits.” Coming home, Garcia stepped into her kitchen and began to pace back and forth, eager to develop a larger-than-life project that could make a difference. “I kept saying, ‘What am I going to do? How am I going to change the world?’ ” The pacing eventually stopped and the idea just hit her. “Perfectly Made is my
“There’s nothing better than to have someone say, ‘I’m here with you, no matter how crazy your idea is.”
project,” Garcia remembers saying out loud. “I wrote a few sentences about what the name meant to me, and it became my mission statement.” She quickly logged onto her computer to send her coach an email. “I said, ‘Megan, I have this great idea!’ explained it, and we just went with it,” recalls Garcia. “She was all for it.” And just like that, Garcia’s idea was born. “I feel like in our day-to-day endeavors, we are bombarded with messages that are not positive—’You aren’t good enough,’ ‘Why aren’t you like him or her?’ and ‘Why can’t you do anything right?’ ” says Garcia. “Perfectly Made reminds people that they are perfect just the way they are.” Garcia wanted her message to reach as many people as possible, and found the most effective way of doing so would be through a social media campaign. “We can literally touch the entire world through social media,” she says. “Our impact is global. It’s truly limitless.” Aside from their Tumblr page, which is updated daily with inspirational images, quotes, and written pieces, Garcia and Quinn also run a morning email blast “to help students start their day off on the right foot.” They also use the Perfectly Made YouTube account as a platform to share people’s personal stories. “We have a video of this boy named Steven, who suffered from an eating disorder, but eventually overcame it,” says Garcia. “Just sharing that story—people know that whatever they’re going through, they’re never going through it alone.” Garcia and Quinn will return to The Future Project this year to expand Perfectly Made, and the 17-year-old already has high expectations. She hopes to increase the impact locally by holding monthly events for New York residents to attend. “They can feel free to be themselves [at this event], and we’ll help them build confidence,” says Garcia. “When I walked out of Vision Day thinking, ‘I can do anything,’—there is nothing that compares to that. I want them to feel the same.” Since its inception, The Future Project has inspired coaches and fellows to act on their dreams, whether that means organizing a large-scale fashion show or creating a photography website. The program has expanded from reaching two New York City public high schools in its first year to five this year. “This is about a paradigm shift from achievement above all else to aspiration first,” says Mangino. “When people are inspired, they can do anything.”
“Just sharing that story—people know whatever they are going through, they are not going through it alone.”
Yo u r OW N
By Deanna Atkins Staff Writer “Entrepreneurism is, for most people, the path to self-actualization. It gives the individual the opportunity to bring to fruition a dream,” says Dr. Diane Persky, Hofstra University’s visiting professor of management. Functioning in a world where our futures seem so uncertain is not easy, but we have to try not to let those doubts deprive us of our passions, desires and creativity. “As an entrepreneur, you are in charge of your own destiny, where you can control many aspects of your career,” says Persky. “ Although the choice to be an entrepreneur can be financially risky, I believe that the upside potential far outweighs the risks.” Dr. Larry Bellman, adjunct associate professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at Hofstra University also shares optimism about entrepreneurism. “While job opportunities in the private sector continue to surface for graduating collegians, opportunities for budding entrepreneurs still prevail,” Bellman says. “Young entrepreneurs do not have to invent something new; just uncover unmet customer needs with existing services.” That’s exactly what
Photo courtesy of Viva La Suit Enoch Tang, CEO of Viva La Suit
That’s exactly what these young entrepreneurs are doing. Founded in 2012, Viva La Suit, a company that helps men become more fashionable by teaching them about custom menswear, is the brainchild of Enoch Tang, a 2010 graduate of Binghamton University, and Devin Horzempa, a 2010 graduate of Hofstra University. “It was a good team up,” says Horzempa, “because he’s much more organized and operational, where I’m more scattered and creative.” Tang had always wanted his own business. “I wanted to have more control over my career path.” He also wanted to help other people by “improving men’s fashion and ultimately lifestyle.” Horzempa, who acts as vice president and creative director of Viva La Suit, says the goal of the company is “to serve as a depository for fashion knowledge.” “When you’re a guy trying to learn about fashion, it’s intimidating Photo courtesy of Viva La Suit to get a very basic, affordable and easy-toDevin Horzempa, Creative Director of V.L.S. utilize system of fashion that you can wear every day.” knowledge.” As consultants, their team works colBoth Tang and Horzempa have come a long laboratively to help men find clothes with the way in their fashion know-how. They each emperfect fit, fabric, cut, and color pairing they body the notion that you can dream up someneed for their fashion-forward journey. thing new at any stage of your life, something “[We want] to be the premier destination that many people are hesitant to pursue. for information and education on quality “[When] I came in touch with custom tailormenswear,” says Horzempa. ing and high fashion, I had no clue what to do “We also wanted to add a component where but I educated myself and now I want to help we provide solutions --where we make it easy other people and provide that immediate soluand simple,” says Tang. tion, which for me is custom,” says Tang. They strive to be an affordable company Both he and Horzempa agree that dressing that gives men the advice and solutions well has helped them in many ways. that aren’t so easy to find. While their “The clothing you wear becomes a part of company doesn’t open its doors until who you are,” says Horzempa. “Walking into January 2013 with the launch of vivathe Plaza Hotel [in NYC] wearing the bestlasuit.com, they’ve been busy with profitting suit I’ve ever owned makes you feel like motion to make their dream a reality. a million bucks.” For these young men, networking Their goals have yet to be reached but their and word of mouth have proved to be spirits and hearts are definitely in the right key factors in starting their business. place. They’ve learned that input from others Their ultimate goal? “[We want] to become allows you to tweak your idea. the source for men’s fashion knowledge in the “After talking to both guys and girls, world - if you want to know whether somethe most enthusiastic feedback comes from thing is an appropriate thing to wear on a guys,” says Tang. “There are a lot of girls saydate, or if this shirt matches these pants, you ing, ‘Help my boyfriend [learn to dress well],’ go to us.” or ‘help my friend,’ and I want to share my
hopes and fears of Hofstra students
Concept and Design by Katie Webb Photos by Gaby Chiha
Decoding Dystopia in Pop Culture 20
By Kristen Maldonado Webmaster/Social Media Manager The meteoric rise to fame of the bookturned-movie The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is just one example of how popular some dystopian stories have become in pop culture today. But where does this fascination come from? “War has become pervasive; news of it is splashed across every headline,” says SHATTER ME author Tahereh Mafi. “Young generations have been born into a world where news of death and destruction have become a kind of norm.” She adds, “I think it’s normal for people to ask questions about where we are and where we’ll end up.” Mafi’s trilogy takes place in a dystopian society where the world is polluted, animals are nearly wiped out, and food and water are scarce. She says her worries about the state of our environment definitely came into play when creating the dystopian world in her novels. “The world is a mess,” agrees Jonathan Maberry, award-winning author of Ghost Road Blues. “The environment sucks, the economy sucks, politics suck, and there’s a lot going on right now to be disappointed in.” “We’re handing [the next generation] a broken world,” says Maberry. It’s this new generation – mainly children and teens – that are reading about the end of the world and the damage from dysfunctional societies.
Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Maberry
But Maberry insists it’s not the dystopian stories themselves that intrigue readers, it’s the idea that “the teens who survive the
apocalypse or escape dystopia… build something new.” The characters in the story serve as “proxies for us,” he says, just as they do in traditional monster stories. “It’s not about the vampire, it’s about the people that fight the vampire.”
Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Maberry
Maberry also says that while these stories are popular, that doesn’t mean the world really will end in December as many people believe the Mayan calendar suggests. “I’ve got a Dilbert calendar at home and it ends on January 31st. I’m pretty sure the world doesn’t end when my calendar ends.” Not everyone agrees, however, with the idea that apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian themes have become more popular than ever before. “This idea [of the end of the world] has been popular since prehistoric, or at least pre-Biblical, times,” says Hofstra University Assistant Professor of Film Studies Ethan De Seife. “It just seems like it’s really popular now because of all the press coverage.” De Seife went on to say that if there were an increase in end-of- the-world themes in pop culture, the reason would be that “stories with these kinds of ideas have been making money lately.” Even though it isn’t necessarily the doomsday scenarios that are attracting teens to these movies, movie studios like safe bets, says Professor De Seife, and “if it worked once, chances are it’ll work again…until it doesn’t.” When these stories no longer work, he adds, movie studios will “make a different kind of movie to target at the coveted 18-to-34-yearold age group.”
May the end be ever in your favor Top picks for post-apocalyptic entertainment in movies, television and books By Emma Sugar Assistant Art Director
The Hunger Games The novel by Suzanne Collins has taken the country by storm. It has spent a total of 111 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller’s List and is still going strong. The movie adaptation grossed over $672 million at the box office. The Hunger Games takes place in an unspecified year in the post-apocalyptic future, where the world has been ravaged by violence and global warming. North America, now called Panem, is controlled by an all-powerful president who dictates that 24 children be sent to fight to the death every year. As many dystopian novels do, The Hunger Games makes political statements that make readers think about the state of the world they currently live in.
Photo courtesy of Scholastic Mockingjay from The Hunger Games book series and film.
Divergent, by Veronica Roth, is a book that explores a world that has been so damaged by war and destruction that five ‘factions,’ or separated communities of people, have formed to organize society. Each faction is dedicated to preventing events and thoughts that could lead to another war breaking out. When teenagers reach the age of 16, they are forced to decide which community to be a part of and, consequently, the path of the rest of their lives.
Revolution New to NBC this fall, Revolution is set in an unknown post-apocalyptic year where technology and electronics are no longer functional. Because of this lack of technology, society has collapsed into chaos and many areas are controlled by warlords and militia. With rumors in our current society of solar flares wiping out satellites and power, this show gets viewers to wonder if this depiction of dystopia is what the world would come of we ever completely lost electricity and technology.
Terra Nova Although the television show only lasted for the 2011 fall season, FOX’s Terra Nova was a fast favorite of fans of dystopian pop culture. The first episode starts in the year 2149, when the Earth has been so abused by humans that it is virtually uninhabitable. To counter this problem, scientists have discovered an alternate time stream and created time machines to send people 85 million years in the past, to an unpolluted world, to start over. The futuristic gadgets mixed with the creatures of the Cretaceous period make for some interesting situations. One could wonder if this is an accurate prediction of the world in 2149.
Falling Skies Falling Skies, which premiered on TNT in 2011, follows the aftermath of an alien invasion and takeover of the world. The extraterrestrial creatures have killed the majority of the population and have taken over the world’s
power grid and technology. The series starts six months after the invasion, and chronicles the resistance movement against the aliens by a group of survivors. This show explores the interesting possibility that the end of the world could come about not by environmental or human made disasters, but by an invasion of another species.
Uglies Set in a futuristic city 300 years in the future, this novel is about a society where the all-powerful government forces every citizen, upon reaching the age of 16, to undergo surgery to perfect their appearance. Those under the age of 16, called Uglies, are looked down upon by the rest of society, while those who have already undergone the surgery, called Pretties, live a lavish lifestyle that consists of parties, fancy and expensive clothes, and no responsibilities. Although this novel by Scott Westerfeld is aimed at young readers, it still makes its readers think about social issues that might cause a downfall in society.
Q By Kristen Maldonado
Webmaster/Social Media Manager
SHATTER ME may be author Tahereh Mafi’s first novel, but it’s certainly not her last. Her dystopian thriller will continue on in two more books and an e-novella. Intriguing and relatable, the SHATTER ME series focuses on a girl with a power that she deems a curse. Living in a dystopian society, she must make a choice: to be a hero, or be a monster. Pulse spoke with Tahereh Mafi about her upcoming novels, what inspired her to create the series, and her thoughts on the current fascination with dystopian visions. Pulse Magazine: For fans who haven’t read SHATTER ME yet, what can you tell them about it? Tahereh Mafi: SHATTER ME is a dystopian novel with a paranormal twist; it’s the story of a 17-year-old girl named Juliette, who has a lethal touch. She’s living in this dystopian society where the government wants to use her as a weapon in their war. Ultimately, she has to make a choice: Is she going to let them use her as a weapon? Or is she going to fight back for the first time in her life, and be a warrior? It’s the journey of her self-discovery, her road to understanding what it means to be human. PM: You have an e-book and two other novels in relation to the SHATTER ME series coming out soon. Can you tell us about them? TM: Yes! DESTROY ME is an e-novella that takes place in the two week gap between the first book (SHATTER ME) and the second book (UNRAVEL ME); it’s written entirely from the perspective of Warner, the central antagonist in the story, and picks up where he drops off
‘SHATTER ME’ AUTHOR TAHEREH MAFI TALKS UPCOMING NOVELS AND DYSTOPIAN SOCIETIES
in SHATTER ME, leading readers right into the sequel. In DESTROY ME, readers will learn a lot more about Warner’s backstory, his motivations, and his unguarded emotions. This novella is really meant to enhance the reading experience of the trilogy, by providing more depth and information about one of the most enigmatic characters in the series.
UNRAVEL ME, the second book in the trilogy, follows Juliette into the new world she’s escaped to; there, she’ll have to ask herself serious questions and make difficult decisions, all of which will propel her into the last installment in the trilogy, a third book (still untitled!) that will finally give readers all the answers they’ve been looking for.
TM: SHATTER ME was optioned by 20th Century Fox, but that’s about all I know at this time. Fingers crossed we’ll know more soon!
TM: I was actually sitting down at my computer one day when I was struck by the image of young girl locked up in a dark corner. All I knew about her was that she was afraid and all alone, and had been imprisoned for a crime she never intended to commit. Her voice was so strong in my head that I felt compelled to try and capture it on paper. The more I wrote, the more the story came together. She led the way. PM: Did any current issues help influence your dystopian world? TM: I think I’m definitely worried about the
PM: You deal with a dystopian society in the SHATTER ME series, which is a topic that is becoming extremely common in pop culture. What do you think is the fascination with “the end of the world” and dystopian societies that people have nowadays? TM: It’s incredibly relevant, considering the turbulence of our own current political and ecological climates. War has become pervasive; news of it is splashed across every headline. Young generations have been born into a world where news of death and destruction has become a kind of norm. I think it’s normal for people to ask questions about where we are and where we’ll end up. We’re all looking for answers and solutions.
PM: SHATTER ME has been optioned to become a film. Do you have any more information about that?
PM: What inspired you to create this series?
state of our environment. I often wonder what’s going to happen if we continue on the way we are, abusing the ecosystem and the atmosphere. I’m not sure how much longer the world can sustain it.
PM: Are there any other dystopian movies, books, or television shows in popular culture that you are interested in now?
TM: I love dystopian fiction; I love that there’s such a broad range of it available now, in all different formats. I’m especially thrilled to see The Hunger Games coming to life on the big screen. I’m a huge fan of the books, and really looking forward to seeing Catching Fire in theaters.
PM: Do you think the world will really end in 2012? If so, what do you think our own society would look like in the years to come? TM: Haha.. well… no, I don’t, to be perfectly honest. But I suppose we’ll find out, won’t we?
Photo Courtesy of Tahereh Mafi
By Katie Webb Art Director
Mass Hysteria How psychology and society shape the mind: a dangerous game of follow the leader
Photo by Gaby Chiha
In France, the government is closely monitoring a man known only as Flot. According to CBS news, Flot has convinced hundreds of people to move to a hilltop in the town of Bugarach, where it is feared he will urge them to commit mass suicide. Flot has prophesied that the world will end on December 21, 2012. He and his cult believe aliens will rescue them, but only after they leave this universe. An international poll of over 16,000 adults in 21 countries, conducted by Ipsos Global Public Affairs, a global independent market research company, found that 10 percent of the participants agreed that the Mayan calendar could mark the end of the world. The same poll showed that in America, 22 percent of the polled people strongly or somewhat believe they will experience some form of armageddon within their lifetime. Of those, 12 percent believe the Mayan calendar marks the end of the world in 2012. Is this just a form of mass hysteria? Although most people are going on with life normally, some are consumed with preparing for the end. National Geographic even has a show, Doomsday Preppers, dedicated to profiling these end-of-the-world believers. For those who join cults believing the end is near, the decision often begins with a single persuasive leader. “In some of these groups you have a charismatic leader; in more famous cults, you have a sort of a leader that seemed to have some special inspiration—some divine knowledge about things,” says Craig Johnson, associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University. People often look to others to assume leadership roles in life. This very human tendency can be taken to extremes when people lack meaning in their lives, and then meet a cultic leader who speaks of knowing how the world works, what life means, and how it is meant to end. Another factor in the psychology of cults is the desire to belong to a group. All people crave companionship in some form, and they may find it in the wrong place. “Some people end up getting involved in some of these, what we would later call extreme groups or cults’ simply for a friendship, people to hang out with,” says Johnson. What starts out as subtle companionship, can spiral out of control. “So it’s not like people just wake up one day and say, ‘I’m going to change my life.’ ” People may be attracted to these groups because they feel like something profound is missing from their lives. All people are trying to feel connected to others, and are looking to find value in life. A cult member may think, “ ‘This is the
meaning of life.This is what I need to do to achieve some greater purpose,’ ” says Johnson. When a cult gives someone direction and makes him feel included, it can be intoxicating enough to convince him to stay. Some may join cults because of psychosis, a severe mental disorder characterized by derangement of personality and loss of contact with reality, causing deterioration of normal social functioning. Gregory Kershner, professor of sociolinguistics at Hofstra University and expert in Freudian psychoanalysis, explains the phenomenon. “In a psychotic state of mind we take bundles of words, knots in our brains, that are narratives we tell ourselves and believe in,” says Kershner. If a person tells themselves, repeatedly, that the world will end or that aliens are coming to save them, they begin to convince themselves. It is the story they have stuck in their minds, and when they cannot get it out, it lives there and becomes its own reality. “Psychoses and neuroses, are like seeds that grow inside of us as we get older,” says Kershner. From this perspective, it is not only outsiders imparting seemingly insane knowledge on people that convince them, but people persuade themselves, too. Kershner explains that what may start out with small neuroses developed in youth can flourish as one ages and can turn into full-blown strange belief systems. The danger is that once people are in the groups, they are surrounded by like-minded, lost souls and are only hearing the views of the cult leader. They become lost in their leader’s words. At some point, the mind must begin to question how deeply it has strayed into dangerous territory. “Even if on some level they realize something is wrong… [they have] to justify having made that commitment to a certain point,” says Johnson. “There is a strong desire to defend certain beliefs because it is almost too painful to admit that some actions that you have committed or some strong beliefs that you have spoken about are wrong. It’s a real threat to who you are.” Imagine selling all of your worldly possessions, proclaiming the earth was going to explode in a matter of months, and saying goodbye to those who didn’t believe you. “People have made big sacrifices in some of these end-of-the-world cults,” explains Johnson. “They’re either going to be sucked up to
heaven, or a spaceship is going to get them— once the deadline passes [they’ve] done so much…[they] just can’t accept that it’s wrong that they’ve wasted so much time.” This mental state is known as cognitive dissonance, a term coined by Leon Festinger in 1956 in his book When Prophecy Fails. The book chronicled the followers of a UFO cult as their worlds unraveled at realizing their belief of a near apocalypse was wrong. Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term for when the mind has two conflicting beliefs, causing erratic emotions from rage to embarrassment. In order to assuage the dissonance, one of the conflicting feelings must be rationalized away. Thus a sane person who is swayed into believing the world could end, may also know that this is ridiculous, but having bought into the first belief, gives up on the latter. “This idea of [the] end of the world is sort of a common theme in some cults,” says Johnson. “They seem to have leaders that say, ‘the world is going to end now; here’s what we need to do.” The idea of armageddon suddenly seems to be everywhere. A few years ago, there was a post on Craigslist, where a scheming man pretending to understand the concerns of those who believed the rapture was coming, offered, as an atheist, to take care of people’s pets, for a price, once they were “sucked up to heaven.” A recent episode of Glee also had a devious cheerleader character tricking another girl into believing everyone on earth had gone to heaven by leaving clothes all around a room in place of the people who disappeared, to terrify her into preparing for the rapture. What pop culture is mocking and lowly Internet trollers are trying to capitalize on is exactly what cult leaders use to manipulate members. Everyone have desires approval from others; from childhood, we are conditioned by society to want what everyone else wants and to conform. Indeed, it’s that social conditioning that helps make public relations and advertising successful. “The notion of getting into the psyche of public opinion stems from one of the early fathers of public relations Edward Bernays,” says Suzanne Berman, Associate Professor of Journalism, Media Studies, and Public Relations at Hofstra University. Bernays was a pioneer of propaganda and nephew of Sigmund Freud.
What pop culture is mocking and lowly Internet trollers are trying to capitalize on is exactly what cult leaders use to manipulate...
“[Bernays] thought he could apply some of [Freud’s] theories to his work, and he thought that if you discovered and then tapped into human desires and needs and wants that you could then influence or get people to do something or want something that they may not have otherwise wanted.” Bernays essentially started the business of creating a desire within people that was not previously there. “Ads tell you you will have a better life if you have this [product] and they do it directly and they do it subliminally,” says Berman, “[which] gets back to swaying the public.” Now, with the advent of social media, a new level of mob mentality may be possible. In Le Roy, New York, a cheerleader passed out mysteriously at a school dance this past March. Over the next few months, almost 20 others fell ill with the same symptoms as the first, exhibiting uncontrollable shaking, slurred speech and facial tics. Psychologists have said that students developed a conversion disorder, which is a condition in which a person has blindness, paralysis, or other neurological symptoms that cannot be explained by medical evaluation—and a type of mass hysteria ensued. The hysteria may have been influenced by social media. The story was all over the news and the students shared details about it on Facebook. Yet, mass hysteria dates back long before social media. The dancing plague of 1518 in Strasbourg, France was one of the most bizarre cases of mass hysteria ever documented. One day, a woman named Frau Troffea started fidgeting and twitching, as if dancing, through the streets, and over the course of a few months, around 400 others were raving through the streets as well. The government, not knowing what to do, opened up dance halls to let them sweat the disease out, but it didn’t work. Many people died of exhaustion and dehydration because they could not stop the convulsive movements. John Waller, historian and biological anthropologist wrote two books on the occurrence, and according to him, the cause of the convulsing was mass psychogenic illness (MPI), a manifestation of mass hysteria. The people were in great stress over a famine, inclement weather, and various other rampant diseases like small pox. The stress may have helped bring on MPI. Once some manifested symptoms, others would follow. “We look to other people for information,” says Johnson. “Sometimes in a confusing situation in a confusing world, we will look to what everyone else is doing.”
...a cheerleader passed out mysteriously at a school dance... almost 20 others fell ill with the same symptoms...
Global Warming Why We Deny Photos by Gaby Chiha Design by Katie Webb
Photos courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Scientists agree, the greatest threat to our future is global warming.
So why don’t Americans accept that it exists?
By Max Knoblauch Editor-at-Large According to a 2009 survey, 97.5 percent of all publishing climatologists agree that Global Warming is real, and mankind is causing it. By contrast, a 2012 Gallup poll shows that only 52 percent of American citizens believe global warming is even happening, with only half of that group (53 percent) believing that humans are the major cause. According to a 2010 Pew Research poll, only 16 percent of Republicans believe humans are causing global warming. So, with all the overwhelming evidence of global warming, including rising sea levels, the rapid death of the Great Barrier Reef, the enormous loss of arctic ice caps, the increase in severe storms, and after coming off the warmest American Spring ever recorded (34 states experienced record highs) why are so many Americans still in denial? “Some deny [global warming] because it conflicts with their existing political beliefs, while others don’t want to accept it because it would force them to change their own behavior,” says the author of The Everything Psychology Book, Kendra Cherry. “Whenever we face information that challenges our existing beliefs, we have two options; we can integrate the information and modify our existing beliefs, or we can reject the new information and only accept things that reinforce what we already
believe to be true. For many people, the second option is simply easiest.” But where does this reinforcing information come from, if almost every publishing climatologist agrees that the burning of fossil fuels causes global warming? According to a 2008 study by Dr. Peter Jacques, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, over 90 percent of environmentally skeptical books published since 1972 have been sponsored and funded by conservative groups and think tanks. The topic of climate change is a highly polarized one, with the majority of Democrats supporting the science, and the majority of Republicans refuting the science. “This culture-war intensity is the worst news of all, because when you challenge a per-
son’s position on an issue core to his or her identity, facts and arguments are seen as little more than further attacks, easily deflected,” says Naomi Klein, in her article “Capitalism vs. the Climate” in The Nation. The polarization of climate change is not going to help the problem at all. The most recent example of the politicization of global warming came with the election of President Barack Obama. A Pew research poll shows that in October of 2009, there was a 14 percent decrease from the previous April in the number of Americans who believed the planet was warming. In April of 2008, before Obama’s election, 49 percent of Republicans agreed that there was “solid evidence of global warming.” By October 2009, only 35 percent agreed with this. For example, in 2008, 86 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats wanted better fuel efficiency in their cars and trucks, according to Pew research. Five months into his term (May 2009), President Barack Obama
Before Obama’s election, 49 percent of Republicans agreed that there was ‘solid evidence of global warming.’ By October 2009, only 35 percent agreed...
proposed his “National Fuel Efficiency” plan to increase fuel economy standards in all cars and trucks sold in the United States. After this plan was proposed, there was a clear drop in the acceptance of global warming among Republicans, and the number of Republicans that wanted better fuel efficiency dropped by 13 percent. Why? Republicans in the House and Senate fought the proposal and conservative think tanks funded more studies unlinking global warming with the burning of fossil fuels. One such conservative think tank is “The Heartland Institute.” Having been called by The Economist “The world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change” the Heartland Institute believes environmental regulations should be decided by the free market rather than through government funded research via universities and labs. In the early ‘90s, the institute sponsored multiple studies attempting to dispel tobacco as a cause of cancer. The current president and CEO of Heartland, Joseph Bast, in a self-published book, wrote “No victim of cancer, heart disease, etc. can ‘prove’ his or her cancer or heart disease was caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.” Why did Heartland so adamantly oppose the fact that secondhand smoke causes cancer? According to the book, Merchants of Doubt, Heartland received funding from large tobacco companies
during the years in which their studies were published. What is the link between this and their anti-global warming publications? From 1996 to 2005, Heartland received between six and eight hundred thousand dollars from oil giant ExxonMobil, according to the New York Times. “Superficially, the motives for denying climate change are quite clear. Whether it is individuals, industries, think tanks, or politicians, people deny climate change because it is an inconvenient truth,” says Adam Dorr, author of the book Letter to a Conservative Nation. “It is inconvenient because climate change is an indictment of our actions: our lifestyles, our business activities and our policies all have consequences that affect others—people in vulnerable places around the world today, future generations, and of course the millions of other species with whom we share our planet.” Ralph Hall, an outspoken man-made climate change denier, and the chairman of the House Science Committee, has said: “I’m really more fearful of freezing. And I don’t have any sci-
ence to prove that. But we have a lot of science that tells us they’re not basing [man-made global warming claims] on real scientific facts.” Hall, and many of the Republicans on the committee, see man-made induced climate change as something “not backed by science,” despite the hundreds of studies disproving their claims, and the direct correlation between rising global temperatures and the industrial revolution. “Ralph Hall, I believe, is from Texas. Well what’s their principal product there? You get my point,” says Brooks Jackson, director of FactCheck. org. “I mean, our god is economic growth,” says Lee Zimmerman, published climate scholar and Hofstra University professor. “Industrialized growth economy provides a meaning; it’s one of the main structures of our lives. So to take seriously climate change would be in some way to undermine the kind of way of understanding ourselves as well.” To accept global warming would be to accept that there is a fundamental problem with the way America operates. To accept global warming would mean that the huge industry of fossil fuel energy, while helping our pockets, is hurting our planet. “If you’ve got a job working for an oil company, you might have incentive to disbelieve [climate change],” says Jackson. “If you do believe it, you think, ‘Well what do we have to do? Burn less oil. Wait a minute, that’s my job at stake.’ ” So just how can the public be convinced that global warming is happening? The answer seems to be an increase in thinking universally rather than locally. “The problem with global warming is that no one event can be directly connected to it,” says Zimmerman. “Katrina, record droughts, extreme weather; they aren’t covered as a climate change story. Because it’s a global system, you can’t connect one episode. To see things as a planet, you need more global thinking.”
“...the motives for denying climate change are quite clear... people deny climate change because it is an inconvenient truth.”
Photo courtesy of Kristen Maldonado A boat washed ashore in the chaos of Hurricane Sandy shows the disastrous effects predicted by global warming
Honey Money How minor changes in our ecosystem can greatly impact us in the future
All photos courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
By Cody Heintz Managing Editor Our ecosystem is a delicate network of interconnected organisms and habitats. If there is even a small change in our environment, its effect can be widespread. The disappearance of something as small as honeybees could have drastic repercussions on the environment. In elementary school, you learn that honeybees are instrumental in the pollination of flowers, but what you probably weren’t taught is their influence on the food you eat. “One out of every three bites of food we take comes from the efforts of bees,” says Dennis vanEngelsdorplf, former acting state apiarist for Pennsylvania and a research scientist for the University of Maryland. “If we continue to allow the population of bees to decline then we are severely limiting our food supply. It might not lead to a famine but it will definitely lead to a much less diverse diet.“ Besides the honey they produce, bees are
vital to the pollination of many fruits and vegetables, including onions, strawberries, sunflowers, apples, pears and eggplants. Bees play a part in about one-third of all agricultural production in the world, and if they disappear, it would reduce food production by at least six percent. A study by Penn State University researchers has estimated that honeybees are worth $15 billion annually. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a threat against the population of bees. CCD is the disappearance of bee colonies. The study of colony collapse disorder disorder started getting attention in 2006 when a large swarm of colonies began to disappear in North America. Since 2006, beekeepers have lost approximately one-third of their honeybee colonies each year.
Researchers have been trying to find the cause of colony collapse disorder since its discovery in 2006 but it wasn’t until this year that pesticides were discovered to be at the heart of the issue. The pesticide class known as neonicotinoids or neonics are one of the major causes of CCD. Neonics are primarily used on farmland that grows corn and wheat, but are also found in home gardening kits. In studies conducted by Professor David Goulson of the University of Stirling, and Prof Mickaël Henry at INRA in Avignon, France, research has shown increased levels of the pesticide pose major risks to honeybees. The pesticide gets introduced to the bees as the seeds are coated with the neonics.The neonics are then absorbed through the plant and are then released through pollen and nectar. When it comes into contact with the bee through the nectar and pollen, the toxin can damage the bee’s nervous system. The use of pesticides didn’t increase until the growth of corn skyrocketed in the ‘90s. Corn can be made into ethanol and high fructose corn syrup. Corn is also subsidized
“Bees play a part in about one-third of all agricultural production in the world...”
by the U.S. government by about $5 billion a year, which increases demand by driving more farmers to plant the crop, and more people to buy as it is cheaper than unsubsidized crops. Corn normally wouldn’t cause problems to bees since corn uses the wind as its primary method of pollination, but bees actually come into contact with corn on a regular basis due to corn sugars. Since most professional beekeepers sell their bees’ honey, they give their bees corn sugars for nutritional support. Even though pesticides are the biggest contributors to colony collapse disorder there are still other factors that cause the disappearance of bees and colonies. One of the major ones is practices that beekeepers use when working with bees. It is a misconception that most beekeepers make their money from the selling of honey; instead, the majority of business done by beekeepers is the selling of pollinating services. For example, almond growing season in California requires a massive amount of bees for the successful pollination of the entire almond crop. This means that honeybee colonies must be transported from across the country. Another problem with how beekeepers handle bees is how they feed the bees. Usually, bees will feed on their own honey, which is complex and provides all of the nutrients that bees need to live. However, when beekeepers take the honey and then sell it, they feed their bees with sugar water, which will keep bees alive, but make them much less healthy. This is similar to replacing a well-balanced diet with a one composed solely of candy. “Feeding syrup reduces the ... bee colonies through starvation. which is the quickest way to kill a honey bee colony,” says Professor Francis L. W. Ratnieks of the University of Sussex, on the effects of corn syrup on the health of colonies. By constantly being moved, bees become susceptible to pests and mites that are dangerous to the health of colonies. And, when bees and colonies are transported, they are in close proximity, which makes the spread of diseases much easier. “The movement of hives does mean that when a new disease arrives in an area it will spread more quickly,” says Ratnieks. Another problem is that many beekeepers are
unaware of pests that can harm bees. Dennis vanEngelsdorp said that one of the biggest dangers to the health of bee colonies is varroa mites. “Beekeepers have to develop an effective treatment strategy that not only attacks the mites but also doesn’t damage the health of the colony,” says says vanEngelsdorp. “Many beekeepers aren’t aware that varroa mites pose such a danger to bee colonies.” The disappearance of bees not only causes problems with our food supplies, but also leads to other problems in different sectors. For example, 80 percent of the world’s almonds are pollinated by bees, and the almond industry generates about $1 billion in revenue a year. A major disappearance of bees would not only hurt the revenue of beekeepers, but could also hurt the revenue of firms that grow almonds and other bee-pollinated produce. In New York, this can also pose a problem as apples grown in the state bring in $261 million a year. There are over 17,000 people that work in handling, distribution, marketing, processing and shipping of apples in New York. The disappearance of bees also limits genetic
“Researchers have been trying to find the cause of colony collapse disorder... pesticides were discovered to be at the heart of the issue.”
diversity. When bees pollinate other plants, they take part in sexual reproduction, which not only allows the species to survive, but also allows for greater bio-diversity, as bees will take pollen further away and more reliably than if it was just the wind that carried the pollen. Due to the lack of biodiversity, the plants would be susceptible to diseases. If plants become more prone to illness, then farmers will have to resort to stronger pesticides, which could be even more poisonous to bees and could further destroy their colonies and population. There are many different ways that the common person can help to protect bees and colonies. “The best way for people to help bee population is to actually become a beekeeper,” says vanEngelsdorp. “There are many small beekeeping operations in the country with many of them using five or less hives.” Another way to help is to have a pollinating garden. “Instead of having a lawn,” says vanEngelsdorp, “plant flowers that depend on bees for reproduction and you can provide beneficial nectar nearby bee bee colonies.”
E H T F O T E N A L THE P
S E S U OCTOP
Also: s t n A y l b s. Possi n i h p l o D rs. Or a e B e b y a And M Which animals have the best shot at taking over after humans are gone: A meditation
Illustration by Max Knoblauch
By Max Knoblauch Editor-at-Large Matt Berridge is trying to destroy us all. Well, maybe not. But he’s doing something crazy. A Wildlife Caretaker at the Toronto Zoo, Berridge is giving Orangutans iPads. Not just for fun, either. It’s for learning. The program, “Apps for Apes” is currently in 13 zoos and animal centers across the world and is exactly what it sounds like. From the official website, the program’s goals are “1. To provide stimulating enrichment & immediate gratification for the orangutans using iPads, 2. To raise awareness among zoo visitors of the critical need to protect orangutans in the wild, and 3. To promote the conservation efforts of Orangutan Outreach.” It sounds nice, right? But can we really trust Orangutans with our precious apps? “Orangutans learn by watching and imitation,” says Berridge. “Applying [observational
the Toronto Zoo continue to care for animals and teach them to succeed and adapt in our modern world. So, like me, you may be worried that the Orangutan’s newfound use of technology could lead to an uprising, an “ape revolution,” if you will, as prophesied in the highly scientifically accurate “Planet of the Apes” franchise. Well, according to Berridge, you can stop worrying. “Orangutans as a species are believed to be 15 million years old. They evolved without human interference up until 200 years ago,” says Berridge. “I believe they had a greater understanding of how their ecosystem could meet their needs and functioned very efficiently. If humans hadn’t made such a negative impact on their ecosystem, things would probably carry on for millions more.” So maybe the time has come and gone for the Orangutan’s chance to rule. But what about the other 10 million species on Earth? What animal, given a few million years of
“...can we really trust Orangutans with our precious apps?”
marine mammal expert from Emory University, found that dolphins, porpoises, narwhals, belugas, and orcas have encephalization levels (a rough estimate of intelligence) below only modern humans, and above any other mammal. “Bottle nosed dolphins have an encephalization of about 4, so their brains are about 4 times the size you would expect for their body size. The highest encephalization in dolphins goes up to about 5,” says Marino. “So they’re pretty close to us, yeah.” For comparison, human encephalization is approximately 7.5. So, what if dolphins aren’t the cute, playful sea mammals we think they are? What if they’re a species of super geniuses, just biding their time, waiting for us to show a sign of weakness? You guys do what you want: I’ll be over here, finding a way off the planet. “I don’t think anyone will take our place. Especially not dolphins,” says Marino. “The reason is: dolphins have been successful as a very smart species, or rather, an order of mammals, for tens of millions of years. If we disappear, the only thing that really would happen is that they would be free to continue their lives. I don’t think there would be any reason for them to become anything like us. It would honestly be a step down,” she says, laughing, “It really would be.” In Marino’s study, she found that dolphins developed their high encephalization level between 60 million and 20 million years ago. So, in other words, dolphins have had at the very least, 20 million years to run this town, and either have had no reason to do it, or have chosen not to. Oh, so now dolphins are too good for our slot. The elitist dolphins don’t want to be us now. Well you know what, dolphins? Fine. If you’re going to choose a life of eating, playing, and swimming naked in the ocean: so be it. We don’t have time for things like that; we work for a living.
Cephalopods: Octopus, squids, etc. Photo courtesy of Toronto Zoo One of those radical human-hating Orangutans, playing with an Ipad just a little too innocently to be believed.
learning] to an iPad and apps I think has a great potential for opening the door to simple communication and learning.” Oh, Mr. Berridge, they have you so fooled, don’t they? What the Toronto Zoo, and each of its 12 counterparts participating in “Apps for Apes” don’t realize, is that giving Orangutans iPads is a terrible idea. What if orangutans are quietly plotting the takeover of Earth, and want only to destroy us? Yes, the future is bleak for humanity if people like Matt Berridge and his friends at
evolution, and without human interference, could be the next us? What species could form something that we today would recognize as an intelligent society? Consider the possibilities.
Dolphins & Whales Dolphins and whales, of the order Cetacea, are already considered to be the second most intelligent species on the planet. In a 2004 study, Dr. Lori Marino, neuroscientist and
Octopuses, squids, cuttlefish. The mere names evoke terror in humans across the planet. They have a lot of arms, most of them do that ink thing, and they look sticky. So sure, there’s an intimidation factor when you’re talking about cephalopods. But could they take over? Dr. Russell Burke, a Hofstra University biology professor specializing in ecology and evolution, has a few predictions that’ll make your highly encephalized brain spin. “[Cephalopods] have a lot of the characteristics that we think of as being important in humans. So first, they have relatively large brains. Relative to their body size; they have large brains,” says Burke. So check off the brain size thing.
Illustration by Max Knoblauch Evolution from primates to modern mankind, but what species will come out on top if humans disappear?
“They have big eyes, connected with the big brain, which means they work in the same kind of world that we do.” You read it here first; cephalopods have the perfect eyes for world domination. “You make a big fuss about opposable thumbs, imagine if we had eight of them,” says Burke. I’d really rather not imagine that. “Cephalopods clearly manipulate objects, they clearly use tools. They don’t build things, aside from shelters, but it’s certainly imaginable that given the time, given some other factors, those kinds of things could happen.” Good God, cephalopods are primed to take over. “If a cephalopod learns something, tries some trick and it works and another cephalopod sees it? I mean, they definitely learn by watching each other, so if those pattern behaviors developed, it could pass among groups very quickly.” So the only thing stopping octopuses from destroying us is a lack of leadership? We’re just hoping that an octopus version of Ben Franklin, or perhaps a squid Napoleon, isn’t born? “It begs the question: why haven’t they [evolved more], you know? I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe they’re waiting. ‘Till we’re not watching,” says Burke, laughing what certainly should have been a more terrified laugh in his office (which, mind you, does not contain any cephalopods). “But anybody who’s kept an octopus in an aquarium can tell you, they’re constantly reaching out of the tank and feeling stuff. They’ll pull a filter into the water; anything they can reach will be pulled in and played with. So I’m buying cephalopods.” Okay, so cephalopods seem like a good option. They look like aliens, they have the ten-
tacles, the big eyes, the brains; they’re looking like a safe bet for next in line. But what else has the potential to rule?
Bears “Take humans out of the equation and we are left with a world that is changing at a much slower rate,” says Ashley Bennison, an evolutionary and behavioral ecology post grad student from the University of Exeter in Cornwall, England. “In a much slower world I would expect the rise of the herbivores at first, only to be capitalized by carnivores later on. Bears, cats and dogs – already incredibly clever animals – could potentially become fantastically efficient predators capitalizing on the much higher numbers of available prey.” So, with a larger amount of prey in a world without humans, large carnivores could have the chance to sit back, relax, and focus less on eating and more on developing societies. “This could, in effect, lead to many clever animals starting to converge on our niche, if you will,” says Bennison. “So my vote? Probably the bears, those guys are awesome.” Go online and do what I did: re-watch some old episodes of Care Bears, it takes on a whole new meaning if you imagine it’s all taking place in a not-so-distant future where nearly all humans are extinct and bears rule the earth.
“A lot of people assume that one of [the dinosaurs] would have eventually gone bipedal, put on a suit, and went to work on Wall Street.”
Raccoons and the Rest “Raccoons, sometimes you think raccoons are just going to take over the world,” says Dr. Marino. I for one have spent many a sleepless
night tossing and turning over the thought of futuristic raccoon overlords. “Those kinds of animals that have to deal with the same pressures as humans, especially in the urban environment, I think they’re facing a lot of pressure to improve selection.” Jason G. Goldman, author of the Scientific American blog, The Thoughtful Animal agrees with Marino’s sentiment, stating, “It’s certainly possible that something like a rat or raccoon could eventually evolve human-level intelligence.” However, Goldman thinks something could do it before raccoons. “What species could achieve human-like language, human-like teaching, and human-like tool use after a few million years of evolution? The candidate species might be chimpanzees, or dolphins and whales, or elephants, or ants. Each of these species is already part of the way there for each of these elements. Notice that each of the candidate species is social – I think this is key.” So what’s the answer? “Well if the dinosaurs hadn’t gone extinct, would they have become us? The answer of course is no,” says Dr. Marino. “But a lot of people assume that one of them would have eventually gone bipedal, put on a suit, and went to work on Wall Street.” Marino and many other scientists believe that human-like society is not necessary for many already-successful species, so it will not happen. There really is no absolute answer to a question like this. There is one factors that could keep anything from taking our place. Namely: us. Setting up the “no more humans” scenario was necessary because we are wrecking havoc on our planet and the species inhabiting it. “We’re in a mass extinction event,” says Marino. “There’s no hope for adaptation out of this situation for these animals, they’re going out. We’re kind of like that comet that hit the dinosaurs, only we’re a comet that’s hitting every day.”
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The Fall 2012 issue of Pulse Magazine. Pulse is produced by the students in JRNL 54 at Hofstra University. Our issue focuses on doomsday-rel...
Published on Dec 9, 2012
The Fall 2012 issue of Pulse Magazine. Pulse is produced by the students in JRNL 54 at Hofstra University. Our issue focuses on doomsday-rel...