People who eat people are generally not considered “good people.” If you have any doubts, spend an afternoon searching the world wide web and peruse the “Cannibal Top Ten Lists,” which are occupied by the Milwaukee Monster Jeffrey Dahmer, Japanese exchange student Issei Sagawa, and child-killer Albert Fish. And news of the insane and psychopathic hits our home pages on the regular, such as the recent story of a hotel restaurant in Nigeria shut down by police for serving human flesh as an “expensive treat.”
The dispatches we have from a pre-internet era are no different. With the torch lit by Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century B.C., carried on by the likes of Captain Cook and his crewin the Pacific, and still not yet extinguished by those traveling through Africa in the early twentieth century, a significant portion of European history is dedicated to documenting encounters with the bloodthirsty man-eaters of the far corners of the globe.
Tinged with varying degrees of racism, many of these accounts are just xenophobic hearsay. A surprising number, however, have actually been verified as true.
Natural Insemination Is Tinder for People Who Want to Get Pregnant
Procreation is a pretty vital aspect of human existence. But tragically, not all of us are equipped to pollinate and populate, whether that’s because our junk doesn’t work right or because we can’t find anyone who wants to make a baby with us. Luckily, science has done what it was invented to do and created a number of methods to help prospective parents get around those problems—methods like IVF, artificial insemination (AI), and surrogate motherhood.
However, for those who find the concept of stepping into a hospital and walking out with a baby in their womb a little too abstract, there is a less traditional, 100 percent more tangible alternative: natural insemination (NI).
NI is exactly what it sounds like: sexual intercourse that’s supposed to result in a pregnancy, a.k.a. having sex to make a new human being. Only, instead of being the planned outcome of a relationship or accidental result of an awkward hookup, it’s facilitated by the internet and allows you to meet up with a complete stranger with the specific aim of making a baby. It’s sperm donation for the Tinder generation.
Sorry Religions, Human Consciousness Is Just a Consequence of Evolution
There’s a goofy neurological trick you can play on your brain that makes you feel like you have a super long nose. It’s called the Pinocchio Illusion and all you need to make it happen is a vibrator and a friend.
Here’s how it works. Person A closes her eyes and places the tip of her finger on her nose. Person B applies a buzzing vibrator to the tendon that connects the bicep to the inner side of the elbow of the arm that’s touching the nose. The vibration on the tendon stimulates the muscle fibers in such a way that tricks Person A’s brain into thinking that her arm is extending, but since Person A’s index finger tells her brain that it’s still connected to the tip of her nose, the brain does a quick and dirty calculation (in the absence of visual data) and concludes that her nose must be growing super long. It’s fucking crazy. Try it.
According to Princeton University neuroscientist Michael Graziano, this phenomenon is indicative of the key aspect of the human mind. Our brains create models of the world around us, including our bodies, in order to be attentive to the various signals we get from our senses. So in the Pinocchio Illusion, your brain creates a model of what your body looks like and the model falls apart due to the conflicting stimuli. Our brains might be exceptionally good at making models, but they’re never perfect replicas of what’s happening in the world, just fast and loose sketches to make sense of things.
The First World Is Destroying the Third World Through Climate Change
About 500 years ago, capitalism started to displace feudalism as the dominant socioeconomic system on the planet. There were about half a billion humans wandering around then, and about 80 percent of them were living hand-to-mouth existences and relying on subsistence agriculture. It wasn’t until the replacement of animate energy (biomass) with inanimate energy (fossil fuels) in the West during the 19th century that the global population started to grow exponentially, ballooning to its current level of over 7 billion. (To understand what powered this increase, consider that a teaspoon of diesel fuel contains as much energy as a human can expend in a day.) This transition from diffuse/currently available solar energy to stored/concentrated solar energy transformed every aspect of society, from manufacturing to agriculture to transportation to life expectancy. Basically, the last 200 years of exponential industrial and population growth have been subsidized by ancient, compacted sunlight.
It took about 200,000 years for the human population to reach 1 billion (~1800 CE), 130 years to reach 2 billion, 30 years for 3 billion, 15 years for 4 billion, and around 13 years each for 5, 6, and 7 billion. The UN is predicting that reaching 8 and 9 billion will take 16 and 19 years respectively, meaning the rate of population growth might have peaked around the year 2000. It’s probably not a coincidence that this growth corresponds pretty closely with the easy availability of ancient stores of fossilized energy. It has been argued that without fossil fuels, the carrying capacity of Earth would be around 1 to 2 billion humans.
To put it bluntly, we’re reaching peak everything. We’ve blown through our one-time inheritance of natural capital (fossil fuels, topsoil, groundwater, biodiversity) like the crazy, hairless apes we are.
Stoya on Why Las Vegas and Megachurches Are the Pinnacle of Human Achievement
Male bowerbirds are like little avian architects. They build decorative structures as a display of genetic fitness or sexual desirability, then festoon them with whatever brightly colored bits they can scavenge up and deem visually pleasing. Sometimes they hunt down beetles and use them as artwork instead of eating them. The guy with the biggest, prettiest tower gets the most ladies, that then go off to hatch and raise the chicks on their own. They are nature’s confirmed bachelors. Bonobos have sex for fun. They’ve been known to use their tongues when they kiss. Female bonobos have sex with other females and males have sex with other males. They have been documented having orgies that look suspiciously like what you’d imagine goes on inside a swingers’ club but with slightly more body hair. They bang because they’re stressed and they bang because they’re bored. I’m simplifying for comedic effect, and if you want to know more I recommend you read Geoffrey Miller’s The Mating Mind.
Humans are by no means the only animal that engage in behaviors which do nothing to directly contribute to the survival of the individual or species as a whole. However, we do seem to do it harder than any other creature. See, at some point humans figured out things like farming and ended up with a bunch of free time and extra resources. We took advantage of these things and used them to breed like rabbits, cover the earth, and pick fights with other tribes. We built villages and then cities. We developed technology, starting with simple tools and eventually building to things like computers and space ships.
So not too long ago I decided to get really into science fiction books because I hate leaving the house because there’s people out there, and they scare me, and it’s January in Chicago where I live. I cannot recommend enough that you avoid this entire genre, unless you enjoy the claustrophobic sensation of constant unavoidable impending doom. I just finished the Isaac Asimov Foundation series, and aside from getting his dick kicked in as a writer by any one word Frank Herbert ever threw down, it sucks. For a while it was really helping me because it’s one of those science fiction universes where human beings get off Earth and don’t go extinct, and that’s the only possibility for our collective future that makes me feel anything resembling hope for our entire species.
Last week’s World Peace Update looked at the riots engulfing Slovenia, the trigger-happy Tunisian policemen who tried to blind the citizens of Siliana, and the looming possibility of Bashar al-Assad gassing what remains of his population to death with nerve agents. But Christmas is fast approaching, so the world should be gearing up to take a quick break from all the skull-crushing, right?
Not so fast, friends. While the Christmas cheer is gradually taking over my apartment and driving me mad every time I walk into any shop in central London, the loyalists in Belfast (yes, again), a few Bangladeshi politicians, and some Chilean pigs have been vying to take Scrooge’s crown as the biggest festive downer.
If you thought the spontaneous violence that took over Belfast last week (people got really angry at the prospect of flying the Union Jack at City Hall, remember?) was a one-off, then you were very wrong. Since last Monday, barricades have been set up sporadically across Belfast, followed by clashes between citizens and police, resulting in about 29 injured cops and 38 arrests. Friday saw the frenzy climaxing in a 200-strong crowd gathering near the city center to set up roadblocks and be chased by police. Cars were hijacked and set alight, causing the PSNI to deploy their water cannon to deal with the rioters.
However, the weekend was relatively quiet. I guess the loyalists needed to gather some strength before attacking that unmarked police car on Monday. (The policewoman inside the vehicle fortunately managed to escape unharmed.) The car in question was monitoring the office of Alliance Party MP Naomi Long, who, along with other Alliance members, has faced death threats for siding with left-wing party Sinn Fein in the vote to take down the flag. Politicians from both sides have been vocal about putting an end to the violence, but their calls have so far gone unheeded, with more protests set for the rest of the week. Merry fucking Christmas, Belfast.
This column has been running for 29 weeks, which is seemingly enough time to cover every single possible way people can fuck each other up. We’ve seen political parties being shut down, MTV parties being taken over by riots, strikes, revolutions, people fighting over soccer and fish… even milk being used as a weapon.
I figured I’d seen it all, but this week people from the city of Freirina, Chile fought over pig shit. Local residents fought police over the planned reopening of a pig processing plant (“processing” means systematic slaughter, btw) because of the smell that comes from hundreds of thousands of pigs wallowing in their own poop.
The government closed down the site in May after fears of a potential health risk but decided this week that all was safe now. Residents who didn’t want to be subjected to the smell once again came out in protest, blocked the roads, clashed with police, and launched raids against the plant’s guards with explosives. So I’m guessing the smell must be pretty bad.