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New Normal?

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Candies in a pea shell (Koshyk/flickr/CC-BY-2.0)

In this hour of Radiolab: reframing our ideas about normalcy.  


Evolution results from the ability of organisms to change. But how do you tell the difference between a sea change and a ripple in the water? Is a peacenik baboon, a man in a dress, or a cuddly fox a sign of things to come? Or just a flukey outlier from the norm? And is there ever really a norm?


Dmitri Belyaev, Tecumseh Fitch, John Horgan, Stu Rasmussen, Dr. Robert Sapolsky and Richard Wrangham

New Baboon

John Horgan examines how Americans seem to have a completely different attitude toward war than we did thirty years ago. He takes us on a stroll through Hoboken, asking strangers one of the great unanswerable questions: "Will humans ever stop fighting wars?" Strangely, everyone seems to know the answer. ...

Comments [27]

New Stu

In 2008, Stu Rasmussen became our country's first transgendered mayor. News swept the country, but what was it like at home?

Comments [48]

New Nice

Brian Hare tells us the story of Dmitri Belyaev, a geneticist and clandestine Darwinian who lived in Stalinist Russia and studied the domestication of the silver fox. Through generations of selectively breeding a captive population, Belyaev noticed not only increased docility, but also unexpected physical changes. Why did these ...

Comments [49]

Comments [104]

Michael J Gosselin from Needham, MA

The radio show, today, said there were updates to the first two stories.

Where are they?? I need the answers!!

Jul. 29 2017 04:06 PM
CLJ from Los Angeles

Very interesting. I've read a good deal of Sapolsky's work and have read about the 'fox taming' in Russia, but I never suspected the 'taming' to equate physiological immaturity. The fox's drooping ears made me think of the lame / drooping dorsal fin of Tilicum, the Killer Whale held in captivity by SeaWorld featured in the disturbingly important documentary Blackfish. Tilicum's virility completely gone, so his fin drooped, unlike his wild counter part orca's dorsal's that stand majestically erect.

Strangely this whole episode reminds me of the utopian rat experiment from the 1970's that ended with an unexpected darkness of complete abandonment of virility of being: "The Beautiful Ones"

How Mice Turned Their Private Paradise Into A Terrifying Dystopia

Dec. 14 2015 08:51 PM
Jerry from USA

It sounds like the dreamers who are hopeful for the end of war are pushing for eugenics, capital punishment and killing evil people in wars. In spite of the Bush Derangement Syndrome comment on Bush and Cheney, were they doing the dreamers' work in getting rid of Saddam Hussein?

Dec. 12 2015 04:00 PM

Reminds me of Charlotte Perkins Gilman:

Oct. 29 2015 12:33 PM

I asked this question to my HS honor students when reading All Quiet on The Western Front. It's a q that as a young person I viewed idealistically with an, "All issues can be think tanked and discussed until there is a resolution." Sadly as a jaded adult I no longer hold that perspective. There are strongholds that won't relent to compromise or reason. There are also evil people - nature or nurture - who see blood & war as a "necessary evil."

A note: when observing the monkeys you note that the men as caretakers (groomers) promote a kinder and gentler culture. I think this thread needed to continue through to the discussion on aggressive alpha humans being domesticated. Our males have become caretakers and caring for their young has softened them; has given them floppy ears.

Favorite quote at 25 mins in: "The truth is that they ran into some junk food and now they have no culture.... Sounds depressingly like America."

Oct. 25 2015 11:37 AM
Cynikoe from Taiwan

Does anyone know the name of the song that was sampled during the last minute of the show?

Oct. 23 2015 09:57 PM

The fox experiment turned my stomach. It is hard to believe that humans would subjugate another species to such cruelty for such a picayune reason, I can only imagine the conditions these creatures would have endured. With respect, I do not appreciate the derision in describing the mass slaughter of these animals.

Sep. 25 2015 08:42 AM
Kevin Dyer from Houston, TX

"All war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal."

― John Steinbeck

(I learned about this quote from a video game)

I think this gets to the heart of the issue of war: do we negotiate? Can we compromise? Can we reach a workable solution for both parties, or do we resort to savagery?

Capitulation, obviously, is a poor choice when facing down a despot, but such aggressors are human, too, and are failing as thinking beings.

I think one day all conflict can be resolved by legal recourse. I may be biased, though, as a law student.

Sep. 12 2014 02:13 PM
Joseph Nielsen from New York, NY

If you want a parallel to killing the alphas, look at This American Life report on Nummi GM/Toyota joint venture. But love love this story.

Aug. 01 2014 11:14 PM
Robin Sunbeam from Ukiah, CA

I wrote an essay about 2 decades ago in college about removing all the alpha males as a solution for world peace. I really think it is the only way for permanent world peace. But that is somewhat fascist, so we have to find another method to identify and contain or restrain alpha males. And then, who does the choosing? TB? AIDS? We can't wait for the chance of disease to selectively wipe out the alphas.

Maybe it is all about interpersonal relationships and trust. Maybe, if we eliminated poverty and extreme wealth, and promoted general public wellbeing, that more children will grow up with trusted peaceful interpersonal relationships and the propensity for alpha in the population might diminish. It will be easier to eliminate poverty than to eliminate the alphas among the super-rich.

Jun. 19 2014 05:22 PM
Matt from Montreal

Hey all! Anyone know what that soul/ska song that plays at the beginning of the baboon piece is?

Jun. 19 2014 05:20 PM

I don't think it's human nature. I think war is going to happen so long as there is a large amount of sentient individuals. When you have people, human or otherwise, with different thoughts, opinions, levels of empathy, etc, conflict will happen. And depending on how you define war, how big war is, as long as there's a lot of individual sentient beings, war will happen.

Jun. 17 2014 11:41 AM

are we domesticating 'greed/gay/etc'???
resulting the first question? "war/hate"?
this is mind boggling!

Jun. 16 2014 06:23 AM
Ryan from Chicago

So, I have to say, I really like what you guys do here. I've listened to a few recordings now and it's so drawing. The voice, sounds and story telling you do is fantastic.

Also i don't know if i'll get a response. But I have to ask. HOW exactly did you make that noise you have in the intro. I'd love to know.

Jun. 16 2014 01:57 AM
ron from Midwest

I've waited a long, long time and nobody seems to have given thoughts similar to, here goes. People, like the other animals, compete for what we feel we need. Even in societies where most "essentials" are given, there remains competition. Within families siblings compete, often fiercely. I can't see emotion and the killings it can grow into going away for a long while. We are stuck being us. The slow evolution over tens of thousands of years hasn't rid us of the desire for more than our neighbors have. The experiments are nice, hardly conclusive, but thought-provoking anyway. This time wishful hoping outweighs basic truths.

Jun. 15 2014 10:24 PM
Charles from Oklahoma

The professor who wanted to see genetic changes in the baboons is/was unfamiliar with the power of Epigenetics.

Sidenote: Loved this show! I cried some on my way to work listening to the towns response to the visiting Kansas #$%^'s

Jun. 14 2014 11:43 PM
melissa watson from Seattle

How ironic that over the years as the foxes are becoming more tame and peaceful through this experiment, the human experimenters are becoming more brutal and inhumane via decades of killing these animals. I don't see how we can ever have a world without war as long as we continue to brutalize animals (and then discuss it as if it is funny and entertaining), I find this incredibly sad.

Jun. 14 2014 07:53 PM
melissa watson from Seattle

How ironic that over the years as the foxes are becoming more tame and peaceful through this experiment, the human experimenters are becoming more brutal and inhumane via decades of killing these animals. I don't see how we can ever have a world without war as long as we continue to brutalize animals (and then discuss it as if it is funny and entertaining), I find this incredibly sad.

Jun. 14 2014 07:49 PM
Andi from Ann Arbor

I have a question about the 'peacenik baboons.' If male baboons get antsy and leave their tribes during adolescence... what has happened to males that are raised in the 'peacenik' tribe when they go out and join another tribe?

Jun. 13 2014 08:06 AM
Kevin from New Jersey

I found this to be yet another thought provoking Radiolab episode. However, after the opening segment featuring the man-on-the-street interviews about whether we can envision a world without war, I felt that the most interesting follow-ups were not pursued. Editorially, the producers seem to take for granted that a world without war would be a better world. I can envision a world without war were all of humanity has fallen into the same tyrannical order - no war, because there is no freedom. That is more scary to me than a world with war. Additionally, in the segment about the baboons no mention is made about what happens to the juvenile male baboons who leave the peaceful group and find themselves back in the "real" baboon world. Utopia is never simple.

Oct. 22 2013 11:12 AM

The acoustic song at 1:45-2:30 or so, the one that sounds like Bron Yr Aur, is really nice. Who is the artist that made the remake? It's great.

Feb. 19 2013 09:15 AM
Devan Coetzee from South Africa

Wow, RadioLab is amazing an really opened a different world to me. I find cross dressing-weird, but not offencive and I'm a very passionate Christian, but wow, those peope who protested against Stu aren't Christians, Christians don't act that way.

I loved the reaction towards the protestors, now that is support!

One thing that made me simle and shake my head is where one guy quoted the Bible and said "God created man in His own image" and that it wasn't how a man was supposed to dress. God didn't create us with a pair of trousers, a collar shirt and a red and blue striped tie...

Hou aan met die goeie werk! Ek is mal oor julle!

Feb. 04 2013 07:55 AM
Thompson Bright from Toolafalls, Mississippi

To "Mike Betette: Also, there was a study done a while back (can't remember where or by who) but they compared the number of wars and number of deatha per wars since there were records of such and it has always been steadily decreasing."

You may be thinking of the book "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined", by Steven Pinker.

Nov. 04 2012 07:33 PM
Tom A. from Chicago

We can end wars for good. This requires that we remove the personal element from government and rely on order and interaction between nations based on a fair set of rules and outside governance. When personal ego, or a quest for personal power or wealth are involved, it is impossible to keep the peace. Some people need to compete, impress, or dominate due to their own internal rules of behavior. You can see it on the playground, in the boardroom, and in government/religion. It is promoted in our youth, accepted in business, and despised in government. Maybe at some point we need to look at what we are teaching our children.
It's not all one sided though. Competition and drive can be very positive things. Make yourself better, stop trying to beat everyone else.

Great show, Thanks!


Oct. 25 2012 12:32 PM

Just found this: Kao Kalia Yang's (interpreter for the Yellow Rain piece) first response to "Yellow Rain"

Oct. 23 2012 11:25 AM
tribalscribal from WMass

Another awesome show with amazing editing. Believe us when we say we want to believe in the peaceful fox, especially in an increasingly crowded world, but there are other scientific experiments to consider. Rats in a box. The more rats scientists placed in the limited space of the box, the more aggressive and crazy they became. We're not convinced that the rats with floppy ears would prevail.

Oct. 22 2012 02:17 PM
Ray Audette from Dallas Texas

At the same time that wolves became dogs, Neanderthals became us! In both case, the same physiological differences are evident. As the foxes pointed out, neoteny ( the retention of juvenile traits into adulthood)occurs when you you breed for tolerance of other species.
Wolves who could tolerate humans could feast on our waste, humans who followed the wolves could more easily locate prey. Eventually this led to a symbiosis in which dogs located prey and held it at bay for the humans to come in and make a quick kill. Thus one man with six dogs could out-hunt twenty men without dogs - a true evolutionary advantage!
Neanderthals died out because the didn't like pets and thus could not compete.
According to DNA evidence, this process began in humans about 500,000 years ago, although the full physiologic changes are not evident until about 50,000 years ago. In dogs these changes (DNA and physiology) occur at about 150,000 years and 15,000 years.

Ray Audette
Author "NeanderThin"

Oct. 21 2012 09:13 PM

This is my first (only?) post. While the content of this piece pursues a very important (and often neglected) issue, the conclusions, while broadly appealing, are based on some shaky, if popular, foundations. Unfortunately, there is no dialogue here, only a catalog of opinions. Without dialogue, and responsiveness there can be no joint pursuit of "truth." It is a waste of intellectual energy to merely applaud or decry, which polarizes rather than integrates. It is no accident that "fan" is derived from fanatic and the "intellectual" guerilla tactic of hit-and-run is based on dominance of authority and the assumption of the argument set forth by the "authorities" must be valid simply because they are authorities. Unfortunate.

I believe that there is software available that permits voice to be efficiently transcribed into print. This would be a useful feature here.

Hoping that this fine experiment in the communication of ideas will soon grow to meet its full potential. That's not possible without continuity and intellectual discipline (e.g., arguing from authority is a long-recognized fallacy).

Oct. 21 2012 10:02 AM

I believe we may see some merit in culture change based on a catastrophic event. Japan was historically an imperial state expanding and exploiting surrounding states. WWII changed Japan from an imperial to pacifist state. Was it the nuclear bomb and subsequent humbling surrender? Is the recent reinvigoration of territorial disputes a signal that the pendulum has reached its peak and may someday return? Maybe, maybe not. Leaders, may not represent the ideation of the population.

Oct. 20 2012 08:03 PM
Xochi from Davis, CA

I was sobbing at the end of Stu's story. When he paused and apologized that he still got emotional about what those wonderful people did, I burst out laughing and sobbed some more. Thank you for this incredibly moving piece.

Oct. 19 2012 09:53 PM

Yay for Oregonians! That small subset of human beings!

Jul. 13 2012 01:39 PM

Jeremy, that's 'Bron-Yr-Aur' by Jimmy Page, back in the Led Zeppelin days.

May. 05 2012 02:57 PM

Does anyone know the acoustic music playing at 1:20 - 2:03? It's beautiful...

Feb. 18 2012 04:05 AM
Ben from Portland, OR

This TED talk made me think that maybe Professor Sapolsky could prove that there is a biological basis for his baboon troupe's behavior change.

Nov. 02 2011 09:46 PM
diane arvanites

great program!

to first comment: surely the alpha alpha males wage war which can be called a criminal act when innocent people die.

Aug. 23 2011 10:50 AM
Anthony O'Neal

"Sure, we do apply capitol punishment to those who achieve the most violent criminal acts."

We apply the death penalty to the crazy, not to the alpha males.

May. 14 2011 10:09 PM
David Wilkinson from Sydney, Australia

Could war also play a role in selection?

Choosing to stay home rather than go to war or retreat in battle might also be adaptive.

May. 01 2011 09:50 PM
Tyler Cole from Novosibirsk

In case anyone is curious, I actually visited the fox farm and wrote about it here:

Apr. 21 2011 12:23 AM

I found the joke about football players needing to be the ones removed confusing. The foxes were being domesticated by removing their fear responses, and football players are not generally fearful.For the joke to make sense the group suggested for removal should be one that is statistically tied to higher fear responses. My suggestion would be conservatives, because they are the only group that is linked to greater fear by actual data that I know of.

Feb. 25 2011 11:14 AM

I can't helping thinking of H.G. Wells' 'The Time Machine'-- for those who may not remember, Wells describes a future where the human race has split into two sub-species: the small, gentle, child-like Eloi and the big, brutal Morlocks. The more we learn about genetics, hormones, etc. it seems that this might be a likely pitfall-- either by breeding or design. I'm a little surprised they didn't mention it.

Dec. 28 2010 03:48 PM
nooooooooony from california

mr. sheepy is scary

Dec. 09 2010 12:06 PM
Matthew Chmielewski from Milford, MA

In response to Gabi, you are certainly right about emphasizing getting to the point of breeding. Something to consider, however, is that testosterone is a pretty key ingredient to developing a lot of aggressive traits (physically and behaviorally). Higher levels of testosterone lead to a more compromised immune system. Arguably, therefore, if we are socialized to the point where aggressiveness is looked upon as negative, the driving force might simply be that we no longer need to conserve aggressiveness to do well. If aggressiveness is therefore neutral in terms of getting to breeding age, it might be more energetically efficient to produce less testosterone. Over many generations this could possibly lead to a reproductive advantage to more "floppy-eared" traits. That all being said, earning power and success in the workplace (in males) has been shown to be linked to testosterone. Guess the jury is still out.

Dec. 06 2010 05:31 PM
Gabi Kirk

Evolutionarily, we won't necessarily evolve to be more "puppy-like" anytime soon. This is because while aggressive alpha-male types are more likely to be violently killed, that assumes they die before reproducing. With growing life expectancies for humans world-wide, I doubt this will happen.

Nov. 11 2010 12:46 AM

I want to believe in the conclusion to this episode, but I have doubts... Sure, we do apply capitol punishment to those who achieve the most violent criminal acts. But if we look at war, Iraq for example, and compare the number of civilian deaths vs. soldier deaths, I come to a different conclusion. -> 4000 soldier deaths / 100,000 civilian deaths. Generally aggressive soldiers (those who volunteer their efforts to violence) are surviving at the expense of overall average civilians. If wars were simply fought between soldiers on "each side", then I would agree that this serves to weed out the alpha male. But today's war is --unfortunately-- quite different.

Jun. 02 2010 10:58 AM
Diane Glasby

Regarding the baboon story - I don't understand why it was felt that the baboon's changed culture was the result of an "unnatural occurrence." Disease decimates animal populations all the time for all sorts of reasons. The baboons switching to a more cooperative and less competitive mode makes sense, and may actually be part of their genetic programing. Perhaps it was simply not witnessed before.
The effect that removing alpha males had on the group also reminded me of the results Plague had on Europe in medieval times. Political, social and economic relationships changed dramatically, often to the benefit of those lower on the social ladder who were suddenly free from serfdom or inherited land.

Mar. 04 2010 02:56 PM

In addition, behavior for many animals is as much a result of their environment as it is a result of their genes. To characterize an animal completely by its genes is missing much of the picture. The point I'm trying to make is, just because there hasn't been a biological change to the baboon does not mean that this change in behavior will not last. It tells us that, biologically, the baboon has the potential to be peaceful given the right environment. Barring another radical change to the culture of that baboon troop, I would hazard to guess that they will remain peaceful indefinitely. The implication for people is even more significant because culture and environment affects our behavior even more than it affects the baboon's. Further, our culture is more malleable than that of the baboon. As people, we are blessed with the ability to examine, evaluate, and even change ourselves.

Jan. 28 2010 04:13 PM

I just listened to this episode on the way to work today. Very enjoyable and interesting! However, I'd like to make one comment about the baboon troop in the story. You pose the question of whether these baboons have changed their 'nature'. To which a biologist answers no, they have not changed because their genes have not changed. True, in this biological sense they are the same, but it hardly dismisses the significance of the story. In fact, it only makes it more significant! It tells us that even the baboon, a far more violent and confrontational animal than humans, when placed in a welcoming, affectionate, and open environment can become peaceful. Surely it can’t take any more than that for humans to become peaceful, as well!

Jan. 28 2010 03:58 PM
Bo Bibbles

After listening to the show I thought about the analogy between nations and baboons, and I think the social norm of the world is similar to the peaceful baboons. Most nations are against war, but if a country shows aggression towards another it will most likely meet it with aggression. Wouldn’t that hold true with the peaceful baboons? The wars we have now are meant to forcibly change the ideas and beliefs of another group; the war between the U.S. and Taliban/Al-Queda is meant to change their behavior. To fit the baboon analogy: They punched us for something we did earlier, so now we’re beating the crap out of them so they won’t do it again.

My guess would be that changing the social norm isn’t enough. Every individual would have to be able to let go any hostility we possibly could have.

Jan. 24 2010 01:37 PM

BRON-YR-AUR by Jimmy Page

Jan. 22 2010 11:48 AM

I heard this on radiolab on Chicago public radio twice this week and I enjoyed it so much that I had to come find the podcast and listen again. I found the story about Stu to be incredibly heartwarming. All of the stories gave me a bit more hope that change in the world is possible.

Jan. 08 2010 08:15 PM
Journey Roberts

I just listened to this show. It made some interesting points about the evolution of society and how cultures bcome more civil, I did want to make the point that you forgot one very important aspect of gentrifying mankind, which is of course women. Theres a reason I want to marry Gregory Peck, and woudn't give the governator the time of day

Dec. 08 2009 07:07 PM
Kenan Hebert

I absolutely loved this show. Emailed the link to friends, even. I agree that it's one of the best Radiolab eps ever. Top 5 with a bullet. :)

Dec. 07 2009 03:23 PM

I'm a transgender person and avid listener of radiolab. I'd been wondering when I would hear something dealing with trans people brought up in a broadcast. I was pleasantly surprised and touched by the piece on Stu and radiolab's mostly positive portrayal of trans people. For a show in a large part about science I was glad that radiolab didn't medicalize and pathologize trans people as so often in unfortunately the case in media today. Keep up the good work! I hope there's more trannys to come!

Nov. 28 2009 07:54 PM

I don't know if it was the best show so far, but it makes me wonder, cry and hope (and I confess I couldn't believe when I heard the last music on the show. Rita Lee???? WOW!)

Nov. 24 2009 11:39 PM
kc vernon

As usual, I loved the new show, save for one thing: as a resident of Laramie Wyoming, I found the portrayal of my home to be erroneous, uninformed and somewhat offensive. While Laramie is famous for the Matthew Shepard killing, the attitudes that perpetuated it are nowhere near representative of the population. Laramie is not a town of 'rednecks'. It is the county seat of the only blue county in Wyoming during the 2008 election. The GLBTQ community here is large and thriving, while the student body and faculty at the University of Wyoming is largely progressive, informed and educated, as is the population not associated with the school. Laramie mourned and continues to mourn the loss of Matthew. Don't think for a second that Laramie is any less accepting of homosexuals than any other place. The continuing proliferation of the image of Laramie as a 'backward' place is heartbreaking, especially in light of the effort that citizens put into making sure that Laramie is a safe and open community. Horrible things happen everywhere; don't force the people here to wear a black hat forever due to the actions of two evil men.

Nov. 19 2009 06:29 PM
Matthew C. Scallon

Umm. What happened to my comment?

Nov. 19 2009 04:11 PM
Dave J.

Way to make this man want to wear a dress!

Nov. 19 2009 01:48 PM

loved this episode. thanks!
one correction I'd like to propose: when Stu's girlfriend Victoria is referring to a movie about a boy who is beat to death for being gay, she starts to say "Boys Don't..." and Jad interjects "Matthew Shepard." I'd like to point out that Boys Don't Cry is about Brandon Teena, who was a transgender boy -- while both stories are incredibly tragic, I think Brandon Teena's story is more directly relevant to the story about Stu, since it is in fact not so much about sexual identity as it is about gender identity (and people's persistent confusion about the difference between the two, and ignorance and hatred of what they don't understand). Just thought I'd put it out there, in the interest of transgender visibility.

Nov. 11 2009 03:20 PM

The story on Stu was really inspirational. I heard about him before but never so in depth.

Nov. 07 2009 10:55 AM

Wonderful episode!

I was hoping that someone would be able to identify the little cello song that plays around 56:25, I've been asking everyone! If anyone knows, it would be much appreciated,

Nov. 06 2009 11:46 PM
Heidi Stettner

I started listening to the New Normal? this morning and while I was intrigued by the baboon story, I was disappointed you didnt' talk about how males raised in the "pacifist" tribe fared when they went to live elsewhere.

Nov. 06 2009 05:41 PM
John Simpson

@Travis - the song is actually "Bron-Yr-Aur" from the Physical Graffiti album. Wonderful tune.

Nov. 06 2009 02:51 PM
Jack Vaughan

I used to [1974] each night ride a very late train from S Ste in Bos. Met a fellow who read on the rides. For example: "The Anvil of Civilization"; was studying. Told me reason: He wanted to find out 'why man fights.' Was interesting to see this similar take on the general issue.

Nov. 05 2009 01:19 AM

In the account of the baboon troupe where most of the males died off and the troupe developed a more peaceful culture... That's actually happening in Rwanda!

Sadly, yet fascinatingly, Rwanda's male population was decimated in the genocide of 1997 (also many males fled and haven't returned). That left a radically lop-sided female-dominated population where now suddenly women have the dominant role in government and business. NPR did a story on this in May of 2008:

Also, about whether or not humans will ever stop fighting wars... We are very much headed in that direction, as the following links make clear:


Nov. 04 2009 04:21 PM

I suppose people are too complex for much breeding. We'd probably develop insanity on the way to peacefulness. Complexity may be the reason there's not a race of super soldiers out there. (with props to US Mil)

Nov. 02 2009 01:31 PM

Too sad that the reason the foxes were being domesticated was so they would be more amenable to being slaughtered for their pelts.

Oct. 31 2009 02:55 PM

Beautiful, also brought tears to my eyes.

Oct. 31 2009 02:14 PM
Lisa Hall

Thank you Radiolab.
Stu's story was an incredible one although a bit unfortunate that it is considered an "outlier"--if only....

Oct. 31 2009 09:50 AM
Maou Tsaou

Sorry, I owe more of an explanation than "I piss..."
Excuse my crassness please.
My point would be something like it'd take 20 generations of mice @ 5yrs per lifespan to observe a single human life of 100yrs, ergo how many human generations (@~20yrs per) of obeservation would it take to tell if quartz crystal replication is a "living system" on a time scale that we ain't aware of?

Oct. 31 2009 04:29 AM
Maou Tsaou

do you people realize how stupid it sounds for y'all to be telling me how F'n RARE it is to see primates doing ANY-god-damn-THING in the wild?
what is rare is to have ANY human attempt to live in the wild and describe ANYTHING that goes on there...
Very, VERY anthromorphic pov... no imagination.
And YES, I piss on your "scolarship"

Oct. 31 2009 01:45 AM
Mike Betette

Also, there was a study done a while back (can't remember where or by who) but they compared the number of wars and number of deatha per wars since there were records of such and it has always been steadily decreasing. part of it may be because of technology there are less deaths, but still. I believe, in the study they said even WW I and WWII had less deaths than previous wars.

Oct. 29 2009 03:16 PM
Mike Betette

I wonder if the same adrenal gland that made the foxes ears fold over when they were domesticated has any connection to how the dorsal fins of killer whales kept in captivity eventually fold over as well.

Oct. 29 2009 03:03 PM

There's simply no finer podcast than this. Radiolab's production, chemistry, and content...especially evident in this episode are enlightening. Humbling. Hilarious.

A pure joy to listen to. Thanks for your efforts.

Oct. 29 2009 02:10 AM

I've been working my way back through your shows and this latest one really hits it out of the ballpark. Well done. Your interviews are amazing and the technical work is inspiring.

I've been telling everyone I know to listen to you guys.

Oct. 28 2009 10:45 AM

I am a huge fan of the show. I haven't missed an episode yet, but I was disappointed by one line in this show (Sai already mentioned this). I'm an evangelical pastor and I was disappointed by the term "evangelical" being used to describe the Westboro Baptist Church protesters in Silverton. I think that group has been in the news so much that just a sentence or two of explanation would have worked for the listeners to get an idea of who those people were. I remain a huge fan of the show, but I just wanted to make clear that Fred Phelps and his crew from Westboro do not represent me or my congregation or, for that matter, any other evangelicals that I know.

Oct. 27 2009 02:44 PM

A serendipitous moment found me at the snack bar at The Palace movie theatre in Silverton, OR, last Friday night to see 'Where the Wild Things Are' (first-run movie for two plus popcorn - $10.30!) As I looked at the hand serving me the popcorn I noticed the red nail polish, then I took in the whole person and said, 'Are you Stuart?'. He said, 'Yes', and reminded me that it was WNYC's RadioLab where I'd heard his story earlier in the week. I replied, 'It's a pleasure to meet you.' Funny how life does this... Great guy, great town, great theater - go experience it yourself!

Oct. 27 2009 10:47 AM

@Travis - Black Mountain Side from Led Zeppelin 1.

Oct. 27 2009 07:37 AM
Travis Evans

Does anyone know that acoustic guitar song they're playing at around the 18 minute remaining point? I think it's an old Zeppelin tune, would love to find out for sure.

Oct. 26 2009 10:57 PM

I wish you had mentioned the Napoleonic wars as a turning point to a more modern, domesticated society. The war-fighters were effectively wiped out of Europe, until WWI and WWII. The Europe that has followed is highly domesticated, and seems to Americans as either idyllic or wussified (very little in between).
As always, a fantastic and thought-provoking show. Thank you!

Oct. 26 2009 10:35 PM

After a long day, hearing a story like Stu's was just a really beautiful reminder of how amazing people can be sometimes, thanks for a fantastic show!

Oct. 26 2009 10:12 PM

i've been listening to your show for many months now, and trying to download and hear every episode. thank you for sharing your ideas, your questions, your music, your interviews, and your incredible arrangements of these pieces.

when listening to the piece on domesticating foxes, and the following analysis on the domestication of people, i felt sad. i do want a more peaceful, caring, world, but i don't want people, us, to loose our wildness - our sharp senses (our pointy ears), our instincts (for danger and pleasure). can we do both?

Oct. 26 2009 03:57 PM

often times I'm surprised by the excellent music and production quality of this show, did anyone recognize the music towards the end that was played o the cello, or was that an original piece written for the show?

Oct. 25 2009 02:47 PM
Matthew Boll

brilliant episode
lets hope for the sea change!

Oct. 24 2009 03:45 PM
Izzie Zahorian

This was the most incredible thing I've heard this year and the most incredible podcast I've heard in my whole life.

Thank you.

I teared up near the end of Part II because I was so touched. And then the sun starting shining really brightly through my window (it'd been cloudy and rainy all day.) Strange... :)

Oct. 24 2009 02:58 PM

Increasing our emotional competency is essential for ending war. This is something we can all learn, see:

We can learn to cope with abundance.

Oct. 24 2009 12:58 PM
Marc Larrivee

This was an excellent show and it was an especially nice introduction. The question: Do you think war is here to stay? It is hard to see a world without war, but I would challenge all people who said "people" are too greedy, and it's "human nature" etc. for war to be a thing of the past, to think all the human relationships you have that are based on anything but our basest instincts. I think it is easy to let those who create and perpetuate the status quo to set the terms of debate. It is giving a way a whole lot. I think the show unmasked the notion that people, culture and life itself is always changing and can change in remarkably dramatic ways.

Oct. 24 2009 04:15 AM
Harry Gray

Listened to the story about Stu - almost as good as our local former Mayor Georgina Beyer; a trans-sexual who once was a hooker, came to a small town in a farming community, helped young people, became mayor, and was even elected as a Member of Parliament in New Zealand!
As always, a really good show - love getting the podcast, from down here in New Zealand.

Oct. 24 2009 12:24 AM
Maggie Anderson

I want to see pictures of the foxes! They sound so cute...

Oct. 23 2009 09:44 PM
Rob Ritchey

RE: baboon story...I sense that the behavioral software that genetically determines our behavior has essentially not changed in something like 40K years...but the environment we use it in and we, as individuals don't carry identical behavioal software packages..we're not all vanilla ..there are subtypes...there are affiliators...maybe half of us that are uncomfortable with initiating aggression.are more comfortable with change and accepting new individuals from other tribes..and maybe half are more tribal...scared of strangers..quick to attack know..half from the 'left'...half from the 'right'...a smaller genotype sees a unique global synthesis of environmental infomation..less in the moment...and unlikely to follow orders from leadership fiqures as most others do without much question..and leaders which seek only rank and political other nonaffiliators...don't have friends so much as ,rather ,alliances as links to rank and power within the group...war yields resources of all kinds..and power....success of the group and ,of course, the genepool it represents.Humans evolve as a group...we're social...war was good for the genes. Technology makes it ultimately dangerous.

Oct. 22 2009 08:27 PM

goosebumps to tears in one episode. i loved this one.

Oct. 22 2009 12:30 PM

Another brilliant show with fascinating examples! And I just love how you present the content :)

You guys definitely rock. Your shows should be mandatory in schools!

Oct. 22 2009 11:55 AM

Hopi Elders Prophesy -
To my fellow swimmers:
here is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift,
that there are those who will be afraid,
who will try to hold on to the shore,
they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know that the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore,
push off into the middle of the river,
and keep our heads above water.
And I say see who is there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history we are to take nothing personally,
least of all ourselves, for the moment we do,
our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over.
Gather yourselves.
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
For we are the ones we have been waiting for.

If I ever move, Silverton, OR will be the first place I check out. We can CHOOSE to live in fear or in love. Love (saccharin not included) shows up in the presence of acceptance and respect.

To JA & RK - Your CHOICE to eschew jolting noises in this report allowed me to stay in 'juvenile fox' mode. Much appreciated!

Oct. 22 2009 07:33 AM
Sai Emrys

@tim: "Tits" is one of the words that is prohibited on the air by the US FCC (after it was in Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" sketch). "Faggot" is not.

They bleeped it not for editorial reasons (I think) but for legal ones, i.e. they will get fined if they don't and air it. (OTOH, they don't have to censor it here. It'd be nice if they gave us the 'uncut' versions.)


@radiolab: You identified Stu's protesters simply as "evangelicals". However, the audio and slogans sounded very much like they were from Westboro Baptist Church, which is more extreme than most evangelicals have a taste for. If I'm right, they might both take umbrage at your conflation.

Anyhow, excellent show as always; better than usual.

Oct. 22 2009 05:23 AM

Great show! I think I saw the same Sapolsky story about the baboon troop on a PBS/Nat Geo special:

Oct. 21 2009 02:45 PM

Great story about Stu Rasmussen! Thanks for sharing this with the world.

Oct. 21 2009 08:26 AM

I'm only several minutes into the show, and I want to comment before I listen to the rest of it. I want to answer whether I believe war is inevitable.

I'd have to very reluctantly answer "yes," but I believe peace is achievable, and sustainable for long, long periods of time. It's just I don't assume humans are going to go extinct anytime soon, and assuming there's always a small chance of war, it will have to happen eventually.

Oct. 21 2009 07:56 AM

Many thanks for another thought-provoking show. Stu's story -- and that of his town and townsfolk -- was very touching. It's sad, however, to think that it was included in your show because it is an outlier...

Anything that smacks of eugenics is likely to be cringe-inducing. The idea that the execution of violent criminals is helping to change the overall genetic makeup of humanity is no exception. Taken with the story about Stu, however, it might be interesting to consider other ways in which humanity might be changing its overall genetic makeup. Will acceptance (which I wholeheartedly support) of different sexual orientation lead to more people of different sexual orientation in the populace? What other traits (foxy ears and so-forth) might come along?

Ah, the adventure that is our lifelab.

Oct. 20 2009 09:44 PM

This show was so wonderfully informative, as your shows usually are. I was particularly touched by the story of Stu. One point of interest, was when his long time girlfriend was speaking of the whispers she heard and the problems he faced. I found the issues he faced fairly typical and not that surprising, what I found interesting however was the decision the shows Editor made in bleeping her saying the word tits, but not bleeping her saying the word fagot. Perhaps it was for impact. I detest censorship of any kind, so I wasn't upset to hear the word (although on the radio, in music anyway, fagot is almost always bleeped) but more intrigued by the choice of the word to bleep, at least the work I think was bleeped. It was just an interesting side note. Keep up the great work with Radiolab.

Oct. 20 2009 03:32 PM
Lauren D

Just finished listening to New Normal. I can't get enough of RadioLab.

I have a question...This American Life ran an episode back on December 19 2008 called Ruining it for the Rest of Us >>

all about bad apple theories and how research has shown it can only take one bad apple to ruin the behavior of an entire group. I've personally experienced this multiple times when working in groups of people.

How do you think this type of research fits into the evolving good of human nature when one bad/violent person holds the potential to change behaviors of large groups?

Also, your story about Stu unexpectedly brought tears to my eyes at work. Very moving. Great job!

Oct. 20 2009 02:55 PM

Your broadcast held my attention keenly. (It usually does...) I patiently await the day that the RadioLab staff receives its Nobel Peace prize (!), and I intend that to be taken as a sincere compliment with no reflection upon any recent recipients, nor the selection process.

There is an interesting connection to the program's introductory question as posed by John Horgan (will there ever be and end to war?) and its concluding remarks by Richard Wrangham (how humans are effectively domesticating themselves). Namely, that the very process of fighting wars - repetitively, over hundreds if not thousands of generations - leads to a concomitant reduction in the population of alpha (human) males. And thus, effectively, human domestication is accelerated that much more by war itself. War will ultimately lead to a more peaceful human society...

Oct. 20 2009 02:20 AM

loved your story about stu. that was really beautiful to me.

one thing. in your domesticated-foxes-story, when explaining the idea around how we have domesticated ourselves, one of your guests is talking about how this tendency towards working together points to "the beginning of society and rule of law, in the way that we think of it today". cue the classical, traditionally anglo music. it's very beautiful, but I think you should examine why you chose that.

Oct. 20 2009 01:52 AM

That is the most scary sheep ever . Untill baboons and foxes can trade at NYSE there is not reason for them to abandon violence - its the way they get they get theirs.
I discovered radiolab two weeks ago . You are the awesomest show ever. The urge to consume everything offered in two days is strong but i'm trying to limit myself to a few shows a week.
Thanks Jad & Krulwich .
ps. The sound effects are too intense , distracts me from the road so i cannot listen while driving.

Oct. 20 2009 12:57 AM
Eddie Lin

The best show so far. At least it's my favorite.

Oct. 20 2009 12:15 AM

The story you did about Stu, the mayor unexpectedly made me cry. It just came upon me. The idea of a crowd of conservatives cross-dressing to support their mayor just poked at my heart. Good for them!

Oct. 19 2009 11:15 PM

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