Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

The Rise and Fall of Mouse Utopia

with 2 comments

In 1972, John B. Calhoun detailed the specifications of his Mortality-Inhibiting Environment for Mice: a practical utopia built in the laboratory. Every aspect of Universe 25—as this particular model was called—was pitched to cater for the well-being of its rodent residents and increase their lifespan. The Universe took the form of a tank, 101 inches square, enclosed by walls 54 inches high. The first 37 inches of wall was structured so the mice could climb up, but they were prevented from escaping by 17 inches of bare wall above. Each wall had sixteen vertical mesh tunnels—call them stairwells—soldered to it. Four horizontal corridors opened off each stairwell, each leading to four nesting boxes. That means 256 boxes in total, each capable of housing fifteen mice. There was abundant clean food, water, and nesting material. The Universe was cleaned every four to eight weeks. There were no predators, the temperature was kept at a steady 68°F, and the mice were a disease-free elite selected from the National Institutes of Health’s breeding colony. Heaven… Via MeFi.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 18, 2011 at 2:17 pm

2 Responses

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  1. This article gives the impression that Calhoun was doing something unique because he was looking at space rather than food or other components. This seems like even worse than traditional Malthusianism, mostly because we’ve had far more luck dealing with the problem of overcrowding than we have had dealing with problems like starvation. What Calhoun’s mouse utopia ideologically papers over is the fact that you can build upwards and you can layer buildings.


    August 20, 2011 at 12:40 pm

  2. That’s what I get for commenting before I arrived at the end of the essay: “Later in his career, Calhoun worked to build universes that maximized this kind of creativity and minimized the ill effects of overcrowding. He disagreed with Ehrlich and Vogt that restrictions on reproduction were the only possible response to overpopulation. Man, he argued, was a positive animal, and creativity and design could solve our problems. “


    August 20, 2011 at 12:45 pm

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