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  • Hey, Vsauce. Michael here.

  • This picture is

  • about a year and a half old. But the pyramids themselves

  • are much older than that. How much older? Well, think of it this way.

  • The Pyramids of Giza were as

  • old to the ancient Romans as the ancient Romans

  • are to us. When the pyramids were being built

  • there were woolly mammoths living on Wrangel Island.

  • That's pretty old. But don't get too impressed.

  • We often learn about the past in units, separate

  • chapters, which distracts from the fact that many chapters aren't

  • just nearer each other than you might think, they are often

  • literally written on top of one another. Anne Frank

  • and Martin Luther King Jr. were born in the exact same year.

  • By the late 1960s humans had come a long way.

  • We've become a spacefaring species. But while we were sending

  • the first probes to the Moon and Venus and Mars,

  • it was still illegal for a black person and a white person to marry

  • in 16 states. The guillotine

  • seems like a macabre artefact from bygone days

  • but it was last used by France to officially behead a criminal

  • the year Star Wars came out. While General Custer was fighting

  • native tribes on the American frontier, the Brooklyn Bridge

  • was being build. And there were people alive then

  • who would later watch the Moon landing on television.

  • We went from Custer's last stand to

  • Armstrong's first steps within the span

  • of a single human life.

  • But all of these stories, from the pyramids to Julius Caesar to

  • you watching this video right now, belong to an incredibly thin section

  • in the book

  • of human history. Compared to what human life has

  • mainly been like here on earth, our current societies

  • are weird. Weird is also an acronym used

  • by Jared Diamond in his new book "The World Until Yesterday."

  • Jared Diamond wrote "Guns, Germs, and Steel," "Collapse"

  • and he's here with me to talk about weird.

  • Weird, w-e-i-r-d,

  • is an acronym for "western, educated, industrial, rich and democratic."

  • When we talk about human nature we're really talking about

  • a narrow slice of society. Traditional societies were

  • everybody in the world, from the beginning of human evolution

  • 6 million years ago until within the last

  • 10,000 years for the first time we began encountering strangers and then we

  • developed

  • writing and then we acquired kings. All of these things that we take for granted

  • are matter of the last 5,000 - 10,000 years. Or the Internet

  • or the media, they're a matter of the last few decades.

  • The relative recency of weird societies in the speed with which

  • information and knowledge increases means that not that long ago

  • we thought some pretty strange things. For instance,

  • in 1903 The New York Times predicted that building a flying machine

  • would be possible in 1 to 10 million years.

  • Later that very same year the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk.

  • In 1908 it was said that no flying machine will

  • ever fly from New York to Paris. Who made that

  • foolish prediction? One of the Wright brothers.

  • In 1962 the Decca recording company

  • passed on a young rock band, saying "we don't like their sound

  • and guitar music is on the way out." The band in question

  • was the Beatles. Keith Moon and John Entwistle were said to have remarked

  • about a band called The New Yardbirds,

  • "that band so ill-conceived it will sink

  • like a balloon or a zeppelin made out of lead."

  • Well, Jimmy Page was not deterred. In fact, he took that phrase

  • and made it his band's new name. He removed the A, so it wouldn't be pronounced

  • "lead," and that's where we got Led Zeppelin.

  • There is evidence the Nazis weren't entirely convinced

  • Earth was a globe we lived on the outside of.

  • Instead, they figured the Earth's continents were actually aligning

  • on the inside of a hollow concave surface with the stars and moon and planets

  • in the middle. Seriously.

  • As the story goes, Doctor Heinz Fischer was sent togen Island

  • to spy on the British. Now, the curvature of the earth would have made this

  • impossible.

  • But thinking the earth was shaped like this, they pointed their telescopes

  • up at a 45 degree angle. Needless to say,

  • the experiment didn't work. The Eiffel Tower's

  • inauguration and the Wall Street Journal and "Starry Night"

  • and Coca-Cola and Nintendo and Adolf Hitler

  • all began in 1889.

  • As did a guy named Thomas Midgley Jr.

  • Celebrated in his time,

  • Midgley's legacy has since been tarnished by

  • the negative consequences of his inventions.

  • His list of contributions to society is

  • impressively disastrous.

  • In the late twenties, Midgley synthesized the first chloro-fluorocarbons -

  • CFC - for which he won the Society of Chemical Industry's

  • Perkin medal. Only later did we realize

  • all of those tons of CFCs we were emitting

  • were eating away 4% of our atmosphere's protective ozone layer

  • every decade. Like a virus, creating a

  • wound, unlikely to completely heal until me and you

  • have long been dead. In the early 1920s

  • Midgley discovered that by adding Tetraethyllead

  • to gasoline engine knocking could be reduced.

  • The American Chemical Society gave him the 1923 Nichols' medal

  • for the discovery. There were other, safer alternatives but General Motors jointly

  • owned a patent on Tetraethyllead

  • with Midgley. They could make a profit on it, so they advertised it as

  • the best option and almost immediately nearly

  • every motor vehicle on earth was spewing

  • lead into our atmosphere

  • and soil, which put it in our blood,

  • lead poisoning for decades.

  • Currently, the reference for healthy children is a blood

  • lead content of less than 5 micrograms

  • per decilitre. After the popularization of Midgley's

  • leaded gasoline, 88% of children

  • in America had double that amount of lead in their

  • blood. When leaded gasoline was finally phased out

  • in the 1970s, that percentage fell

  • to 9%. Lead is a neuro toxin.

  • Even light exposure, like that caused by Midgley's invention,

  • can cause a decrease in intelligence and in increase

  • in anti-social behaviour. Fordham University found that

  • in young adults the best predictor of delinquent

  • and violent behavior is literally the lead content

  • of their blood. Chillingly, the rise and fall

  • of violent crimes by juveniles in the 20th century

  • tracks significantly closely with the rise and fall of lead

  • in their blood when they were preschoolers - all over the world.

  • Historian J. R. McNeill remarked that Midgley

  • had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single

  • organism in Earth's history. Midgley's

  • final invention was even worse.

  • Well, for him. In 1940 he contracted

  • polio. To help his friends and family lift him from bed

  • he designed an intricate system of ropes and pulleys.

  • As was the story of his life, the invention seemed

  • brilliant at first, but four years later he became

  • accidentally entangled in the ropes and his own invention

  • strangled him to death.

  • Midgley's life took up 0.55%

  • of human history. And, roughly speaking, yours will too.

  • To put that in perspective, let's time travel,

  • starting right now. We begin

  • 100,000 years ago - the beginning of modern humans.

  • We are moving forward in time an entire millennia,

  • a thousand years, every second. As you can see,

  • not much is changing. Our modern world

  • will briefly flash at the end. That's all it is. That's all it's been.

  • So be careful not to miss it.

  • And as always,

  • thanks for watching.

Hey, Vsauce. Michael here.

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    Xavier 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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