Truth about Lemmings
Scientists still debate the truth about what lemmings actually do. Their periodic migrations can best be explained by dispersal in search of fresh resources. The strongest swimmers make it across the streams–and if the stream turns out to be an ocean, you’re just out of luck.
Of course, genetic history is made by the winners–those who crossed the streams. Those populations that reproduce faster, even just a few percent faster than others (red versus blue, above) will take over, despite the crashes inbetween.
In Vonnegut’s Galápagos, we humans are all lemmings. We all descend from infinite apocalyptic rises and falls. In real life, the ghosts of ocean-drowned humans never return to haunt us, like the Vonnegut’s ghostly narrator. We go on merrily assuming that energy demands, economic growth and atmospheric CO2 rise can go on forever (that is, until the next crash). But what if Earth falls into catastrophe–like the lemmings, we cannot tell the difference between stream and ocean.
That’s what my students got, last week before the exam. More cheerful topics this week.