Author Topic: The Impossible Hamster  (Read 2392 times)

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Offline Simon

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The Impossible Hamster
« on: May 17, 2011, 07:22:40 PM »
Not sue whether this belongs here or in political news and debate, but this is what the impossible hamster has to teach us about economic growth.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/Sqwd_u6HkMo" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/Sqwd_u6HkMo</a>

Well I liked it anyway and I hope TS readers do too  :)


We are all in this together, but some of us are more in it than others (with apologies to George Orwell)

Offline 20Eyes

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Re: The Impossible Hamster
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2011, 08:32:19 PM »
The fact that hamsters only grow to a certain size is because that is all that their ecosystem and environment could sustain. If they find access to more food over many generations, they'll become bigger (just like humans have as we've managed to improve our farming techniques and developed a taste for food that makes us bigger).

The fact that the economy is still growing suggests that it is sustainable at current levels and beyond. As long as the human population continues to expand at a rapid rate - as it's set to - there's no reason at all why the economy won't continue to grow.
"Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime." ~ Potter Stewart

Offline Muggins

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Re: The Impossible Hamster
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2011, 09:30:22 AM »
I liked it, the grandchildren will love it, but not for the right reasons!

Don't worry I only have two - granchildren that is, not hamsters.
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Outoftowner

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Re: The Impossible Hamster
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2011, 10:02:07 AM »
Very good Simon. The commentator sounded like John Pilger. Was it?
What's it all about?

Offline Simon

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Re: The Impossible Hamster
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2011, 12:30:58 AM »
Very good Simon. The commentator sounded like John Pilger. Was it?

I have absolutely no idea. I just received the link to this video by email yesterday and thought it was too good not to share  :)

The fact that the economy is still growing suggests that it is sustainable at current levels and beyond. As long as the human population continues to expand at a rapid rate - as it's set to - there's no reason at all why the economy won't continue to grow.

Hello again 20. Geoff's right, you do post some good stuff every so often  :)

Whilst I can't fault your logic, I think there's one vital point missing from your argument.

How much can the human population continue to grow in order to permit the economy to expand? (please bear in mind that the size and natural resources of the planet we live on do not change in response to market forces)
We are all in this together, but some of us are more in it than others (with apologies to George Orwell)

Offline Richard Beale

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Re: The Impossible Hamster
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2011, 12:53:09 AM »
The fact that hamsters only grow to a certain size is because that is all that their ecosystem and environment could sustain. If they find access to more food over many generations, they'll become bigger (just like humans have as we've managed to improve our farming techniques and developed a taste for food that makes us bigger).


I don't quite think you've grasped evolutionary biology 20.

Size is dictated by body mass and heat generation. with some ability to adapt for habitat and other factors like predatory species etc size has nothing to do with food suppy. (apart from obese humans of course)

Large hamsters wouldn't be able to dissapate their body heat and so would be sluggish, ideal food for cats etc. hence no big hamsters.

Just as if the 'wild' obese humans wouldn't last, its 'survival of the fitest after all'.

Offline Muggins

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Re: The Impossible Hamster
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2011, 08:58:41 AM »
You could be wrong there Richard, many obese humans have very efficient metabolisms and therefore can live and function on little, except they get hungry, that's why they get fat. In the wild they would get thinner, but survive longer and run about more.   

As to them being wild, you are right there - flipping hopping most of the time!
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline 20Eyes

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Re: The Impossible Hamster
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2011, 09:33:06 AM »
Hello again 20. Geoff's right, you do post some good stuff every so often  :)

I do so appreciate a backhanded compliment.

Whilst I can't fault your logic, I think there's one vital point missing from your argument.

How much can the human population continue to grow in order to permit the economy to expand? (please bear in mind that the size and natural resources of the planet we live on do not change in response to market forces)

The answer is a bit, 'chicken and egg' and, funnily enough, takes us back to your hungry hamster. The human population will continue to grow until such time as it starts to decrease due to lack of resources. Even in areas where, to us, it appears there aren't the local resources to sustain growth (areas of Africa, for example), the human species still manages to present growth.

So, there is a limit, of course, to how many humans the planet can sustain. We might one day find that limit, but nobody yet knows what it is.

The figures are quite astonishing, though (and mirror your hungry hamster). It took 150,000 years for the human race to establish its first billion and yet the most recent billion was created in only 12 years. The UN's current estimate is that fertility will decline and lifespans will increase until the global population stabilises at around nine billion in 2300.

That's, of course, if we manage not to have had a world war by then or the most pessimistic global warming experts actually got it right.
"Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime." ~ Potter Stewart

Offline 20Eyes

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Re: The Impossible Hamster
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2011, 09:56:00 AM »
I don't quite think you've grasped evolutionary biology 20.

Size is dictated by body mass and heat generation. with some ability to adapt for habitat and other factors like predatory species etc size has nothing to do with food suppy. (apart from obese humans of course)

Large hamsters wouldn't be able to dissapate their body heat and so would be sluggish, ideal food for cats etc. hence no big hamsters.


I think you may be looking at this in reverse. We know why hamsters aren't as big as a cat, and your reasons are entirely correct. However, evolutionary biology dictates that size. Were hamsters to have been able to freely eat as much as they wished and had no predators, they'd be bigger than cats by now.

Your last point alludes to the same thing - humans have been able to become bigger and less physically capable because we have, in the majority of cases, overcome any natural predators through other means and at the same time, in much of the world, secured virtually unlimited food.
 
Of course, your post re. the dissapation of body heat only applies if a hamster suddenly becomes much larger very quickly - which isn't how evolution works (it's the opposite of how evolution works).

Interestingly, the largest known creature ever to live on the planet is still comfortably sustained by the planet today... the blue whale. It's size is limited mainly by the fact that it is unable to find enough of its main food supply (Krill) and because it is large enough to have no natural predators as an adult. The really intriguiging thing about the blue whale is that scientists and engineers believe that it is the creature that has evolved to the point where the convential animal heart structure Vs capillary network ratio cannot expand further, ie, the ever increasing resistance cannot be serviced by one heart in one location... the animal would need to evolve a second heart in another location of its body, something which is considered to be an evolutionary impossibility for creatures over a certain size.

Back to population growth and economic growth, this is an interesting research paper: http://www.darrenhiggs.com/resources/Lab%201%20Bio%20Geog.pdf

If, as estimates suggest, the human population may level out at c.9 Billion, the economy can continue to grow for many hundreds of years before anyone might need to worry about it.
"Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime." ~ Potter Stewart