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Physical Attraction


We are the podcast that explains ideas in physics, one chat-up line at a time. Not just a physics podcast, though - interviews with scientists, scholars, authors and reflections on the history and future of science and technology are all in the wheelhouse.

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Sep 30, 2017

The human population has been growing exponentially for a long time. It’s been continuously growing since the Black Death in the 1300s – and although wars, famines, and plagues cause occasional blips in the growth since, it’s been pretty close to exponential since the Industrial Revolution kicked off. Now Malthus was not the only one to notice this, before I get letters, but he is indisputably the one who has his name most closely associated with the concept. Malthus, among others, saw this in the 1790s and said “Oh, boy.” He was afraid that human population would overshoot the availability of resources: and then things would really hit the fan:

“Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.”


Could a Malthusian catastrophe hit us today? 
Can our society adapt to the continued demand for exponential growth?
What would it look like, in the modern world?

Find out in this week's TEOTWAWKI