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Business sociology can be very interesting – the dynamics of departments, groups, teams, or other blobs of people working together toward a common goal. In business school they called this organizational behavior, but I think organizational sociology sounds much cooler.

Incidentally, the Org Behavior question was the only one I missed on the comprehensive final I took when I got my MBA, but I’m a lot wiser in they ways of how groups operate now. I’d probably still fail that exam question, though, because memorizing categories and lists of labels from theorists hasn’t been particularly useful to me in the real world.

So, in terms of useful information we can use, I’m hip to how (despite the hassles and overhead of group dynamics) groups are more successful than individuals. Always. If you want to learn more about the science behind this; to hear about how fireflies the in Thailand all flash on and off in synchronicity; to hear the original exercise that inspired James Surowiecki’s jelly bean jar guessing exercise — tune in to the best Podcast on the web (imho) — Radiolab. You can download a free standard MP3 or podcast of the “Emergence” episode here.

Afterwards, you can thank me for turning you on to Radiolab. Then you can join me in complaining that they only put out 5 new episodes per season.

Simply put, ignoring all other factors, scientists have discovered that all creatures large and small have one common characteristic related to mortality: their hearts beat an average of 1.5 billion times over their lifetime. Finally – a biology problem that can be solved using a spreadsheet! That is, all creatures except human beings, whose heart beats as much as double that number – closer to 3 billion. (Go ahead, do the math, I know you’re dying to.) When you put your spreadsheet together, notice what happens to your life expectancy when you drop your average pulse from 70 bpm to 60 bpm. Makes all that that exercise you’ve been thinking about seem more important than you may have thought.
Humans weren’t always so askew from the rest of the creatures. Over time, through science and other evolutionary changes, we have managed to throw a kink in an otherwise perfect correlation. It hasn’t been easy, though. As we introduce technologies that extend our lives, we also introduce new risks that may shorten it. (There wasn’t much risk of getting hit by a bus in 500 B.C.)
Some scientists believe that it’s plausible to push the life expectancy of newborns born in the next decade up to the age of 100. If you think the Social Security system is in peril now, just wait!
If you find this stuff interesting, listen to Robert Krulwich explain in more detail in his Podcast here:

Some believe lobsters could live forever if external forces left them alone and allowed them to continue to eat, molt, and grow. The largest lobster ever found (and recorded) was over two feet long and weighed 42 pounds! The reason that lobsters don’t live forever is that external forces seem to step in at some point, leading to the demise of the lobster: bacteria, lobster traps, predators. If we wanted to test the immortality of a lobster, we would probably have to create a highly controlled setting that blocks these external forces. Even then, it’s possible that the nature of the controlled setting itself could create additional emotional forces that negatively impact the lobster’s life expectancy. These thoughts form the basis for a train of thought I’ll continue in the next blog: The Immortality of Humans.