Tag: Biology

Yeah, I had to Write About this One

It turns out that many, if not most of the Soviet/Russian submarine incursions that occurred 1980s and 1990s were probably herring farts.

Anyone who knows me knows that I HAD to write about this, it juxtaposes my interest in thing military and things fart.

This story is me.

It’s perfectly feasible that in the 1980s a major diplomatic incident between nuclear superpowers could have been triggered by fish farts. In fact, Russia and Sweden nearly came to blows over this very thing. They just didn’t know it at the time. 

Before we move on to farts, first, some background. In 1981, a Soviet submarine ran aground on the south coast of Sweden, just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from a Swedish naval base. The Soviets claimed that they were forced into Swedish territory by severe distress, and later navigation errors, while Sweden saw it as proof that the then Soviet Union was infiltrating Swedish waters. It didn’t help that when Swedish officials secretly measured for radioactive materials using gamma-ray spectroscopy, they detected what they were 90 percent sure was uranium-23[sic, probably U-238] (used for cladding in nuclear weapons) inside the sub, indicating that it may be nuclear armed.

The submarine was returned to international waters, but the Swedish government remained alert, convinced that Russian subs could still be operating near their territory. Which is when they started to pick up elusive underwater signals and sounds. In 1982, several of Sweden’s subs, boats, and helicopters pursued one of these unidentified sources for a whole month, only to come up empty-handed.


But it was farts.

In 1996, Magnus Wahlberg, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark, became involved in the investigation of the strange signals.


He and a colleague began the task of figuring out what could be making bubbles on a scale that would make Sweden think it was dealing with a nuclear submarine.

“It turns out herring have a swim bladder… and this swim bladder is connected to the anal duct of the fish,” Wahlberg said. “It’s a very unique connection, only found in herring. So a herring can squeeze its swim bladder, and that way it can blurt out a small number of bubbles through the anal opening.”

In layman’s terms, they let one rip. Herrings swim in gigantic schools that can reach several square kilometers and up to 20 meters (65 feet) deep. When something near them frightens them – say, a hungry school of mackerel or a submarine on the lookout for Russian spies – they can generate a lot of gas.


The good news was that Sweden wasn’t under threat from Russia, the bad news was it had spent 10 years deploying its military in pursuit of fish farts. Since it figured out what was and wasn’t fish farts, there have been zero reports of hostile intruders in Swedish waters.

This story was literally made just for me.

Interesting Chemisty? Yes. Life? No.

Not Life as We Know It

The fact that the Royal Astronomical Society has announced that the atmosphere of Venus contains significant amounts of phosphine (PH3), a substance that, on earth at least, is only produced through the action of anaerobic life and complex industrial processes, where it is a precursor to a number of organophosphorus compounds.

It could be a sign of life, but with no free liquid water, and atmosphere that is largely CO2, Nitrogen, and Sulfuric Acid, I’m dubious.

On the other hand, it is clear that Venus has been the red-headed stepchild of planetary studies, with Mars getting most of the attention, so if we see a few more probes sent to Venus as a result of this finding, I’ll take it.

Their press release is after the break:

Hints of life on Venus

An international team of astronomers, led by Professor Jane Greaves of Cardiff University, today announced the discovery of a rare molecule – phosphine – in the clouds of Venus. On Earth, this gas is only made industrially, or by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments.

Astronomers have speculated for decades that high clouds on Venus could offer a home for microbes – floating free of the scorching surface, but still needing to tolerate very high acidity. The detection of phosphine molecules, which consist of hydrogen and phosphorus, could point to this extra-terrestrial ‘aerial’ life. The new discovery is described in a paper in Nature Astronomy.

The team first used the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii to detect the phosphine, and were then awarded time to follow up their discovery with 45 telescopes of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. Both facilities observed Venus at a wavelength of about 1 millimetre, much longer than the human eye can see – only telescopes at high altitude can detect this wavelength effectively.

Professor Greaves says, “This was an experiment made out of pure curiosity, really – taking advantage of JCMT’s powerful technology, and thinking about future instruments. I thought we’d just be able to rule out extreme scenarios, like the clouds being stuffed full of organisms. When we got the first hints of phosphine in Venus’ spectrum, it was a shock!”

Naturally cautious about the initial findings, Greaves and her team were delighted to get three hours of time with the more sensitive ALMA observatory. Bad weather added a frustrating delay, but after six months of data processing, the discovery was confirmed.

Team member Dr Anita Richards, of the UK ALMA Regional Centre and the University of Manchester, adds: “To our great relief, the conditions were good at ALMA for follow-up observations while Venus was at a suitable angle to Earth. Processing the data was tricky, though, as ALMA isn’t usually looking for very subtle effects in very bright objects like Venus.”

Greaves adds: “In the end, we found that both observatories had seen the same thing – faint absorption at the right wavelength to be phosphine gas, where the molecules are backlit by the warmer clouds below.”

Professor Hideo Sagawa of Kyoto Sangyo University then used his models for the Venusian atmosphere to interpret the data, finding that phosphine is present but scarce – only about twenty molecules in every billion.

The astronomers then ran calculations to see if the phosphine could come from natural processes on Venus. They caution that some information is lacking – in fact, the only other study of phosphorus on Venus came from one lander experiment, carried by the Soviet Vega 2 mission in 1985.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Dr William Bains led the work on assessing natural ways to make phosphine. Some ideas included sunlight, minerals blown upwards from the surface, volcanoes, or lightning, but none of these could make anywhere near enough of it. Natural sources were found to make at most one ten thousandth of the amount of phosphine that the telescopes saw.

To create the observed quantity of phosphine on Venus, terrestrial organisms would only need to work at about 10% of their maximum productivity, according to calculations by Dr Paul Rimmer of Cambridge University. Any microbes on Venus will likely be very different to their Earth cousins though, to survive in hyper-acidic conditions.

Earth bacteria can absorb phosphate minerals, add hydrogen, and ultimately expel phosphine gas. It costs them energy to do this, so why they do it is not clear. The phosphine could be just a waste product, but other scientists have suggested purposes like warding off rival bacteria.

Another MIT team-member, Dr Clara Sousa Silva, was also thinking about searching for phosphine as a ‘biosignature’ gas of non-oxygen-using life on planets around other stars, because normal chemistry makes so little of it.

She comments: “Finding phosphine on Venus was an unexpected bonus! The discovery raises many questions, such as how any organisms could survive. On Earth, some microbes can cope with up to about 5% of acid in their environment – but the clouds of Venus are almost entirely made of acid.”

Other possible biosignatures in the Solar System may exist, like methane on Mars and water venting from the icy moons Europa and Enceladus. On Venus, it has been suggested that dark streaks where ultraviolet light is absorbed could come from colonies of microbes. The Akatsuki spacecraft, launched by the Japanese space agency JAXA, is currently mapping these dark streaks to understand more about this “unknown ultraviolet absorber”.

The team believes their discovery is significant because they can rule out many alternative ways to make phosphine, but they acknowledge that confirming the presence of “life” needs a lot more work. Although the high clouds of Venus have temperatures up to a pleasant 30 degrees centigrade, they are incredibly acidic – around 90% sulphuric acid – posing major issues for microbes to survive there. Professor Sara Seager and Dr Janusz Petkowski, also both at MIT, are investigating how microbes could shield themselves inside droplets.

The team are now eagerly awaiting more telescope time, for example to establish whether the phosphine is in a relatively temperate part of the clouds, and to look for other gases associated with life. New space missions could also travel to our neighbouring planet, and sample the clouds in situ to further search for signs of life.

Professor Emma Bunce, President of the Royal Astronomical Society, congratulated the team on their work:

“A key question in science is whether life exists beyond Earth, and the discovery by Professor Jane Greaves and her team is a key step forward in that quest. I’m particularly delighted to see UK scientists leading such an important breakthrough – something that makes a strong case for a return space mission to Venus.”

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

“Venus has for decades captured the imagination of scientists and astronomers across the world.”

“This discovery is immensely exciting, helping us increase our understanding of the universe and even whether there could be life on Venus. I am incredibly proud that this fascinating detection was led by some of the UK’s leading scientists and engineers using state of the art facilities built on our own soil.”

What the F%$# Do You Put on Your Resume

I was reading an article about how researchers, using shark vomit, have determined that baby tiger in the Gulf of Mexico sharks eat lots of song birds. (NOT seabirds)

Normally, I would file this under, “Huh, that’s interesting,” and I might post a link in my linkage posts.

But then a thought hit me, which is that a fairly large number of researchers are involved in this, including research assistants, graduate students, and maybe some undergrads as well.

Doubtless these folks will be going to other jobs, and other schools, where they will want to relate this experience to future employers or educators.

This raises a question for me, what is the best way to put, “Shark Vomit Analyst on a resume?”

I Remember the Cicadas

Well, there is now an explanation of the “sonic attacks” against the US embassy in Havana.

It turns out that it was crickets looking for love in all the wrong places:

In November 2016, American diplomats in Cuba complained of persistent, high-pitched sounds followed by a range of symptoms, including headaches, nausea and hearing loss.

Exams of nearly two dozen of them eventually revealed signs of concussions or other brain injuries, and speculation about the cause turned to weapons that blast sound or microwaves. Amid an international uproar, a recording of the sinister droning was widely circulated in the news media.

On Friday, two scientists presented evidence that those sounds were not so mysterious after all. They were made by crickets, the researchers concluded.

That’s not to say that the diplomats weren’t attacked, the scientists added — only that the recording is not of a sonic weapon, as had been suggested.


Experts on cricket songs said the analysis was well done. “It all seems to make sense,” said Gerald Pollack of McGill University, who studies acoustic communication among insects. “It’s a pretty well supported hypothesis.”

When the American diplomats first complained of the strange noises in Cuba, they dismissed the possibility that insects were responsible. But short-tailed crickets are exceptional: They have long been known to make a tremendous racket.

I remember Brood X when it roused from its subterranean slumber in 2004, and it was deafening.

And Now We Have Dope Fiend Mollusks

Mussels in Puget Sound have tested positive for opioids, which raises the obvious question, how the hell do you get them to pee into a cup?

Scientists at the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife have found that mussels in Seattle’s waters are testing positive for opioids.

The finding suggests “a lot of people” are taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound, researchers say.

Scientists used mussels as a way to test pollution in Seattle’s waters and discovered high enough oxycodone levels for the shellfish to test positive.

Mussels do not metabolise opioids, but some fish can become addicted.

Mussels are filter-feeders, which means they filter water for nutrients to nourish themselves. In the process, they end up storing pollutants in their tissues, which makes them a prime indicator species.

State researchers distributed clean mussels around the Puget Sound and extracted them months later to test the waters.

Of the 18 locations scientists used, three showed traces of oxycodone. The drug traces were not enough to get any humans high from consumption, but enough to indicate a problem, officials said.

There is a stand-up comedy routine in this story.


After decades of deaths from collisions with ships and entanglements with fishing nets, the North Atlantic Right Whale is on the brink of extinction:

Officials with the US federal government say it is time to consider the possibility that endangered right whales could become extinct unless new steps are taken to protect them.

North Atlantic right whales are among the rarest marine mammals in the world, and they have endured a deadly year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said there are only about 450 of the whales left and 17 of them have died so far in 2017.

The situation is so dire that American and Canadian regulators need to consider the possibility that the population won’t recover without action soon, said John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. The high year of mortality is coinciding with a year of poor reproduction, and there are only about 100 breeding female North Atlantic right whales left.

“You do have to use the extinction word, because that’s where the trend lines say they are,” Bullard said. “That’s something we can’t let happen.”

Bullard and other NOAA officials made the comments during a Tuesday meeting of the regulatory New England Fishery Management Council. Mark Murray-Brown, an Endangered Species Act consultant for NOAA, said right whales have been declining in abundance since 2010, with females hit harder than males.


The U.S. and Canada must work to reduce the human-caused deaths of the whales, Murray-Brown said. Vessel-strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are two frequently cited causes of the whales’ deaths.

Any fix is probably going to be greeted by howls of protests from the fishing and shipping industries, but f%$# them.

Evil Megalomaniac Seeks to Revive Monster from Primeval Times

There are certain people who I will assume that anything they do is in furtherance of evil.

One of them is Peter Thiel, who literally has aspirations to be a vampire.

Now, he’s dropping big bucks on an attempt to revive the species of the Woolly Mammoth.

I do not know how reviving the Woolly Mammoth will make life more miserable for the rest of us, but given that Thiel is funding it, I guarantee that it will make life more miserable for the rest of us.

At least he’s not a one of the megalomaniacs planning on mounting a private operation to mine asteroids, which could easily be turned into a devastating weapon.

This Is What Happens When Big Pharma Takes over Research

As a result of increased corporate funding of research, and the pressure to deliver the desired results that inevitably results, the majority of current medical research is garbage that cannot be reproduced:

Science is facing a “reproducibility crisis” where more than two-thirds of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, research suggests.

This is frustrating clinicians and drug developers who want solid foundations of pre-clinical research to build upon.

From his lab at the University of Virginia’s Centre for Open Science, immunologist Dr Tim Errington runs The Reproducibility Project, which attempted to repeat the findings reported in five landmark cancer studies.

“The idea here is to take a bunch of experiments and to try and do the exact same thing to see if we can get the same results.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that should be easy. Experiments are supposed to be replicable.

The authors should have done it themselves before publication, and all you have to do is read the methods section in the paper and follow the instructions.

Sadly nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth.

After meticulous research involving painstaking attention to detail over several years (the project was launched in 2011), the team was able to confirm only two of the original studies’ findings.

Two more proved inconclusive and in the fifth, the team completely failed to replicate the result.

“It’s worrying because replication is supposed to be a hallmark of scientific integrity,” says Dr Errington.


According to a survey published in the journal Nature last summer, more than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments.

Marcus Munafo is one of them. Now professor of biological psychology at Bristol University, he almost gave up on a career in science when, as a PhD student, he failed to reproduce a textbook study on anxiety.


The problem, it turned out, was not with Marcus Munafo’s science, but with the way the scientific literature had been “tidied up” to present a much clearer, more robust outcome.


“The issue of replication goes to the heart of the scientific process.”

You said it.

The problem is that research has increasingly become a zero sum game in which corporate funders dictate results before the first experiment is fully designed.

It is a petri dish for corruption.

Still a Few Bugs in the System

Some neuroscientists decided to see if the latest neuroscience tools could handle a simpler case than the human brain.

They chose a 40+ year old CPU, and they failed abysmally:

In 2014, the US announced a new effort to understand the brain. Soon, we would map every single connection within the brain, track the activity of individual neurons, and start to piece together some of the fundamental units of biological cognition. The program was named BRAIN (for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), and it posited that we were on the verge of these breakthroughs because both imaging and analysis hardware were finally powerful enough to produce the necessary data, and we had the software and processing power to make sense of it.

But this week, PLoS Computational Biology published a cautionary note that suggests we may be getting ahead of ourselves. Part experiment, part polemic, a computer scientist got together with a biologist to apply the latest neurobiology approaches to a system we understand far more completely than the brain: a processor booting up the games Donkey Kong and Space Invaders. The results were about as awkward as you might expect, and they helped the researchers make their larger point: we may not understand the brain well enough to understand the brain.

On the surface, this may sound a bit ludicrous. But it gets at something fundamental to the nature of science. Science works on the basis of having models that can be used to make predictions. You can test those models and use the results to refine them. And you have to understand a system on at least some level to build those models in the first place.


That’s where Donkey Kong comes in.

Games on early Atari systems were powered by the 6502 processor, also found in the Apple I and Commodore 64. The two authors of the new paper (Eric Jonas and Konrad Paul Kording) decided to take this relatively simple processor and apply current neuroscience techniques to it, tracking its activity while loading these games. The 6502 is a good example because we can understand everything about the processor and use that to see how well the results match up. And, as they put it, “most scientists have at least behavioral-level experience with these classical video game systems.”

So they built upon the work of the Visual 6502 project, which got ahold of a batch of 6502s, decapped them, and imaged the circuitry within. This allowed the project to build an exact software simulator with which they could use to test neuroscience techniques. But it also enabled the researchers to perform a test of the field of “connectomics,” which tries to understand the brain by mapping all the connections of the cells within it.

To an extent, the fact that their simulator worked is a validation of the approach. But, at the same time, the chip is incredibly simple: there is only one type of transistor, as opposed to the countless number of specialized cells in the brain. And the algorithms used to analyze the connections only got the team so far; lots of human intervention was required as well. “Even with the whole-brain connectome,” Jonas and Kording conclude, “extracting hierarchical organization and understanding the nature of the underlying computation is incredibly difficult.”

Remember, in a microprocessor, a transistor is a transistor is a transistor, in the brain, neurons and ganglia vary from cell to cell.

This is a valid test of the software, the 6502 is arguably the most thoroughly understood CPU in existence, and Donkey Kong is arguably one of the best understood pieces of software in existence.

And they still could not do it on a  processor that can access only 64K of RAM.

We are much further from mapping the brain in any detail than is implied in the mainstream media reports.

The Eskimo Word is Oosic

Most mammals, though not humans, a penis bone.

These range in size from tiny to “heroic” in size, with the aforementioned “Oosic” coming from an Walrus, and being rather large.

There is now some question as to why humans do not have this bone, even though some of our closer relatives, like the Chimpanzee, do:

The baculum, also called the os penis or penis bone, is a puzzling thing. It sits in the tip of the organ, not connected to any larger skeletal structure. Your pet cat has one if it is a he, as does your male dog. Many male mammals do — chimpanzees, gorillas, weasels and bears. The walrus has a particularly impressive baculum, up to 22 inches in length. The bone was even larger in the past. A fossilized, 4.5-foot os penis of an extinct walrus species fetched $8,000 at auction in 2007.

But humans, curiously, do not have penis bones. One reading of Genesis offered an explanation for the disappearing bone by way of creation myth. It was the penis bone, not a rib bone, a pair of biblical scholars argued in 2015, that God removed to fashion Eve from Adam. (This interpretation went over about as well as one might expect.)

As to why humans lack the bones, a study published on Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B offered a possible explanation. By the standards of primate reproduction, humans do not need to do the deed for a long enough time to warrant an os penis. Plus, our breeding habits are, in the context of our great ape cousins, fairly low-pressure.

A pair of researchers at the University College London examined several sexual characteristics of primates and mammal carnivores, including features like polygamy, testes mass, seasonal mating and intromission time (how long an act of penetration lasts). For primates, the best predictor for whether the male had a penis bone was if intromission lasted three minutes or longer. There was also a correlation between long intromission and length of the bone for both primates and carnivores.

Study author Matilda Brindle wrote at the Conversation that “humans don’t quite make it into the ‘prolonged intromission’ category. The average duration from penetration to ejaculation for human males is less than two minutes.” These long bouts of primate intromission are not exactly romantic. The end goal is gestation, not gesture. They are insurance to a male mammal, Brindle pointed out, that a female does not mate “with anyone else before his sperm have had a chance to work their magic.”

Less than 2 minutes for humans? Seriously?

Damn! I barely have her shoes untied in 2 minutes.*

As an aside, if you Google Oosic, the almost all first links are for knife handles made from Walrus baculi.

*It’s not that I don’t know how to untie shoes, it’s that I am not using my hands.

The 3rd Worst Job on Earth

Tasmanian Devil Milker:

Milk from Tasmanian devils could offer up a useful weapon against antibiotic-resistant superbugs, according to Australian researchers.

The marsupial’s milk contains important peptides that appear to be able to kill hard-to-treat infections, including MRSA, say the Sydney University team.

Experts believe devils evolved this cocktail to help their young grow stronger.

The scientists are looking to make new treatments that mimic the peptides.

They have scanned the devil’s genetic code to find and recreate the infection-fighting compounds, called cathelicidins.

Milking a Tasmanian Devil is not high on my list of career options.

Amazon is a Petri Dish for Sociopaths

In 1996, an evolutionary biologist attempted to create an improved chicken by separating out the hens that outperformed their fellow hens.

It was an unmitigated disaster, and it bears notice in companies which use a similar process, “Stack Ranking”, to manage their employees.

Amazon is the most notable, and most aggressive adherent of this philosophy:

Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, recently took some heat when the New York Times exposed working conditions and the corporate culture at his firm. ‘Ruthless’ and ‘demanding’ are two descriptors of the working environment, sink or swim. Amazon is not alone. Some of the leading recent startups have competitive employment requirements, a survival of the fittest approach. They want the best and push out the rest. It’s a simple notion to strengthening your company and the most efficient way to assemble optimally performing groups, organizations, and sports teams. Or at least that has been the dominant rhetoric behind models of group productivity within both the business and sporting industries. Stack-ranking and other business practices of individual selection have been widespread, from General Electric to Microsoft, and is a standard modus operandi in sports teams including the focus of this piece, the European soccer team, Real Madrid. However, the wisdom behind the application of these models, both in business and sport, is under scrutiny. To begin to see why, we turn to evolutionary biology.

In 1996, evolutionary biologist William Muir conducted a series of unusual experiments at Purdue University. Muir was looking to explore the various methods of group productivity with regards to egg production. He wanted to create a group of ‘Super-Chickens’ who would produce more eggs than any other coop. He followed the logic that many employers today tout: take the best individuals, put them in a group together, and then let the magic happen. Muir selected the most productive hens from each cage and bred the next generation from them. Muir also identified the cages that collectively were more productive at laying eggs in comparison to other cages. He then continued to selectively breed using these two separate groups and observed the levels of production.

The outcome of this study was striking; selecting the best group cages produced hens that thoroughly outperformed the line of individually more productive ‘Super-Chickens’. For the cage-selected line, after just five generations, the number of eggs per hen catapulted from 91 to 237, the mortality rate of the group crashed from 68% to 9%, and the hens also displayed improved wellbeing as a function of the reductions of pecking and negative social interactions.

The Super-Chicken group did not fare so well. In fact, this line of hens had some other, rather less desirable qualities. They presented signs of aggression, violence, dysfunction and waste. There was an extremely high prevalence of fatal cannibalistic pecking within the group and general agonistic behaviors. Those in the cage who did not die from these cannibalistic attacks (there was an 89% mortality rate) were left with severe feather loss, life-threatening abrasions and other serious physical injuries. The hens were more intent on fighting amongst each other than doing anything productive! Hopefully that doesn’t sound like any workplaces you know…

So what happened? Why did the best egg-layers from the first generation yield something akin to the Gremlins of the eponymously named 80s movie? What Muir realized was that instead of identifying the most efficient hens, he had identified the hens that successfully conveyed the appearance of being the most productive. Those hens that individually produced the most did so by being adept at aggressively suppressing the other hens from laying eggs
. Taking the more productive individuals meant taking the more aggressive hens. Breeding repeatedly from those which were most productive actually favored those which were most aggressive. Placing these hens together in cages led to extreme violence (only three of these psychotic hens actually survived!). Muir ended up running out of the Super-Chickens and had no choice but to end monitoring them and only continue with the other group. Ultimately, the process of selecting at the individual level took to an extreme the challenge of cooperation arising from individuals selected for selfishness.

The behaviour of the psychotic hens fits rather well with the normative assumptions of classical economic and game theory, which suggest that individuals will act selfishly in situations that afford them the opportunity. In group situations, individuals are consistently expected to identify, and act on, the dominant Nash strategy—the strategy that cannot be beaten. Just think of the classic ‘tragedy of the commons’, where people are predicted to free-ride on and exploit the contributions of others to a shared resource. Furthermore, the selfish actions of the Super-Chickens also support the theme of much evolutionary psychology from the 1960’s, which was based on the principle that individual interests will always outweigh the interests of the group.Given an opportunity to benefit from the efforts of others, selection will favor those which seize the day.


Some companies have begun to pay heed. Recently, Microsoft abandoned its longstanding stack-ranking approach. It recognized that stack-ranking was undermining team cooperation, employees withheld information to avoid damaging their own rank, sought teams where they could rank better, and ensured new team members failed. As an outcome to stack-ranking, it seems obvious. Yet many companies pursued it, just as breeders choose super-chickens. For Jeff Bezos, he may not agree. Amazon is a hugely successful company, at least in sales and turnover. It is not a particularly profitable company. When Microsoft was the behemoth of its domain, its aggressive policies eventually led it into trouble, barely avoiding being broken apart. Enron thought it had the smartest guys in the room. It’s endemic corruption ultimately crumbled the company. A company led by super-chickens may not be the best long-term strategy.

Much of the American management class, and Jeff Bezos in particular, seem to see Lord of the Flies as a model for how to manage employees.

They are selecting for narcissistic sociopaths in their organization, and in the long run that is not a good thing.