The Cultures of Failure and Death

Admit it, you think I’m exaggerating this post title for effect. And yet . . .

David Merrill, a high-school student from Nansemond River High School in Suffolk, VA, won regional and state science fairs ten years ago for an experiment on mice. This study was conducted over two years, with two separate groups of mice. His hypothesis (valid, because disprovable) was that mice who listened to heavy metal music would not do as well on a spatio-temporal task as mice who listened to classical music.

In the first year, Merrill bought 18 mice from a pet store, ran them through a 3-foot by 5-foot maze, to establish a baseline of 590 seconds (just shy of ten minutes). Then he put them into three 5-gallon aquariums, gave them controlled amounts of food and water, 12 hours of light per day, and played music to two of the three groups — one listened to the music of the group Anthrax, and the other to a variety of classical music. Both groups heard the music 24 hours a day, at 90 decibels (admittedly quite loud).

As he had predicted, the control group of mice and the mice that heard classical music improved their times. However, what he was not prepared for, was that the mice who heard the music of Anthrax killed each other.

Continued in The Cultures of Failure and Death, Part 2 and The Cultures of Failure and Death, Part 3

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