In the 1960s, a fear of overpopulation swept across the world. This worry was nothing new…

Centuries earlier, an economist warned that limited food supplies would lead humans into a “Cycle of Misery”.

It’s time for a thread on how humans have escaped the Malthusian Trap👇👇👇
1) The Malthusian Trap is a theory which argues that, unchecked, population growth will outpace increases in food production and inevitably lead to global famine.

The theory is named after Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), the economist who proposed this principle in 1798.
2) Malthus writes, “Population increases in a geometrical ratio”, while “subsistence increases only in an arithmetic ratio”.

Because humans need food to survive, over time, the population would remain in line with the natural fertility of the land.
3) Due to limited resources (i.e. food supply), any period of prosperity with excess population growth would ultimately end in “misery” (famine) and “vice” (war).
4) Without restraint (abstinence or postponement of marriage), mankind was “condemned to a perpetual oscillation between happiness and misery”.

Malthus called this “The Cycle of Misery”…
5) In his economic pessimism, Malthus failed to account for the ingenuity of mankind.

First, humans improved farming methods during the Agricultural Revolution (18th-19th Century).

Then, humans increased the use of chemical fertilizers during the Green Revolution (1960s).
6) These innovations allowed food commodities to be produced in abundance and become less expensive- even as the population grew 7x since 1800.

Malthus’ oversight of human resourcefulness could have been because his theory was based on observations of rabbits. Just a guess.
7) Nonetheless, “Neo-Malthusians” maintain that population growth is unsustainable and will eventually lead to a crisis.

Especially in the 1950s-70s, there was a Malthusian revival.

Best-selling books forecast that overpopulation would cause global famines in coming decades…
8) While these predictions turned out to be wrong, Paul Ehrlich, author of “The Population Bomb” and a professor at Stanford University, maintains that “medium-term solutions” to overpopulation have only delayed the inevitable.
9) Echoing Malthus, Ehrlich insists there are only two paths forward. Either:

A) “a Birth Rate Solution, in which we find ways to lower the birth rate”, or

B) a “Death Rate Solution, in which ways to raise the death rate – war, famine, and pestilence (pandemics) – find us”…
10) If you learned something, you should check out BrainFeed, the internet’s most interesting email that explains everything you should know in 4-minute bites. Subscribe for free:

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26 Mar
The Suez Canal is still jammed by a container ship. But this is not the first time the canal has made headlines…

In 1956, a crisis over the canal led to a debacle that toppled a British prime minister and a shift in global power.

It’s time for a thread on the Suez Crisis👇👇👇
1) The Suez Canal was completed in 1869.

It took 11 years and 1.5 million workers to build and was financed by the French and Egyptian governments. 

The shocking part?

120,000 workers' lives were sacrificed before it was finally completed…
2) The canal provided the shortest ocean link between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.

It was, therefore, immediately of strategic importance for trade and commerce and gave European colonial powers quicker access to their colonies.
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16 Mar
In 1903, Marie Curie became the first woman in France to earn a PhD in physics.

The professors who reviewed her doctoral thesis on radiation declared it “the greatest single contribution to science ever written”.

It’s time for a thread on the “Mother of Modern Physics”👇👇👇
1) Curie (1867-1934) was born in Warsaw, Poland, the youngest of five children.

Although Marie was a prodigy in literature and math, she was unable to attend university in Poland because she was a woman.
2) Curie thus became a governess until age 24, when she had saved enough to move to Paris.

There, she studied physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne, one of the most prestigious universities.

While studying, she met Pierre Curie, a physics professor, whom she married in 1895
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9 Mar
Imagine a giant cloud. A really giant cloud. Like, trillions of miles wide. Now, imagine it is in outer space, made out of dust and gas.

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1) Nebulae (the plural of nebula) are closely associated with the birth and the death of stars.

Some nebulae are nicknamed “star nurseries” because they are regions where new stars are being born.
2) Stars form when gravity pulls together the dust and gas (mostly hydrogen and helium) that make up the nebula.

Other nebulae are formed from the elements thrown out by the explosion of a dying star, like a supernova.
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8 Mar
In 1765, Britain implemented a tax on cider production to help fund its debts.

The tax led to riots, the catchy quote “give me liberty, or give me death”, and ultimately, the American Revolution…

It’s time for a thread on the Stamp Act👇👇👇
1) During the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), Britain defeated France for control of North America. But the victory left Britain deeply indebted.

When a domestic tax on cider production led to riots, Britain looked for its North American colonies’ help in replenishing its coffers. Image
2) Indirect taxes were already levied on the colonies through duties on imports and exports.

Britain now levied its first direct tax on North American colonists with the Stamp Act, which passed Parliament in Spring 1765.
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2 Mar
In 1918, as World War I was coming to an end, a virus began rapidly spreading amongst Allied troops. When the soldiers returned home, they brought the disease with them...

This was the start of the deadliest pandemic in modern history.

Time for a thread on the Spanish Flu👇👇👇
1) First, let’s clarify a common misconception. The Spanish Flu was NOT from Spain.

The name actually comes from the fact that Spanish media was the first to cover the outbreak.
2) Countries involved in World War I had wartime censors who blocked news of the flu to keep up morale.

Spain, a neutral nation, had no media censorship.

They were, thus, the first country to widely report on the virus, especially after their king, Alfonso XIII, contracted it
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23 Feb
One of history’s most influential thought experiments involves a radioactive zombie cat, letters to Albert Einstein, and multiple Nobel Prizes...

It's time for a thread on Schrödinger’s Cat👇👇👇
1) Throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries, Newton’s Laws were the basis of physics.

In the early 20th Century, physicists realized that very tiny things did not obey Newton’s Laws.
2) While Newton’s Laws still explained the motion of a ball or an apple, they could not be used to explain the nature of atomic and subatomic (super small) particles.

Thus, the field of quantum physics was born…
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