Social | Science

What Is The Significance Of 'Universe 25' Experiment?

Mayukh Bari02 September 2020 6:35PM IST
3 min read290

'Universe 25' is one of the most significant experiments about social science. This experiment is an early attempt by scientists to explain the behaviour of a human in an overpopulated society.

In 1947, American scientist John Calhoun was working with some mice and decided to record their social behaviour. Afterwards, he conducted 25 similar experiments known as 'Universe 25' from the year 1958 to 1973 to verify the strange behaviour of the rodents. He was working at NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health).

In these experiments, Calhoun and his researchers created a series of 'rat utopias' - enclosed spaces in which rats were given unlimited access to food and water, enabling uncontrolled population growth.

# Stage 1

In the beginning, he placed four pairs of mice in the 'mice heaven'. In a short time, they began to reproduce, resulting in their population growing rapidly. However, after 315 days their reproduction began to decrease significantly. When the number of rodents reached 600, Calhoun noticed a social hierarchy in the mice society.

# Stage 2

The larger rodents began to attack the smaller ones. With this change, many small and young males begin to "collapse" psychologically. The 'isolated' females also became aggressive towards their young. As time went on, the females showed more and more aggressive behaviour, isolation elements and lack of reproductive mood. There was a low birth rate and, at the same time, an increase in mortality in younger rodents.

# Stage 3

Then, a new class of male rodents appeared the so-called 'beautiful mice'. They refused to mate with the females or to 'fight' for their space. All they cared about was food and sleep. At one point, 'beautiful males' and 'isolated females' made up the majority of the population. As time went on, juvenile mortality reached 100% and reproduction reached zero.

# Stage 4

As time goes population decreased significantly. But more surprisingly the rodents seem to lose their mind. Among the endangered mice, homosexuality was observed and, at the same time, cannibalism increased, even though there was plenty of food. Two years after the start of the experiment, the last baby of the colony was born.

# Conclusion

By 1973, Calhoun killed the last mouse in the 'Universe 25'. All these 25 experiments showed the same horrific results. Calhoun himself saw the fate of the population of mice as a metaphor for the potential fate of man. He characterized the social breakdown as a "spiritual death", with reference to bodily death as the "second death".

Calhoun retired from NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) in 1984 but continued to work on his research results until his death on September 7, 1995. His scientific work has been used as a model for interpreting social collapse. If 'Universe 25' is a tiny representation of human society, how much time do we have before our universe go totally insane?