i’m sensing a quorum coming on

Thanks to the astute Dr Karl Kruszelnicki’s advertisement on his Triple J podcast, I would like to alert the nerds and science geeks within us all to the following article in the FASEB Journal (viewed in HTML or PDF formats):

Quorum Sensing on the Airbus Wing: Margaret Fuller and Prince Kropotkin

The article looks at the theories of Mutual Aid, Quorum Sensing and Feminism in the recent rescue of all crew and 155 passengers after US Airways Flight 1549 ditched into the Hudson River on January 15, 2009. It asks the question – are were genetically predisposed to assist in an emergency? And if so, what role if any does gender irrelevant in the matter?

On June 18, 2007 as I strolled to work just after 9am, I found that the Melbourne CBD was in Police lockdown due to the shooting for three people, one of them fatally earlier that morning.

Out the front of my work, a gunman had pulled a woman from a taxi in what appeared to be a violent domestic. Two bystanders came to her when, when the gunman then openfired on all three. In an instant people ducked for cover, people ran, the gun man fled. Within moments, people moved back towards the victims to offer whatever aid or support necessary. Without conscious thought for their own welfare. No one new where the gunman was.

On hearing about the news, many people outside of Melbourne sighed and pulled out the old rhetorical cliche, “what is the world coming to?” So strangely enough I answered them. What the world is coming to is that when a woman was in trouble two strangers came to her aid. And when that situation turned horrific, even more strangers (men and women – one of whom is a friend) came to the aid of those three. That’s what’s the world is coming to.

And time and time again I have seen cases where people come from all directions to assist in times of need, be it a car accident, a bush fire or a hit and run. The interesting case is, are we genetically dispositioned to do so? Which of course opens up even further debate between science and religion.

The FASEB Journal article puts out some very interesting ideas.

And as someone who is about to embark on the world on an adventure, it would certainly be comforting to feel that in times of strife people will automatically want to come to my aid.


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