SCIENCE Defiance: SDCC and Human Evolution

Conventions are unnatural. We just didn’t evolve to congregate in such large numbers, and San Diego Comic-Con is the pinnacle of this evolutionary defiance. However, humans are an ingenious sort. The simple act of wearing clothes to said convention sets us apart from the other animals, but there’s more than just garments that need to happen in order to make your convention experience a happy, healthy and scientifically sound time for you and the other 100,000+ nerds involved.



Yup, they're just that cute.Sleeping is something most animals, and all humans, do. The question of “Why we need to sleep?” is something that still legitimately debated among scientists. On average, adult humans require 7-8 hours a sleep for optimal neural functioning. You will not get this much sleep if you come to San Diego, but fortunately for you, neither will anyone else. Half the glory of the convention is everyone wandering around in a sleep deprived haze driven only forward by passion, caffeine and the lingering effects of last night’s self-induced poisoning. Someone really should conduct a large scale experiment on just how cognitively impaired everyone marching around San Diego is for those 5 days and compare it to their daily life. Who wants to help me write that grant?

Many animals besides just humans bathe. Some animals even live in the water all the time! (Hint: Fish) Why do we bathe? Well I hate to tell The colors!you this, but your outer layers are basically zombie-fied. All of your outermost skin cells (the epidermis) and hair are dead. The dead hair is probably for the best otherwise haircuts might be pretty painful. So bathing helps get rid of the cells you don’t need any more. It also helps remove parasites (you’ve got ‘em, sorry), pathogens and the plethora of smells your body naturally creates. Those odors may have at one point been useful for attracting mates but our culture has collectively agreed that we’d rather smell some synthetic niceties than our own secretions and this attention to the nasal comfort of others goes a long way towards convention harmony.
That’s another important point about how evolutionarily disadvantageous something like SDCC really is. Humans were not made to operate in such large numbers. It’s a miracle of modern architecture, agriculture, transportation technology, irrigation, and culinary science that we can all spend a few days in such a geographically confined area. Hunter/gatherer groups tend to max out around 50 individuals. This large confluence of people is impressive but it also looks like a buffet to any disease that comes along for the ride hoping to get spread. The con-plague is real. It’s easy enough to avoid by washing your hands often (especially after touching people and/or money), getting enough sleep, eating right… ah, who are we kidding, we’ll all be ill by Saturday.
There is good news! It comes in the form of walking. Humans are made to walk. A lot. More so than any other ape we’re best on flat ground and two legs. Humans are obligate bipeds, which means we have to walk on two legs, whereas the other great apes are facultative quadrupeds, kind of on four legs but not always (chimps, bonobos, & gorillas), brachiators, who swing around with their arms (gibbons), and even quadrumanual clambering, where each limb ends in what is functionally a hand (orangutans). Our specific way of getting around is relevant because it allows us to use our hands absent locomotoin, so you can carry a bag full of swag or flip quickly through back-issue bins with your dexterous fingers while walking or crouching. Just remember that the posture you adopt to dig through the half-off trades of longboxes is the same posture you’re ancient ancestor adopted to pick seeds from plants in the savannah. Fortunately conventions only have costume lions.
Of course that’s not to say you can’t do yourself a favor and wear some sensible shoes with arch support. You’ll be hurting if you don’t because that arch evolved to help you run more than walk. It has enough springiness to help you bounce off the ball of your foot while running more up on your toes. I’ve read you get as much as 17% of your energy back from the arch alone while sprinting, which is something. But walking around, or even worse just standing (and believe me, you’ll be standing) is gonna leave you with some sore arches. But you have another option for giving those arches a rest: your butt. Sometimes features evolve for one purpose but are then wonderfully utilized in a new and unforeseen way. In this case, the butt evolved also for running. While our modern lifestyles may have left us a bit soft, it’s thought that early humans could run distance with the best of them. Anthropologists think that we even used our extreme endurance to chase prey to exhaustion before we had weapons to throw at them. Scientists have actually tried to test this out themselves but, well… they got tired. Stupid modern lifestyle. That modern lifestyle did also give us leisure time though, and with leisure time comes the alternative use of the butt: sitting. The only way the convention floor is navigable even on two legs is if a percentage of attendees take advantages of the panels and other special events taking place around the show, which normally also involve sitting. It may sounds like a silly thing to explain, but after a few days of conventioneering, every time you sit down will be a heavenly reminder that relief in some form does exist.
So there’s your guide to evolutionary fitness at the convention. Sleep when ya can, try to keep clean, and appreciate your feet. If you’re not going to the convention this is all still good info for evolved living. I mentioned before the ingenuity of our species and I’d like to reemphasize it at the end. Sure we didn’t evolve to hang out in such large numbers, but we didn’t evolve for lots of things and I still think it’s great that we do them anyways. It’s a glorious testament to our passion for comics, pop culture, and coming together as people with some shared interest and I wouldn’t miss it for all the evolution in the world (unless I was evolving lasers or something, can’t just ignore lasers).


Ryan Haupt broke most of these rules trying to get this article written. During the course of it's construction he neither slept, nor bathe, nor walked. His chances of suriving SDCC are slim. Mike Romo just hopes he wears shoes.