Coming soon to NOVA: Mind of a Rampage Killer

On Feb. 20, the long-running PBS science series NOVA will air "Mind of a Rampage Killer," an hour-long documentary on the neuroscience behind teen rampage shooting violence, like the recent tragedy in Newtown. Can science help us understand what makes a young man walk into a movie theater, church, or classroom full of children and open fire? Miles O’Brien hosts and reports on "new theories that the most destructive rampage killers are driven most of all, not by the urge to kill, but the wish to die."

I've peeked at the work in progress, and it's going to be a really intense program, well worth watching. Trailer above.

* Disclosure.


  1. If innate biological factors drive you to murder should you be set free because they’re not your fault, or should you be locked up because it was your responsibility to seek help?

    1. Why would you frame it in terms of culpability rather than in terms of public safety? That seems very Abrahamic.

  2. one sensible yet utterly untenable resolution: all unpopular white males ages 0-26 may not have unsupervised access to any weapon beyond a pump action BB gun.

      1. not that that might not be a such a bad thing; but my weasel-word “unsupervised” up there was meant to allow for military and professional usage.

  3. I find NOVA incredibly hard to watch because there’s way too much effort going into making the show seem dramatic. I get that they’re trying to maintain interest, but it leaves me with the feeling they left out a lot of interesting science. I usually spend 30 minutes waiting for them to get to the meat of the topic before I shut it off in frustration. 

    Research is interesting enough on its own, quit trying to sex it up.

    1. I’m having a similar issue with BBC’s Horizon. Their recent habit of having some comedian (or personality of some sort) present and narrate the show in a cheeky and cute way, having them ask wide-eyed questions to the scientists, annoys me. It’s too bad because it used to be such a fascinating show (I guess it still is compared to what’s out there).

    2.  It has seemed that they’ve started to emulate the discovery channel etc a little bit in their presentation over the last several years, unfortunately.

    1. How Do You Raise a Child Like Adam Lanza?

      Great. Just great. Now I’ve got nuns singing that in my head.

  4.  “new theories that the most destructive rampage killers are driven most of all, not by the urge to kill, but the wish to die.”  This “new” theory has been around at least in fiction for what, 150 years?  The whole idea that murderers return to the scene of the crime and hope to get caught, etc.

  5. Wouldn’t it be a lot simpler to get rid of weapons capable of mass killings? I don’t mean to be flip, but understanding a murderous or suicidal brain is extremely dubious. It’s easier to explain the culture that makes it possible for anyone to easily get a mass killing device. Despite the claim the guns are needed to protect people from the government, the US suspended habeus corpus and no one fired a shot. I don’t have any experience with guns, but I imagine people want to keep them because they are thrilling and fun and mostly used for things other than killing people. But they aren’t actually *needed.*

    It might be worth comparing the phenomenon with our experiences in the UK, as the government will soon give everyone the right to carry a small thermonuclear device. The prediction is a spurned ex-boyfriend will nuke the country within a few days, after first kicking off the wing mirrors of my car in a drunken rage because his girlfriend don’t love him no more since he didn’t stop hitting her. 

    1. I’d think that completely getting rid of firearms is only “simple” in that it’s not a complex idea.  The reality of it is far from “simple,” particularly in the United States.

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