1/24/2001:

SAT-Practice Word of the Day: illicit
Intermediate Word of the Day: anent
Difficult Word of the Day: conative
 
Today's Banner News
Why do people grow old? (Discussion of anti-aging research)
Who wants to live for ever?
Digital ink meets electronic paper
Growing hope - How antidepressants work
Teraflops from cyberspace
After the genome: Report on proteomics
Using Home Computers to Attack the Protein-Folding Problem
Antarctic ice closer to breakup
Penn Researchers Unlock A Mystery Related To Acute Undifferentiated Leukemia
Classy Antarctic Balloon Captures Earliest Light of the Universe
Ginkgo May Protect Against Alzheimer’s Protein

One View of History:
    In Stone Age cultures, each man in the tribe must have possessed roughly the same knowledge as every other man in the tribe, and every woman must have known approximately what every other woman knew. Since everything had to be passed on as oral tradition, the sum total of human knowledge may not have been much greater than that of the typical man plus that of the typical woman.
   This would all have changed around 3,500 B. C. with the invention of writing, the rise of city-states, and the agricultural surpluses that empowered specialization. It was at this time that the emergence of a priesthood, hereditary classes, and a standing army occurred. It also became easier and more profitable to steal one's neighbors' food than to cultivate one's own provender. This became institutionalized in the form of conquest, spoils of war, slavery, and usorious taxes. From ~3,500 B. C. until the 19th century, history becomes a dreary recitation of conquerors and conquests, of atrocities and depredations. Life became very dangerous for conqueror and conquered alike.
    The 19th century was still an age of Western imperialism and of the oppression of non-Western populations. But a new idea was germinating in the shade of the colonial canopies: the idea that nations could generate their own wealth. A technological revolution was underway that was replacing wind, waterfall, and animal power with steam, as a rising tide of invention washed over the Western world.
    The first half of the 20th century saw colonialism plateau and then dissolve. The steam engine was supplanted by the internal combustion engine, and new technologies permitted the average Western citizen to live better, in many ways, than royalty had lived in the distant past.
    The second half of the 20th century witnessed the rising standards-of-living of the no-longer-possessed, third-world nations and the beginnings of a global village.
    But to link this back to the original Stone Age theme, our societies are now highly-specialized, with the sum total of unique and commonly-relevant human knowledge now... what? 100,000 times? 1,000,000 times? what any one individual knows? (How many people would have to be pulled together to actualy reconstruct the world's industrial capability?) And this (I think) has a bearing upon--you guessed it!--the ultra-bright. As children, we're generally embedded in the same learning environment. In such an environment, with the ultra-bright learning many times faster than the average bear, it's probably easy to develop a contempt for other kids' minds. But once we become adults, a specialization of knowledge occurs. Some people become automobile mechanics specializing in automotive electrical systems, others may become physicians specializing in, for example, cardiology, and still others may become Walmart clerks, telephone linemen, or carpenters. Even someone who can learn very rapidly can't begin to learn it all, and is dependent upon experts for expert advice and guidance.
    It would seem as though things change in adulthood. We are all interdependent, and like Sandburg's nail, we all help hold the skyscraper together. (When the power goes off on an icy, rainy night, I become aware of my indebtedness to the utility workers who are out there in the freezing rain all night and all day trying to get our power back on.)

 
THE THINKER

Does the little goldfish
Swimming in his bowl
Ponder long and deeply
His immortal soul?

Tra, la, tra, la,
We can never tell
If the little goldfish
Has a special Hell.

        --"Window to the South."
                  Vivian Smallwood