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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Time Travelers

To my son Alton; remember the science project you presented in your sixth grade class.  This project was designed to demonstrate the counter-intuitive nature of the acceleration of falling bodies—objects of different weights accelerated equally as made evident by differently weighted objects descending equally down slanting guywires.  This simple experiment demonstrated a very important truth—in nature what may appear to be a reasonable expectation (in this case different weights accelerate differently) can be false.  For many years, man believed the universe including the sun orbited the earth—all clearly evident from the changes in the sky overhead.  Skepticism regarding the “obvious” that is popularly accepted can be a very good thing.  I want you to imagine that you and I are time travelers and revisit the earth together in say 500 or 1,000 years.  I feel sure that as we toured the planet, we would find that many things we think of as obvious today in the social, political, and natural realms will have been re-evaluated.  People then may look back to our time as being especially primitive in its thinking and understanding.  Sometimes as a fun exercise on a slow day, attempt to predict in what areas the “obvious” of today will be overthrown and not stand the test of time.  Think of things we now take for granted as given, and see them in the light of eternity.  And don’t just think in terms of technology where it can be readily anticipated that much will change, but think also about given assumptions in all areas of human activity.  This is a very difficult exercise to carry out, because almost by definition our most cherished assumptions are neither questioned nor evaluated.  We see them as fact and beyond further inquiry.

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