Biggest Bit Player in 20th Century!

DATELINE: Changing the World

 Shannon.

Imagine being one of the most important people to live in the 20th century and being unknown!

This documentary teases us with the notion that we are remiss to have missed Claude E. Shannon, the greatest inventor/scientist of the 20thcentury. He is called The Bit Player because he is the man who created ‘the bit” as part of the first “thinking machine.”

Yes. He’s right up there with Einstein, though no one has given him the time of day. His theoretics led to the iPhone, email, and all the other unquestioned intrusions into life. He rode a unicycle and juggled, and some thought he was a walking, breathing, thinking carnival barker.

Years ago we used to drive past his home in Winchester, Massachusetts, all the time, but only now do we recognize that a great man lived in that distinctive house. Had we known, we might have dropped in as unannounced as a text message from a stranger.

Eclectic, poetic, he was all you would never think was a scientist. He once invented a flaming trumpet for his high-school age son who was in a marching-band.

Growing up in the Midwest, he came to MIT after writing a stunning Master’s Thesis at age 21, years before Alan Turing’s seminal work. Shannon created codes, and in particular he made the binary code, and his two-number system meant that 1+1=1.  Uh-oh, that meant you were a nutcase in 1930.

Idiosyncratic sometimes makes you an academic pariah, but many of Shannon’s ideas were borderline science fiction and considered useless. If there was no personal PC, how could they be implemented or pragmatic?

How much call was there for a calculator that worked in Roman numerals? He loved to tinker and to let his mind wander the byways of opportunity, much like his pioneer grandfather.

When he spent a year at Princeton, Shannon used to wave every morning at Einstein as the genius walked to Princeton, but is vague about their meeting and interactions. He said he met Einstein but Einstein likely had no memory of meeting him.

It is characteristic of oddity in this biographical story.

With much derived from a filmed interview he gave late in life, we have evidence of a vibrant, ageless thinker that displays the power that must have been thwarted all too often in the earlier days of the 20thcentury.

This man gave Marshall McLuhan all the war and peace in the global village that he could muster. It’s always delightful to meet the most important people you never knew existed.

 

 

 

 

Easter Island: Not On Ancient Alien Map

DATELINE: Moai, Moai!

Moai

Like most TV viewers, we know misinformation and disinformation may be far more prevalent than we care to admit.

To watch a documentary, internationally produced with French and American scientists, on the notable “discovery” by a French ship in the mid-1700s on Easter day,  refutes almost everything you think you know in Easter Island: The Truth Revealed.

Indeed, truth may be far more unsettling than an episode of Ancient Aliens who have regularly called the large stone statues Moai (Mo-eye) as the gift of the gods of outer space.

The Rapa Nui were the indigenous tribes (four or five Polynesian groups) that created them. They have taken a bad Rapa in history, being thought too dumb to carve and to move these monoliths several miles over harsh, rocky terrain.

Controversy has dogged the Moai. Were they rolled on their stomachs, or walked along the roads? Well, among the debunkers, scientists dismiss both theories. It seems the giant faces were brought to a location only partially carved out. They were made in place.

The other big controversy is the disappearance of the population. They have been blamed for de-forestation, starvation, and tribal wars. It seems that none of these are options with studies of the flora and fauna, DNA tests on bones, and lack of weapons on the island.

The small population was captured to work as slaves on the South American mainland. Later a few were returned—with diseases that wiped out all but a hundred or so.

The documentary is chock full of the real story and the terrible history that befell an isolated group in the Pacific. They were actually closer to South America that we thought, and the brave people who sailed to Easter Island likely had no idea what it was or if they should remain after landing there less than 1000 years ago.

They suffered their accidental arrival for centuries.

 

 

 

In Search of …Sinkholes

DATELINE: Pedestrian Hazard

Quintoinpit

One of the most mundane of topics for this series so far turns out to be one of the most terrifying, This may be due to the fact that a sinkhole opening up under your feet is far more likely than being abducted by an alien, falling into a time slip, or crossing paths with a sea monster.

Quinto’s series frightens us with the information that 25% of the earth we live on—land—is subject to sinkholes.

In case you don’t know, Florida and Missouri are the sinkhole capitals of America. Land o’Lakes, Florida, and their Chamber of Commerce may be a bit upset at this publicity. Your land may slip out from under you.

The many horrifying stories (one man opened the door to his brother’s bedroom—and he was gone, swallowed up) pile up. Sinkholes happen faster than the time to react. You may be falling and buried before you know what is happening. And forget rescue.

Historical sinkholes were thought to be the Devil’s handiwork, owing to their unpredictability. And, even with science of the 21st century, you may only have a slightly more expectation than being hit with an earthquake.

The sinkhole is smaller and more personal. You fall 300 or 400 feet down and the hole may open up to a football field size. A ton of debris will fall atop you.

Porous limestone is the culprit. One golf course found its waterhole turn into a sinkhole overnight.

The owner began excavating it to see what was below: and after 3 years, it looks like a mini-Grand Canyon. He takes Zachary Quinto down into the abyss and chasm. It is not safe.

A cautious producer pulls them out, but it’s not publicity stunt. A week later a pickup truck driving in the spot went down, almost killing the driver.

Once again, the series is a goldmine of information and suspense. You may not expect a mundane topic to provide you with a nightmare, but sinkholes are not to be searched for, or trifled with.

 

 

Dunces Want to Rule the Earth

DATELINE: Dumb AmericaDumb America

Most Americans believe the world is not 4 billion years old. And, they don’t believe in the Big Bang theory of creation. If it’s a concept used by eggheads and comedy TV shows, the vast majority of American public cannot take it seriously.

Most citizens apparently still believe the Earth is flat and most consider science just another religion. Yes, these are the voters (or non-voters) in this year’s elections.

The biggest failure here is the American educational system. It has taught that sabermetrics rule sports, but technology and statistics have not instilled much respect for science, expertise, and the difference between a fact and a factoid.

Welcome to the 21st century, one step away from the Dark Ages.

Freedom of choice means that most people have chosen to be free in the dark haze of dark matter, not gray matter.

The caves are not far from the new suburbs of American living. We have a nation today in which no one knows much of anything, except they don’t have to learn anything.

The Flat Earth Society may be making a comeback, and the United States is on the road to becoming the latest member of the Third World.

In Medieval times only a handful of monks could read and write—and they safeguarded the knowledge of the human race until smarter people could prevail. It appears the dunces of sex and sports, those dominating purveyors of political power, will inherit the Earth.

Science will only be accepted as this year’s plebiscite on the ballot, just a whim of opinion.

The People once showed uncommon sense, but lately seem to be the victims of uncommon nonsense.