Monday, January 23, 2017

Saturn and Memory

When I was in Junior High school at Parkside Junior  High  School in Manchester NH, specifically in Mr. Gatsas' science class, I took a quiz on a particular Friday.  The quiz was about the solar system and one of the questions was about the Rings of Saturn.  I took the quiz and went home and that was that.

Over the weekend, scientists reported that it turned out that common understanding about the Rings of Saturn had been wrong.  I don't remember the details, but it had to do with a characteristic of the rings, the number, their composition or something like that.

Well, as it turns out, what had been correct on Friday when I took the quiz was on Monday, quite incorrect.  So, when Mr. Gatsas handed back the quiz with my response marked correct, I questioned him on it, explaining that it had in fact not been correct.  Neither was our beloved and revered textbook.

We resolved to accept the now-incorrect answer as correct because on Friday - when we had taken the quiz - it was correct.  What we knew was what we knew - how were we to know that what we knew was actually wrong.  Plus, as a 13 year old, I was drawing the ire of my classmates.

But the truth is, it was wrong.  What was more bothersome is that what I had been taught just last week was wrong just a couple days later!  I had been sold and bought this school stuff as though it were incontrovertibly true.  How surprised was I to find out that it was, in fact, quite controvertible.

Later on in my undergraduate studies, I wrote a lengthy paper on memory: how it works.  It wasn't so much about memory, but more about recall.  I got a very good grade on it as well and was recommended for publication, etc.

I just got done watching a TED talk about neuro-plasticity:  the flexibility of our brains.  Funny thing.  Turns out all that stuff I had written back there in undergraduate land was also quite controvertible.  Seems that we each learn, remember and recall differently.  There are some similarities, but the truth is, we are all different.  And get this - if our brain should happen to be damaged, we might even be able to move the memories to another part of the brain.

Or at least that's what they kids are learning these days.  I wonder what they'll think of next.

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