Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is George Smoot Smarter Than A 5th-Grader?

Is Nobel Laureate George Smoot smarter than a Fifth Grader? Damn right he is! :)

George Smoot was a big scoop that the show "Are you smarter than a Fifth grader?" got.

The show entertains by painfully exposing just how little of their elementary school education adults retain, so having a Nobel laureate on stage called for even more ridiculous FOX theatrics than usual. In the opening sequence, the announcer booms, "Will he blow it, and be the laughing-stock of Nobel prize-winners everywhere?" I wonder if any of Smoot's Berkeley colleagues started to sweat at that point. Would the show expose the shortcomings of science? Would Smoot remember how to spell the word "Mississippi?"

Luckily for us, he crushed the challenged.

Still, I think it's interesting that most people associate "being able to memorize all of these disjointed facts" with being "smart". If that's the case, I have to be one of the dumbest people around, because I have a hard time remembering numbers, dates, names, etc. I understand concepts, and how to apply and manipulate them, but god help me if I have to recite the date of such-and-such. It took me long enough just to remember my own phone number.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In my view, aside from core subjects such as reading and arithmetic, elementary education can be thought of as like distribution courses at a university. Kids are introduced to a spectrum of subjects to encourage a background of well-roundedness. It's silly to think that everyone should remember every factoid from that era all the way to the grave.

I think the usefulness is along the lines of knowing enough to dredge up these facts from reference sources when needed. Naturally it's not all that likely for an adult, long out of elementary school, to recall names and dates on a moment's notice that 5th-graders can call up in a flash because it's still fresh in their minds.