Sunday, 30 October 2011

Elemental my dear Watson



xkcd

What is it that makes us want to study and learn?  Recently I have been driving my nearest and dearest mad as I have decided to memorise the periodic table - I'm up to Phosphorus 15 currently, so a long way to go! 

Why do some people have this desire to absorb knowledge more than others and also at different times in their lives? I remember going back to a reunion at my old school not long after completing an MSc in a maths related subject and my old maths teacher made some comment like "shame you didn't try harder at school".  My defensive response would have been, "shame there was no one to inspire me", thankfully I didn't say this.  I think I just wasn't as interested in learning as a teenager as I am now.  Over the last few years I have been revisiting the basics, partly due to my kids going through the part of school where my brain was on autopilot but partly due the availability of information across all sorts of media.  The chain of events that led to this current fad is one such modern parable.  

A friend posted on Google+ that he had won a new iPad (not 2!), a "circlee" in his G+ circles posted a link to a blog where someone else had listed their favourite iPad apps, many readers of that blog had reviewed and commented on his suggested "best" apps, I liked the look of the elements one and so followed the shortcut to iTunes and downloaded it to my iMac. Within in a few minutes I was enjoying interactive, entertaining education on a topic that was my chosen area of study. 

So is my desire to learn, a positively selective evolutionary trait, a mid life re-evaluation of what is important to me, a preoccupation with gadgets or perhaps a little of all of these.  I'm not sure it really matters but I am certainly enjoying quenching this thirst for knowledge after walking in the desert for most of my early teens. 

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