Saturday, August 23, 2014

Getting better

"People have been swimming for as long as people have been getting neck-deep in water. You'd think that as a species, we'd have maxed out how fast we could swim long ago. And yet new swimming records are set every year. Humans keep getting faster and faster. Olympic swimmers from early this century would not even qualify for swim teams at competitive high schools. Likewise, the gold medal performance at the original Olympic marathon is regularly attained by amateurs just to qualify as a participant in the Boston Marathon.

And the same is true not just of athletic pursuits, but in virtually every field. The 13th century philosopher Roger Bacon claimed that "nobody can obtain to proficiency in the science of mathematics by the method hitherto known unless he devotes to its study thirty or forty years." Today, the entire body of mathematics known to Bacon is now acquired by your average high school junior."

Joshua Foer's book Moonwalking With Einstein

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