Monthly Archives: July 2013
Arithmetic, Population, and Energy: A Tribute to Dr. Albert A. “Al” Bartlett, Professor Emeritus, University of Colorado at Boulder
As Al Bartlett nears the end of his life, I wish to honor him with this posting.
If you have not already encountered the indomitable teachings of physics professor Bartlett on the arithmetic of human population, or in his classes, below are some quotes from his work, a link to his first and most important contribution, and a few additional links.
I encourage you to share this posting and his teachings with anyone you think might be receptive and who might not already know of his work.
Text: Can you think of any problem in any area of human endeavor on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced by further increases in population, locally, nationally, or globally?
The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.
Occasionally I find myself spending some time with a teenager or young adult. Once in a while, I ask them a few basic questions about the world around them, how things work and what kind of lives they expect to be living as adults. I’m sometimes struck with an apparent lack of important basic information. I once was invited to speak with an elementary school class about solar energy. Rather than lecture them, I simply asked some questions and was pleasantly surprised to find that in a class of 30, usually at least one or two of them would have a fairly good answer. It seemed the kids were more interested and willing to listen when a classmate tried to answer a question. I usually amplified on the answer, in some cases steering it toward more correct information.
Thinking about this recently, it occurred to me that, on issues affecting the long term viability of the human species, few people are sufficiently informed and seldom very interested in such an important topic. While that might be understandable in youngsters, the sooner we can help them understand how the world on which they live works, the better will they be able to cope with future challenges. You might have a chance for a mini “world dialog” with the young people you know or are in your family. If so, here are some suggested questions.
Next time you are able to spend some time with a young person and are able to engage that person in conversation, you might like to ask a few questions about basic principles of nature. Here are some suggestions.