Monday, August 09, 2010

Aesop and Archimedes

The other day, I mentioned the story of Archimedes running through the streets naked, proclaiming Eureka! having discovered by observing the water level rise in the tub as he lowered his body within, that by measuring the volume of the water spilled from the tub, he could also measure the volume and density of his own body! That is a story close to my heart, in that I live in Eureka, believe in heuristic education (discovery based), and have observed from my own experience that the whole of one's intelligence is often engaged while grounded in water. It turns out that Archimedes was not quite as smart as he, or some of us would suspect, relative to the assumptions we make about other species.

Aesop had told the story of a crow which needing to drink from a pitcher of water had placed stones inside to raise the level of water high enough that he could drink. Last year, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge tested a rook, a member of the crow family. Just as in Aesop's story, the rook used stones to raise the level of the water, and even reasoned to use the larger stones first, as they being of greater volume were more effective at accomplishing the goal.

We think of man as being the rational animal, until we see that we use very little reason, have allowed ourselves to be manipulated by self-destructive consumerism and have a massive adverse impact on planetary life.

The study of animal intelligence as described in this week's time magazine article, Inside the Minds of Animals sheds light. The questions we must ask, having made such a mess of American education is, "Do human beings think?" "Are they capable of thought?" "And where the heck do we think we're going with what we've got?" An earlier article addresses the same issues.Can Animals Think? In the photo you can see the 2 door cherry variation of a shaker wall cabinet nearing completion.

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