Friday, December 02, 2016

1728 Leave No Question Unanswered



Times have changed.  Little kids used to ask parents why the sky is blue. Many parents didn’t know. They encouraged the kids to look it up.  The kids looked it up. Or didn’t.  But many of them retain the answer to this very day.

Today’s kids ask the same question.  And in moments, they’ll hear something along these lines:

“A clear cloudless day-time sky is blue because molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light.  When we look towards the sun at sunset, we see red and orange colors because the blue light has been scattered out and away from the line of sight.”

One Philip Gibbs wrote that in May of 1997 on the website of the University of California/Riverside.  But 12 year old big brother Hank probably didn’t tell six year old Jimmy, thus consolidating his power as the go to guy for all the answers.

Hank didn’t know the answer either.  But he had his smart phone with him and found the information in mere seconds.

And now we all have the brains and memory we never had before.  Amazing what’s out there… much of it pretty accurate and easy to find.

You can translate anything from any language to any other language and while it comes out in a stiff electron-rich kind of way, without decoration or nuance, it works pretty well.

Some things are harder than others to find.  For example, trying to find out how many retail customers do business with Wells Fargo bank the other day required some research.  Research, of course, means going beyond the first website that comes up. Maybe even as far as a third or (heavens!) fourth.

The answer is around 70 million.  Out of context, that factum is meaningless.  But it could win you a last call drink at the Dew Drop Inn some future early morning.

So bring it on, kids.  Real questions get real answers. The better the formation of the question, the better the answer.

But sometimes, even stupid questions get instantaneous answers.  To experiment, we typed in “How much wood wood a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?”

In less than a second, there appeared a reasonable answer and a little scolding:


“According to a Cornell publication, the answer is ~700 pounds.”   (The tilde means “approximately.”)  

The answer then went on to compare the chucking ability of a woodchuck to that of a beaver and a groundhog.  And apparently “chuck” in this context means “moving timber.”

Ya learn something new every day.

In any event, there’s no question that begs for an answer.

Grapeshot:
-Some websites are not only for research, they work as Ouija Boards… as happened when I put in the song title “When Will I Be Loved?” and the answer came back “Never… you don’t deserve it… and don’t ask questions in the passive voice.”

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2016

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