Monday, December 12, 2005

How to explain Geologic Time

As an undergraduate in a small "year" of five students, we were faced with the challenge to compete for the Science Prize, an annual event between departments within the Science faculty at Southampton University.

Our presentation was basically about time. Geologic time, that is. Somehow we had to illustrate the age of the Earth (4.5 BY, or 4,500,000,000 years) to an educated lay audience. We hit on the idea of using the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Our calculations suggested that the last page of the last volume represented home sapiens while a human lifetime would be represented by the last word, as long as it was a short word.

So we went to the main library to borrow the complete set, armed with a letter from our Prof., and towed the 48 volumes back to the lecture theater on a trolley.

It worked! We beat the Physics Department (who demonstrated multiplex communications) to First Prize! We were awarded a gift certificate for dinner at the Dolphin Hotel.

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