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(true, smirk)

                                  HEAVY BOOTS

     About 6-7 years ago, I was in a philosophy class at the University  of
     Wisconsin,  Madison (good science/engineering school) and the teaching
     assistant was explaining Descartes.  He was trying to show how  things
     don't  always  happen  the  way we think they will and explained that,
     while a pen always falls when you drop it  on  Earth,  it  would  just
     float away if you let go of it on the Moon.

     My jaw dropped a little.  I blurted "What?!" Looking around the  room,
     I  saw  that only my friend Mark and one other student looked confused
     by the TA's statement.  The other 17 people just  looked  at  me  like
     "What's your problem?"

     "But a pen would fall if  you  dropped  it  on  the  Moon,  just  more
     slowly." I protested.

     "No it wouldn't." the TA explained calmly,  "because  you're  too  far
     away from the Earth's gravity."

     Think.  Think.  Aha!  "You saw the APOLLO astronauts walking around on
     the Moon, didn't you?" I countered, "why didn't they float away?"
     "Because they were wearing heavy boots." he responded, as if this made
     perfect  sense  (remember, this is a Philosophy TA who's had plenty of
     logic classes).

     By then I realized that we  were  each  living  in  totally  different
     worlds,  and  did not speak each others language, so I gave up.  As we
     left the room, my friend Mark was raging.  "My God!  How can all those
     people be so stupid?"

     I tried to be understanding.  "Mark, they knew this stuff at one time,
     but  it's  not  part  of  their  basic  view  of the world, so they've
     forgotten it.  Most people could probably make the same mistake."
     To prove my point, we went back to our dorm room  and  began  randomly
     selecting names from the campus phone book.  We called about 30 people
     and asked each this question:
     1.  If you're standing on the Moon holding a pen, and you let go,
         will  it  a)  float  away, b) float where it is, or c) fall to the

         About 47 percent got this question correct.  Of the ones  who  got
         it wrong, we asked the obvious follow-up question:
     2.  You've seen films of the APOLLO astronauts walking around  on  the
         Moon, why didn't they fall off?

     About 20 percent of the people  changed  their  answer  to  the  first
     question when they heard this one!  But the most amazing part was that
     about half of them confidently answered, "Because  they  were  wearing
     heavy boots."

I say, science education must be at an all time peak !!!

(From the "Rest" of RHF)

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