Time Magazine: Man of the Millennium

Warrl kyree Tale'sedrin postmaster at 127.0.0.1
Sat Sep 26 21:41:18 EST 1998


Chris Lawson wrote in alt.memetics:

>qed at pobox.com (Paul Hsieh) wrote:
>
>[snip re:Curie]
>
>>Excuse me??  She happened to have discovered radiation you know.  Your 
>>microwave oven, our nuclear power plants, and the atomic age would have 
>>been absent without her discovery!  I'd put her in the top 50, easily.
>
>Actually, as has been pointed out before on this thread,
>Becquerel discovered radiation.
>
>>> [...] Give credit to the guy that
>>> invented the periodic table and discovered the holes for her
>>> to fill....
>
>>You want to give credit for someone discoverying a "classification 
>>system"?  Sheesh ... !
>
>Mendeleev, who created the periodic table, did more than just
>"discover a classification system". He discovered extremely
>important relationships and rules which allowed the
>classification system to work. Not only that, but he used his
>system to predict the existence of many previously unknown
>elements and predicted their chemical properties with remarkabke
>accuracy.
>
>In short, he didn't just classify things, he created a theory of
>atomic-chemical relationships and made stunningly accurate
>predictions based on that theory. This is what good science is
>all about. The fact that many people think of the periodic table
>as a boring old classification system is a measure of its
>success, just as scientists in 2100 will probably be bored stiff
>reading about Bohr's QM and wonder what all the fuss was about. 

Consider that if we encounter an even mildly technological
civilization anywhere in the universe, we can show them our periodic
table and (assuming we can "draw" it in a form they can percieve) they
will know what it is and produce a copy of their version; and from
this simple exchange of documents we will learn each other's numbering
system, the most common way things will be arranged on a page, several
dozen common nouns, and roughly how advanced the other's technology
is.

That is more than enough of a start to decipher a *dead* language, let
alone a living one.

The discovery of the periodic table, just that one feat, did more for
the advancement of science than the last twenty Nobel prize winners in
physics, chemistry, and medicine, combined, in their entire careers.
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