Knowing Our Limits: Day + 9Posted: 17/04/2005
Hello again. First of all congratulations to all the London Marathon runners and particular thanks to RAM colleagues Kathy Adamson and Lindsay Wood for their great achievement today and for raising a wedge of cash-ola for Macmillan and the Anthony Nolan Trust. Great job, guys. (Note, in a bid for international appeal, my american unisex usage of the word ‘guy’)
Watching the amazing Paula Radcliffe knock off mile after mile I was reminded of am intriguing fact. Apparently not much longer than 50 years go, some members of the medical community were promoting theories of why it was physically impossible for a man to run a mile in less than four minutes. (I am sure that they would go on to attempt to prove that it was equally impossible for a woman to run at all – due to fainting spells, pinafores and general frailty)
Of course ever since Bannister did his stuff in 1954, the 4-minute mile has been repeatedly smashed, so it wasn’t impossible after all. Another angle: In the 70’s when air travel was relatively new, passengers actually used their sick-bags – a lot. In my experience, they are hardly used at all these days. It’s as if we no longer have a conceptual problem with being hurtled between continents at high altitude – and our guts are now cool about it. We humans are very stubborn with our beliefs but when they are blown away, most of us tend to adapt quickly discarding our old paradigms like unwanted Christmas sweaters and doing our best “I knew that” swagger. (Some belief changes that (most of) humanity have rolled with: Atoms, round earth, circulation of the blood, evolution, space travel, general theory of relativity, bone marrow transplants, Arnie in politics…)
So what will be the next preconception to fall? What is the next thing we ‘know’ to be impossible that will be achieved? A computer that exhibits consciousness? Impossible? Only the domain of humans, apes, dolphins, whales and Lassie? A renewable energy source? Intelligence in Space? Intelligence on Earth?
Perhaps. the next discontinuity for our little heads to leap-frog is a link between mental attitude and healing: A scientific explanation of how mental thoughts can encourage heathy cell growth and promote recovery from serious illness.
Nah, that’s impossible…