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    Unpopular science

    "Two things are infinite:  the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

    - Albert Einstein

    Recently, I attended two public addresses. The first speaker, a respected community leader, was making a point about times of hardship and the ability of people to weather difficult times (such as war or the economic recession that gripped the United States and other countries in recent years) and to emerge stronger afterwards. Making an analogy to the change of seasons, he said, "We are all familiar with how the sun tilts on its axis away from earth to cause winter, only to tilt back toward the earth to bring back warm weather and help the crops grow."  

    More from Dr. McDonnell: How long will you live?

    I found myself smiling at this explanation. Next to me, two of my children—disrespectful rascals they are—snickered quietly. The audience of a couple hundred of my fellow citizens didn't react to suggest that anyone disagreed with the speaker's theory. I found myself wondering if he had just expressed himself poorly or if he really thought the sun tilts back and forth. And today I don't recall anything else from his address.

    The second talk, in a different city, was by another community leader. He started by announcing that there was an important fact that few people know. "95% of our bodies are water.  We are really just bags of water," he shared with his audience. 

    "Well, that is a surprise!" I thought to myself.  

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    As with the other speaker, I again found myself smiling. This time, my imagination began to imagine the speaker sloshing back and forth up at the podium, like a water balloon unable to maintain a stable shape. As I reflect back upon the speech today, I can't recall why the speaker raised this topic, nor can I remember almost anything else from the talk, which was obviously the result of a lot of preparation and delivered in a most heartfelt manner. 

    Neither of the speakers, I believe, are stupid. But neither (obviously) had a science background.

    According to Pew Research

    Peter J. McDonnell, MD
    He is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of ...

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