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IDEAS ON THE MILLENIUM AND TURN OF THE CENTURY

12/07/1999

So it’s a Round Number...Significant Discoveries Happen All the Time

Muriel Blaisdell, science historian, says over the last century we’ve had two spatial extremes in scientific research: bigness of space and tiniest components of matter--they converge in black holes.

Knowledge of genetics, antibiotics and advanced communications are among great victories of this century, she says, with science education lagging as a failure (the religion vs. science conflict lives on).

She calls the next century "The Century of the Brain" and says we’ll learn much more about neurotransmitters. She hopes for more collaboration among scientists in different disciplines.

Blaisdell can be reached at (513) 529-5674.

Why Should the World End Now?

It shouldn’t. 2000 is a convenient date, say Peter Williams and Harold Forshey, professors of religion at Miami University. Prophecy and millennialism have been around from the very beginning.

They can be found in the books of Daniel and Revelation, core texts in the Middle Ages. However, "it’s taken a lot of twists and turns."

Why do people do this? It’s a human tendency to personalize evil--metaphysical, apocolyptic, rhetorical.

"When 2000 comes and goes, which I imagine it will, people will not abandon the idea," says Williams. "There is a remarkable capacity to rationalize."

Williams can be reached at (513) 529-4305 and Forshey at (513) 529-1727.

The "Turing test" for computers. (This is not Y2K)

In 1950 Alan Turing, a pioneer in computer science, in an oft-read piece called "Computing Machinery and Intelligence," proposed a test for machine intelligence. If a machine could carry on a conversation with a person for several minutes, with no restriction on topics, in a manner indistinguishable from a human conversing, then the machine would be said to be thinking. Turing predicted such a machine would be invented by 2000.

While computer "intelligence" of sorts has been created, the prediction will not be fulfilled, says Asher Seidel, associate professor of philosophy.

Seidel can be reached at (513) 529-2449 or seidela@muohio.edu.

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