Thursday, December 11, 2008

I used to like dinosaurs... *Used* to.

My niece is visiting, and when she's not harassing my poor cats, she can usually be found watching Barney dvds. Well, maybe not quite dvds in the plural. I'm quite sure I've been overhearing the same dvd over and over again for the past week. Were I not an infidel, I'd be fairly sure Barney is the AntiChrist.

Anyway, here I sit, with that wretched purple dinosaur's voice ringing in my ears and some odd thoughts popped into my head. For instance, how do children's shows come about? On what basis would the character design be settled upon? Do they target a particular demographic? And just how exactly do they aid a child's mental progression other than by grabbing attention with bright colours and writing information into young minds through sheer repetition of annoyingly catchy tunes and silly voices?

This led me to the odd little question: Given a culturally homogenous society, would it be possible to design the perfect (or close to perfect, at any rate) children's show? That is, if we decided to, say, isolate a group of munchiekins for the entirety of their childhood and run any number of diabolical experiments on them, gauging their responses to various cartoon characters, songs, information and whatnot, using the results to produce a children's show giving the best possible rate of information retention? Preferably with the minimum amount of painfully annoying, repetitive songs?

Well, its just a thought is all. Much like fantasizing about blowing Barney's brains out with a suitably large-caliber gun is just a thought. A happy, happy thought. Anyway, on a vaguely related note...

The Sep/Oct 2008 issue of Skeptical Inquirer pointed a little fact which I found at once unsettling and reassuring. Apparently, the human brain reaches it's maximum size around the age of 14. After that, it very slowly shrinks throughout the rest of one's life. By the time one is 70 years old, the brain is about the same size it used to be at the age of 3.

Now, this is unsettling to me because, at first glance, it appears that my poor, addled brain has been slowly, inexorably dying for more than half of my life. :-( I suppose this is one little fact of life I should keep from my dad (70 this year).

But, upon further consideration, this is quite uplifting! Why? Well, for a start, my dad, and many individuals I've met around the same age (bar one), clearly possess an intellectual capacity light years beyond that of any 3-year-old child I've witnessed. What I draw from this is that it illustrates the sheer magnitude of the human brain's powers of storage and cognition, that even with the capacity of a 3-year-old's brain , one can still function perfectly well (most of the time) with all of the software, that is, the accumulated memes we've managed to scrape together, from 70 years of living. Who knows the limits to our untapped potential?

Well, I look at this as a reason for optimism, a valuable thing indeed in these very interesting times we live in, this age of economic time bombs, of global terror, of culture war... and of goddamn purple dinosaurs.

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