Sunday, December 09, 2007


As studying is my only pastime, I have given a lot of thought to the aquisition and retention of knowledge. As I have written before, the pace at which facts are fed to me is quite rapid, and the length of time permitted to learn them is correspondingly brief. Sadly, as I have also written, the length of retention is also rather brief.

The process of learning in many ways resembles an old-fashioned water driven mill. The sluice of water cascading over the wheel is like the knowledge my professors attempt to teach me. Unlike a mill, however, the flow rate is subjective. Though the actual pace remains more or less constant, previous exposure to similar material makes the flow seem more or less rapid. As the water hits the buckets the wheel begins to turn, slowly at first, but eventually at a rate that closely matches that of the water. Similarly, I learn slowly at first, but eventually similar information becomes easier to aquire, until at some point, I hardly need to study I'm so familiar with the concepts being presented. I have not reached this point by any means.

Retaining knowledge also fits the analogy, though now the wheel is running in reverse, like a pump. The buckets dip into a pond are carried up until the apex of the rotation, where they dump their contents into a drainage sluice. Some of the buckets in this case, are extremely leaky. So much so that at times they reach the apex of the arc nearly empty. Others, have hardly any cracks and are able to dump nearly all their contents into the sluice. Most of the buckets on the wheel are fairly leaky, however, requiring many revolutions of the wheel to fill the cistern. The cistern can fill more quickly if the wheel turns more rapidly, but as the wheel spins, some of the water slops out because of the speed. In order to fill the cistern most efficiently, the greatest number of buckets possible should be intact. I don't know how to fix the mental buckets, however, in such a way that learning either takes less time or with fewer repetitions.

1 comment:

Liza said...

There's a hole in the bucket...