The Half Life of Knowledge

Each of us learns so many things through our lives, between school and work and hobbies and just soaking things in through contact with others.

As time goes by, we forget some of it. It’s estimated the half-life of knowledge is four years, which means every four years that passes you remember about half what you did before. So if someone took a class about radioactive isotopes and never used that knowledge, in four years about half of what was learned would be remembered – in eight years about a quarter – and in twelve ears about one eighth. Interesting how things decay, right?

We played Trivial Pursuit tonight, and my husband the history and random knowledge buff carried my team. How he randomly remembers about the 7000 year old trees in Australia is beyond me, though some of the presidential and war knowledge comes from History Channel and documentaries.

Some things researched are quickly forgotten, making me wonder if the knowledge ever soaked in at all. Some classes had the feel that if you crammed for the final and got through it, you could promptly forget everything about it. Others randomly stick with you and little snippets pop up when you least expect it.

The other thing I learned is when you randomly remove one letter from words playing a game similar to Balderdash you really screw up the med student who actually knows the terms. Highly entertaining… for the rest of us!

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