Definition of Half-life Knowledge? LO25841

From: Richard Karash (
Date: 01/03/01

Replying to LO25829 --

The idea of half-life arises from physics and atomic energy. Any
radioactive substance looses it's radioactivity in a pattern where it
halves over a certain interval. Hence half-life.

The idea has been adapted to all kinds of things, including knowledge. The
half-life of knowledge would be the time interval over which half of any
body of knowledge becomes obsolete and no longer relevant.

Now, the half-life notion fits exponential decay processes (like
radioactivity) perfectly. It's not such a good fit for knowledge. It could
represent how fast old knowledge becomes obsolete (because it's replaced
by new knowledge)? But, there's another aspect in that overall knowledge
is expanding... It might also be meaningful to think about the doubling
time for knowledge in a certain area.

Some people think that knowledge in being generated so quickly that the
"half-life" for existing knowledge must be pretty short.

On the other hand, I'm continually amazed at the continuing relevance of
older knowledge (Yoga, meditation, mathematics, good people skills, etc.).

Here's one more example: We know that Newton's theories of planetary
motion have been obsoleted by Einstein's relativity, right? But, our
satellites, the Apollo program, the Mars explorers, and all our space
exploration are done with Newton's equations... Einstein's calculations
would be more accurate, but the difference is too small to matter. Maybe
the atomic clocks in the GPS satellites can show the relativistic
correction, but orbits and trajectories don't.

Hope this is helpful.

   -=- Rick

>Would you please define "half-life knowledge" and its true meaning in
>our Information Society. Have not been able to find a well thought out
>narrative that fully explains what it is and what this means to college
>Donnie Dixon <>


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