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Isaac Asimov Interviewed by Bill Moyers

In 1988, Bill Moyers interviewed Isaac Asimov, when Asimov's Prelude to Foundation was released. The three-part interview is fascinating, partly because of when it was recorded; Asimov's insights are partly timeless (for example, his thoughts about death) and partly extremely timely (his predictions about the near future, like global networks). Discussed: education, the future, science, astronomy, chemistry, technology, religion, population growth, employment, curiosity, and more.

Sample quote: "Human history is a chaotic thing. Small changes have big results, unpredictable in direction. But if we're looking at something that is essentially simple, such as stars and galaxies and things like that -- then, it is possible to look far, far ahead. We may be wrong, but it is possible to make a case for something that might happened 10100 years in the future -- [that's] one with a hundred zeroes after it."

The remainder of the interview is after the jump.

My favorite quote, on the topic of Asimov's having written down "every idea [he's] ever had" and the notion that others might be depressed not to have his gift for writing: "Well, I wouldn't want people to do that. A little is better than nothing. In fact, you might say that I overdo it -- lately I've been thinking that people must look upon me as some kind of a freak. There was a certain pleasure in writing 100 books, you know, I felt, 'I've accomplished something.' And then 200. But now it stands at 391, it's liable to be 400 by the end of the year, and I have every intention of continuing because I enjoy the process. In the end it seems to me that nobody'll care what I write, just the number, and maybe I will have defeated myself in that way." If you want to know that number, read up on Asimov at Wikipedia.

See also: The Late Movies: Isaac Asimov's "Visions of the Future."

(Via Brain Pickings; the source article is very much worth reading! Go read it!)

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A Step-by-Step Journey Through Your Body's Digestive System
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We at Mental Floss write a lot about poop, but not as often about how our bodies produce the stuff in the first place. Humans eat between two and six pounds of food per day—and as TED-Ed’s latest video explains, this grub passes through an elaborate network of channels, organs, tissues, and nerves that’s commonly known as the human digestive system.

The digestive system is the unsung hero of our torso. Its 10 organs—which include the esophagus, liver, intestines, and stomach—contain over 20 specialized cell types, and the gastrointestinal track alone has an internal surface area of between 320 and 430 square feet. But the digestive process doesn’t begin and end with the esophagus—it starts in our mouths.

The body produces just over six cups of saliva per day, a process that begins when we start salivating over a tasty morsel. This clear substance contains starch-busting enzymes, which break the food we eat into a moist lump (a bolus) that will eventually become the stuff that comes out our other ends. In all, this journey lasts between 30 and 40 hours—and you can follow it step by step by watching TED-Ed’s video below.

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Today's Wine Glasses Are Almost Seven Times Larger Than They Were in 1700
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Holiday party season (a.k.a. hangover season) is in full swing. While you likely have no one to blame but yourself for drinking that second (or third) pour at the office soiree, your glassware isn't doing you any favors—especially if you live in the UK. Vino vessels in England are nearly seven times larger today than they were in 1700, according to a new study spotted by Live Science. These findings were recently published in the English medical journal The BMJ.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge measured more than 400 wineglasses from the past three centuries to gauge whether glass size affects how much we drink. They dug deep into the history of parties past, perusing both the collections of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford and the Royal Household's assemblage of glassware (a new set is commissioned for each monarch). They also scoured a vintage catalog, a modern department store, and eBay for examples.

After measuring these cups, researchers concluded that the average wineglass in 1700 held just 2.2 fluid ounces. For comparison's sake, that's the size of a double shot at a bar. Glasses today hold an average of 15.2 fluid ounces, even though a standard single serving size of wine is just 5 ounces.

BMJ infographic detailing increases in wine glass size from 1700 to 2017
BMJ Publishing group Ltd.

Advances in technology and manufacturing are partly to blame for this increase, as is the wine industry. Marketing campaigns promoted the beverage as it increasingly became more affordable and available for purchase, which in turn prompted aficionados to opt for larger pours. Perhaps not surprisingly, this bigger-is-better mindset was also compounded by American drinking habits: Extra-large wineglasses became popular in the U.S. in the 1990s, prompting overseas manufacturers to follow suit.

Wine consumption in both England and America has risen dramatically since the 1960s [PDF]. Cambridge researchers noted that their study doesn't necessarily prove that the rise of super-sized glassware has led to this increase. But their findings do fit a larger trend: previous studies have found that larger plate size can increase food consumption. This might be because they skew our sense of perception, making us think we're consuming less than we actually are. And in the case of wine, in particular, oversized glasses could also heighten our sensory enjoyment, as they might release more of the drink's aroma.

“We cannot infer that the increase in glass size and the rise in wine consumption in England are causally linked,” the study's authors wrote. “Nor can we infer that reducing glass size would cut drinking. Our observation of increasing size does, however, draw attention to wine glass size as an area to investigate further in the context of population health.”

[h/t Live Science]

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