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« Why NASA? | Main | Space Conferences »


Here's an interesting sociological experiment:

Wall, 32, an Eastern Michigan University graduate student, hasn't left her west-side Ann Arbor home for another plane in the space-time continuum. She's simply going a month through March 2 without using any technology created since 1950. It's part of her master's degree project on the impact of technology in modern life.

When she has a headache? Uncoated aspirin instead of ibuprofen. When she needs to contact a friend? Snail mail or an antique rotary phone. When it snows? Sledding instead of reality TV. Her project is a completely original conception, said Professor Denise Pilato, who teaches in EMU's College of Technology.

"In some ways it's an experiment,'' she said. "And being that it's an experiment, there are a lot of surprises for her.''

Seems like she overdid it, though. There were televisions in the fifties.

Anyway, let's just hope that she doesn't go as far as these academics did:

A passionate critic of Euro-American "linear thought," Grok is one of a growing number of college professors around the nation who have relocated to caves, mud huts and makeshift sweat lodges to demonstrate their disdain for western culture and technology. For Grok, 44, the move to a cave was a natural step in his intellectual progression.
Posted by Rand Simberg at February 21, 2007 10:58 AM
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I wonder if she uses her phone as if long-distance calls are an expensive luxury.

Posted by Eric J at February 21, 2007 11:37 AM

If she thought it through, then she should. Why don't you send her a letter and ask? :)

As for television, I do not think she is overdoing it. There are simply no 1950 programs available today.

Her experiment will crash, however, if she has a sledding accident and gets taken to an emergency room.

This reminds me of what I say sometimes when people complain that in 1950's a family could live in a middle-class lifestyle on one income, while today takes two incomes. "You can easily maintain a 1950's middle-class lifestyle on one income! Forego all technology invented since 1958, drive a 1950's car*, do not even dream of travelling outside US (or flying anywhere), and most important of all, limit yourself to 1950's medicine. There is your one-income middle class."

* Actually, that one may be illegal

Posted by Ilya at February 21, 2007 12:07 PM

I think that professor Pilato needs to leave EMU a little more often, because this isn't "a completely original conception." Wall isn't the first person to ever try something like this. There are reality-type TV shows and news magazine programs that have been doing stuff like this for years.

Unless this article was written 2 or 3 years ago when I first heard about people doing this type of social experimentation...

Posted by John Breen III at February 21, 2007 12:30 PM

Her baseline is 1950, not the entire 1950s. The article addresses the TV issue by saying that while TVs existed in 1950, most people couldn't afford them. As an example, my family didn't get our first TV until around 1963 or 64. Even those people who did have TV in 1950 didn't have more than a few channels (at best), usually only available for a portion of the day. Even most people who lived in big cities probably didn't have more than the Big 3 networks. Cable TV with access to dozens of channels didn't come until much later.

Posted by Larry J at February 21, 2007 12:39 PM

Someone named Grok living in a cave? The joke writes itself!

And of course it's the next natural step in his intellectual progression. Humanity was at its peak when we lived in caves! Have the Geico commercials taught you nothing?

Posted by Bob at February 21, 2007 01:47 PM

Ummmmm...Bob? It is a joke. I wish that people would follow links before commenting.

Posted by Rand Simberg at February 21, 2007 02:00 PM

Well, that's what I get for careless surfing...

Posted by Bob at February 21, 2007 02:17 PM

Ilya: Why would it be illegal to drive a car from the 50s?

Some people still drive cars from the 30s, for that matter.

Posted by Sigivald at February 21, 2007 02:44 PM

Hardly original, nearly everyone was doing this sort of thing half a century ago. She should try living in 2050, that would be novel.

Posted by rjschwarz at February 21, 2007 02:47 PM

Another issue with the TV thing is that to do it right she'd need to find a small-screen B&W with no coax connecter for cable. Well, I guess it should be considered acceptable to use one with the connector and not hook it up...

Posted by Rick C at February 21, 2007 03:48 PM

"May be illegal" depending on the emission standards in your state.

Posted by Ilya at February 21, 2007 05:10 PM

Actually, it's the other way around. My pickup truck is 25 years old, and because of that, it qualifies as a "classic car" and is now exempt from smog checks.

Posted by Raoul Ortega at February 21, 2007 05:56 PM

Actually, it's the other way around. My pickup truck is 25 years old, and because of that, it qualifies as a "classic car" and is now exempt from smog checks.

Which is kind of ironic because those old pre-emissions controled vehicles each spew as much pollution as several hundred modern cars (400-900 according to different sources). So, if they're really concerned about reducing pollution, why not get the old vehicles off of the road?

Actually, a 25 year old vehicle is from 1982. Most of them had emissions controls although they may not work very well anymore. My point is about the older cars and trucks that had no emissions controls at all.

Posted by Larry J at February 22, 2007 06:58 AM

It's a gimmick -- it sure isn't an "experiment." Must be a slow news cycle for it to be getting any press.

Posted by susan haynes (EMU prof) at February 22, 2007 09:51 AM

She's going to go one month without modern technology, after spending her entire life immersed in it, and think this will tell her dick about what it's like to live without it?

By this logic if I skip lunch I should learn about what it's like to starve to death. Or by holding my breath underwater for 10 seconds I'll understand drowning.

What a maroon.

Posted by Carl Pham at February 23, 2007 01:11 AM

Reminds me of such an experiment in England ten years or so ago, where they set up a family in an old dwelling in London, I think it was, and they had to live on 19th century technology for a year.

It was quite a story.

Posted by rwahrens at February 23, 2007 12:45 PM

I don't think this is a new experiment. I think my grandparents did this experiment back in, um, 1950 or so.

Posted by Wacky Hermit at February 25, 2007 08:37 PM

I don't know why this is parked in my brain, but there was an episode of The Patty Duke Show when Patty did just this but was supposed to live ilke pioneers including hauling water to the house in buckets from some public water supply. Why on earth did this silly creature think this was original? Perhaps she can spend some time reading and learn something.

Posted by at February 26, 2007 04:10 PM

The Amish are waaaay ahead of this foolish girl.

What worries me is that some already-degreed doofus approved her stupid thesis project. Aargh!!

Posted by michael i at February 26, 2007 10:42 PM

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