The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date

It was once common knowledge that the world was flat, and later, that the universe revolved around the Earth. Those are fallacies from long ago, but what about the myths of this century? Wasn't it just a few years ago that Pluto was a planet, and the Brontosaurus was a dinosaur?

In The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date, Samuel Arbesman, Kauffman Foundation senior scholar, explains that knowledge should never be assumed, and facts never taken for granted.

This applies to any field, as Arbesman reveals through examples in biology, astronomy, health, technology, history, and more.


Sam Arbesman, senior scholar in Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation, discusses his new book, The Half-Life of Facts

Despite all this uncertainty, changes in information can be measured concretely. We can know when facts in aggregate are obsolete, the rate at which new facts are created, and even how facts spread. Consider these practical applications:

  • Doctors with a rough idea of when their knowledge is likely to expire can be better equipped to keep up with the latest research.
  • Companies and governments that understand how long new discoveries take to develop can improve decisions about allocating resources.
  • Anyone can better bridge generational gaps in slang and dialect by tracing how and when language changes.

Learn more about The Half-Life of Facts.

Watch Arbesman discuss the book at TEDxKC. .