November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Mark Levy/Casual Observer

 

 

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What’s A Decade?

by Mark Levy

As geologic time goes, a decade is almost insignificant. Dinosaurs, for example, thrived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods for eight million decades. Those two periods, by the way, make up only two-thirds of the Mesozoic Era, which lasted an additional fifty million years or five million decades, if you’re a stickler for consistent units of measure, and who isn’t?

And geologic time doesn’t hold a candle to astronomical time, measured from the Big Bang, almost fourteen billion years ago. I guess I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but I wanted to put in perspective how insignificant a decade can be if you’re measuring dinosaurs or galaxies.

On the other hand, in human lifetimes, a decade is quite significant. For example, it’s unheard of for a person to make it to even twelve decades, although some giant sequoias and sea turtles do better.

Much has been accomplished by humans in a decade or less. The American Revolution, for example, took less than a decade. So did WWI and WWII. Speaking of which, the Nazis were able to wipe out millions of people between 1939 and 1945. The total number of casualties in WWII is estimated to be 60 million. And that all happened in barely more than half a decade.

Most studies of infant mortality measure casualties of babies up to one year old as opposed to child mortality rates that measure casualties of children from one to five years old. Few studies discuss mortality rates of children up to a decade old.

Here is one more depressing statistic before I move on to more pleasant thoughts. When it comes to newborn babies, the United States has the highest first-day infant death rate out of all the industrialized countries in the world. About 11,300 newborns die within 24 hours of their birth in the U.S. each year, 50 percent more first-day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined.

Frankly, though, I’m more impressed with positive things people can do in a relatively short time, like a decade. Take Barack Obama. He lost an election for the House of Representatives in 2000 when he lived in Illinois, but he became President less than a decade later. In ten years, Picasso moved through his Blue Period, his Rose Period, and into Cubism. In Mozart’s first decade and a half, he wrote thirteen symphonies and a few other musical pieces. In 1961, President Kennedy announced his goal to Congress to send an American to the moon and less than a decade later, Neil Armstrong was taking a giant leap for mankind in the Sea of Tranquility.

In 1879, Edison invented the first incandescent electric lamp and during the next decade, made improvements to dynamos, voltmeters, sockets, switches, insulating tape, gummed paper tape, now commonly used in place of string for securing packages, the first electric motor for a 110 volt line, a magnetic ore separator, and a life-sized electric railway for handling freight and passengers, and he obtained 300 patents along the way. He also invented a system of wireless telegraphy to and from trains in motion, wax cylinder records, and — almost forgot — the motion picture camera.

So you see, many significant, depressing, or exciting thing can happen in a decade.

Only 29% of all businesses survive for 10 years. Ragazine is one of them. As Mr. Spock is known for saying during Star Trek’s original one-third of a decade TV run, “Live long and prosper.”

About the author:

Mark Levy is Ragazine.CC’s “Casual Observer.”   He is a lawyer, lives in Florida, and is an occasional contributor to National Public Radio where his columns can be heard some Saturdays around noon. You can read more about him in “About Us.” 

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buzzkillby Lynda Barretto