Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Data Doctor

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Data Doctor

Article excerpt

Reinhold Messner's ascent of Everest in 1980 shocked the climbing world. Not only did he scale the mountain without supplementary oxygen, he also climbed it solo and fully self-supported.

It is still regarded as one of the greatest ever athletic endeavours and it could tell us something important about data in schools.

Prior to Messner's climb, the received wisdom was that the Himalayan giants could only be climbed using siege tactics: huge expeditions involving porters ferrying massive loads; and alternating teams of climbers establishing camps stocked with supplies higher and higher up the mountain, all linked by fixed lines of ropes.

Messner, on the other hand, climbed it alpine-style, taking only what he needed for a single push. He didn't even establish a camp on the mountain. He was up and down from base camp in three days.

What he did had been considered impossible. But Messner realised that big expeditions were the problem and his answer was to ditch the equipment - the less he had, the faster he could move; the faster he moved, the less he'd need. This approach requires courage and experience; but it also requires adherence to an old adage: if in doubt, leave it out.

To be successful, sometimes we need to pare everything back, carry only what is needed, and recognise that some of the things we think are useful are actually a burden. …

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