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Blinding Me With Science

Sometimes it’s difficult being the only non-genius in the house, especially when you’re also the oldest.

Recently Laura took the kids to the Science Museum, which they always enjoy immensely.  This time one of the museum staffers was giving a talk on astronomy and when he asked for audience participation of course Jason piped up:

STAFFER: “Can anyone guess how many moons Saturn has?”

JASON: “Fifty-three.”(with names, anyway)

STAFFER: “How many moons does Jupiter have?”

JASON: “Sixty-four.”

And later…

STAFFER: “Do you know what this is a picture of?”

JASON: “Io!”

STAFFER: “How about this one?”

JASON: “Titan.”

Then when the kids were asked if they had any questions, Jason piped up with, “Do you have any photos of Eris?”, the recently discovered dwarf planet that seems to hold a particular fascination for him.

At a chemistry talk later that morning, another speaker explained the differences between acids and bases and asked, to get the ball rolling, if anyone could name a liquid that qualified as a neutral.  Gracie (who’s all of 3) called out, “Water!”  In fairness she was probably responding more to “liquid” than “neutral,” but still…

I have no idea where all this comes from.  Laura does most of the homeschooling, but astronomy and chemistry haven’t been on the syllabus, so far as I know.  Jason’s education in astronomy seems totally driven by personal interest, just as Scott’s becoming an expert on all things mechanical and architectural.  All I can say is it must have been passed down from Laura, because my grasp of this stuff is pedestrian at best.  I’m trying to work my way through “The Physics of Superheroes,” a book that tries to explain how the likes of Superman and the Flash could do the things they do within the known laws of physics, but even wrapped in capes and spandex half the concepts make my eyes glaze over after a few paragraphs.  Meanwhile I’ve been putting off reading the second half of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein for about a year now, after all the talk of thought experiments and special and general relativity left me scratching my head.  And that’s a biography, mind you, not a physics text.

Tonight I sent Scott up to bed to be tucked in by Laura, and out of the blue he asks me, “Dad, what would win: vacuum or gravity?”  I was going to answer that if he shoved our Kirby off the roof, the victor was pretty predictable, but I have a feeling he was going somewhere a lot more scientific.  As we were on a deadline, though, I just waved it off.  Admittedly there was also the reluctance to answer yet another query with, “Daddy doesn’t know.”

Honestly, I’m not sure how they shut their brains off at the end of the night, at all.  Two nights ago I stood at Jason’s bedside as he recited his nightly prayers and suddenly he paused in mid-sentence, staring at the time projected on the ceiling by his alarm clock.  Then he picked up where he left off but as soon as he said “Amen,” he pointed to the time — 8:24 — and declared, “Dad, that ratio can be simplified to 1:3.”

Goodnight, Moons;  all 126 of you.

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