In which we science the world

My son just can’t help it.

He’s not even doing it deliberately: he’s just acting naturally. Curiosity combined with razor-sharp eyesight is a killer combination for the accidental scientist. He sees things that I miss, with my own failing ocular capacity – especially things closer to the ground.

On our way home from school, we always cut through “the doggie park”, where we might pretend to be aeroplanes, or take slow-motion videos on my iPhone of helicoptering sycamore seeds or a blown dandelion clock. We collect one leaf of each color, or run with sticks along the iron fence rails to see what sounds they make. We say hello to the usual dog walkers and watch their furry charges cavort across the field. Ritually, we pause at the tree with the strong horizontal branch, where I suspend him and let him hang until he falls back into my arms – each day a little longer, it seems.

The other day, Joshua noticed a column of ants moving ponderously in a dual carriageway up and down the silvery bark of the hanging tree. He squatted to see where the downward column was going; eventually he found a small hole in the ground where they vanished one by one. He then found a stick and tried to see if the ant column would divert onto it (it wouldn’t) or whether if he dug a hole just nearby, they’d “make a new home” (they ignored it). Then he wondered aloud why not?, before getting distracted by the pale green lichen growing on the bark. Could the stick dislodge it? (Yes.)

Why? How? Everything is up for grabs when you know hardly anything. Reality is a shifty place where things often do what you don’t expect, because you’ve never seen it happen before. And Mama is the omniscient being with all the answers – or at least, he thinks she should be.

I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.

About Jennifer Rohn

Scientist, novelist, rock chick
This entry was posted in Domestic bliss, Joshua, Scientific method, Scientific thinking, Work/life balance. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to In which we science the world

  1. rpg says:

    Like all toddlers, I suspect, Joshua went through the ‘why?’ phase. But have you noticed that for quite a while now he’s been asking ‘How do you know?’.

    Which was what my first tutor, Margery Ord, would always ask us. (She actually said, “What is the evidence?” but it comes to the same thing.)

    He’ll make a good scientist.

  2. Frank Norman says:

    I liked today’s quiz on BBC radio 4. Joshua might be intrigued too.

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