My mum has become somewhat jealous that Audrey, my fiancée’s mum features so prominently in my blogging (see Aspartame and Audrey) while she hasn’t had a mention so far (eagle-eyed readers are welcome to correct me, but I think that’s true).
So over dinner a few night’s ago when she was quizzing me about this imbalance, I had a brain wave which might make some kind of recompense. And so mum science was born.
The basic idea is that every so often I will generate a post where I give my mum a question which faces (or has faced) modern science and see what she makes of it.
I’m not, of course, expecting her to come up with the grand unifying theory of physics or anything, but I think the exercise in itself should be pretty useful.
I’m sort of of the opinion that the scientist’s way of life; questioning the world around them and making decisions about it based on the evidence we can find is not only the best option out there for us, but is also really quite fun too. If we can recapture some of that child-like wonder in finding out how things work, we will have gone a long way to having a more healthy approach to life in general. If these posts can get my good old mum excited about science, then, blimey, that’s good-oh!
Josh: OK, mum I hear you on the Audrey thing. I’m sorry, it’s just whenever I talk to you about science you just turn off completely, protesting ignorance! Audrey is no genius perhaps, but at least she has a go at thinking: and that’s what’s important.
Mum: Fine! Go on then, test me!?
Josh: Thinks… Right well, I’ve been reading about Einstein lately, so let’s talk about light. What do you think light is made of mum?
Mum: Erm, I don’t know.. isn’t it like a wave?
Josh: You mean like a sound wave? Well, it might be, but you know how double glazed windows have a vacuum in the centre of them which sound can’t pass through?
Josh: Well, light can pass through it. Sound is vibrations in matter, like air and bits of wood and things. It travels in these things, but light can go through a vacuum. That means it doesn’t have to travel via normal things; atoms and things.
Josh: So what do think it could be a wave in or of?
Mum: Looks confused and embarrassed. Is it something to do with the atmosphere? Oh no wait, I mean photosynthesis.
Mum leaves the dinner table to get some tiramisu for dessert. I follow shortly after.
So what can we conclude from this first mum science? I think we’ve should have learnt that science is not about spouting technical terms and hoping for the best, but rather about not trusting the experts and trying to think things through for ourselves. It doesn’t matter if we don’t know the answers: in fact, I think it’s only ever useful and fun if we don’t. I’m not sure if mum learnt that yet.. Maybe next time I can get her to engage more helpfully; it’s a work in progress!