Thursday, July 28, 2011

When Theories Hit a Wall

literally ...

I went to tell Celeste good night tonight and ended up knocking over a bit of her furniture. Rewind (that's probably the best idea). After running tonight (and spending some time sitting around in the backyard cooling down), I went upstairs to tell the girls good night. While talking with Celeste, she mentioned that earlier in the week, she'd been spinning around in her room and it made the ceiling fan slow down.

Never being one to pass up the opportunity to explain a physics concept that I'm probably not 100% on top of, I decided it was a good opportunity to explain Einstein's theory of special relativity and how, if one rotates under a ceiling fan in the same direction as the fan then the blades will appear to slow down or, if the speed of rotation at the point of observation matches the speed or rotation, stand still.

To be completely fair, I didn't use the phrase "special relativity" or even "relativity" in the conversation and I may be misremembering or misunderstanding the concept. However, that's all moot because of what happened.

As I tried to explain to Celeste how movement of the observer could influence the perceived motion of the fan, spinning around in a circle, I got progressively dizzier and dozier until I found myself falling over and crashing into her dresser and toy chest.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Aging is a Mental Construct

Tonight Quinlan agreed to let us start reading the Chronicles of Narnia with her. She'd heard parts of the radio play version before, on a long car trip or two when we'd been reading the books with Celeste, but she was worried that the books would be too scary or something. Tonight, however, I started in with the first two chapters of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (yes, we’re sticking with the original publication order) and at first she wasn't paying too close of attention but as soon as Mr. Tumnus starts in with his confession of betraying Lucy, she was riveted.

Until that point, she was paying attention, but not really immersed in the story. This isn't atypical for her. She listens to a story, but is trying to put it into context within her mind and interrupting with lots of tangential observations.

Tonight, Quinn interrupted me when Mr. Tumnus was trying to determine where Lucy appeared from and wondering where the land of Spare Oom and the bright city of War Drobe are and he makes the comment "if only I had worked harder at geography when I was a little Faun, I should no doubt know all about those strange countries."

Quinlan wanted to know what he meant by "if only ..." and I told her that he was saying that you could only learn things when you were little. But I quickly noted that that was a silly idea that people can and do learn things when they’re 6 or when they're 100.

Which, of course, is when Quinlan's brain started churning.

Q: "Daddy? How old is Grandma Lu?"
C: "Grandma Lu is going to be 97 this year."*
Q: "That's crazy. Because Grandma Lu uses a wheelchair, and Ms. Susan doesn't need anything like that."
C: "Well, Ms. Susan isn’t anywhere near 100."
Q: "No! Not Ms. Susan [the neighbor who is helping watch her this summer], Ms. Susan the teacher [from nursery school/pre-K]! "
C: "Oh, that's right, she’s 103."
Q: "No, Daddy, 102."

Last fall, Ms. Susan had a bit of fun with her students (or at least with Quinlan) and confided that she was 102. She’s not. But you cannot convince Quinlan of that fact.

Eventually, we decided that Ms. Susan wasn't a spry 102-year-old because of the rabbit at school or because she worked with kids ... turns out she's just luckier than Grandma Lu.

*I simplify for the purposes of blogging; in fact, it took a moment to figure out which great-grandmother she meant — I should have known it was the only one who is still alive; and once that was settled I said 94, getting her age wrong by a few years.