Adventures in Ethics and Science

The elder Free-Ride offspring had a bit of a meltdown after dinner. Witness the calming effects of science:

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: (To sobbing elder offspring) Taking some deep breaths might help you calm down.

Younger offspring: Do we breathe carbon dioxide?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: No, we don’t. Plants breathe carbon dioxide.

Elder offspring: (Still crying) We breathe air.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Yes. Do you know what it is in the air that we breathe? I think they mention its name in your Yoga Kids video.

Elder offspring: (Sniffling just a little) Oxygen?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: That’s right. When we breathe in air, it’s the oxygen our bodies use. And do you know what we breathe out?

Elder offspring: Carbon dioxide?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: That’s right. You know what else breathes is oxygen and breathes out carbon dioxide?

Elder offspring: What?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Cars.

Elder offspring: Cars?!

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: (To younger offspring) Do you remember when we were driving home you saw that car with lots of white vapor coming out its tailpipe?

Younger offspring: Yeah.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: What makes that vapor?

Younger offspring: Burning gas.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: You know gasoline doesn’t burn all by itself, right?

Younger offspring: Huh?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: It needs air to burn.

Younger offspring: OK.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: So do you know what it makes when it burns?

Younger offspring: That stuff coming out the tailpipe.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Yeah, but that’s mostly water vapor and —

Elder offspring: Carbon dioxide!

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Right. So the car takes in oxygen to burn the gasoline, and when the gasoline burns it makes water and carbon dioxide, which it “breathes out” the tailpipe.

Younger offspring: Gasoline is like the car’s food.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Yes. In fact, do you know why we breathe oxygen?

Elder offspring: Why?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: So we can get the energy out of the food we eat — just like the car runs on the energy it gets from burning gasoline.

Elder offspring: You mean our bodies burn our food?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Kind of.

Elder offspring: With fire?!

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Well, we “burn” our food with the oxygen in the cells of our bodies, so there aren’t actually flames.

Elder offspring: It’s still pretty cool.

* * * * *
Younger offspring brought home a song to remind us that plants need more than just carbon dioxide:

Dirt made my lunch,
Dirt made my lunch.
Thank you dirt, thanks a bunch,
For my salad, my sandwich, my milk and my munch.
Dirt, you made my lunch!


  1. #1 Rebecca
    August 11, 2006

    I bought that video for my 3 year old granddaughter. The look on the face of my 18 year old nephew at the sight of our little whirling dervish sitting quietly cross-legged and chanting was absolutely priceless. That video is a lifesaver for rechanneling scattered high energy into refreshing and soothing activity.

    And it looks like Dr. Free-Ride’s better half is not too shabby at doing the same with mental focus. :)

  2. #2 RPM
    August 12, 2006

    You might wanna tell your kids that plants also breath oxygen.

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