Adventures in Ethics and Science

Of course, we don’t really think the sprogs are dumb. Sometimes they just remind us that some of the things their parents find intuitive are not intuitive to them.

Dr. Free-Ride: (arriving home after an evening seminar) How were the kids tonight.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: They were fine. But, we had a conversation about boiling and … our kids are dumb!

Dr. Free-Ride: Really? What did they say?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Well, I asked them what happens when you heat water, and [elder offspring] said, “You get hot water.”

Dr. Free-Ride: A good answer.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Sure, but then I asked what you get when you heat it more, and [elder offspring] said, “Really hot water.” And then I asked about heating it even more, and [elder offspring] said, “Really really hot water.”

Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm, the old “super-heated liquid” gambit.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: And then I said, what about when we heat water in the tea-kettle to make tea? What happens when we heat it then?

Dr. Free-Ride: And the answer [elder offspring] gave?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: “It goes, ‘EEEEEEEEEEEEEE’.”

Dr. Free-Ride: To think when that child was a baby we talked all about intermolecular forces!

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: To be fair, you talked about ’em, [elder offspring] just listened.

Dr. Free-Ride: Nothing calms a fussy baby like a chat about intermolecular forces. At least as long as you keep it qualitative.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: [Younger offspring] figured out the tea kettle answer, kind of: “It gets steamy!”

Dr. Free-Ride: [Younger offspring] is two years closer to the magical calming powers of the intermolecular forces talk.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Anyway, I told them we’re going to be doing some science at home this weekend so they can get clear on phases of matter.

Dr. Free-Ride: How did all this come up anyway?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: I was trying to explain how you make glass by melting sand.

Dr. Free-Ride: Really hot sand won’t get the job done, huh?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: So [elder offspring] thought maybe you could melt quicksand, but then I explained that quicksand is just sand and water.

Dr. Free-Ride: [Elder offspring] didn’t realize that the water would boil off before the sand even got close to melting?

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Nope.

Dr. Free-Ride: Jeesh, so was it supposed to come together like a cheese sauce? ‘Cause those separate, too.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: So you see, we have to do some science with them this weekend.

Dr. Free-Ride: Phase changes and solubility and all of that.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Yup.

Dr. Free-Ride: They’re not really dumb, you know. They’re just busy learning other stuff.

Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Yeah, like how vampires make more vampires.

Dr. Free-Ride: Don’t underestimate the value of that sort of knowledge in the month of October. Intermolecular forces will still be around when November comes.


  1. #1 nerdwithabow
    October 20, 2006

    …remember, when you are [fill in elder offspring’s age], quicksand isn’t just sand and water. It’s magic!

  2. #2 Super Sally
    October 20, 2006

    As I’ve often said, these kids have no chance of growing up “normal”, i.e. with no understainding of the physical universe. Most children are in blissful ignorance, and can consider all this stuff “magic”.

    But I guess you didn’t have too much chance of that either. But growing up with parents studying for science masters’ during your formative years is an order of magnitude away from having parents with newly minted science PH.D.s when you are babes-in-arms.

    Good luck Sprogs! Hi, from the AIPLA annual meeting in DC.

  3. #3 Uncle Fishy
    October 20, 2006

    Send ’em over my way when crab season hits (another month or so) and I’ll show them how steam works.

    They should have the glass thing down. They really enjoyed (and enjoyed watching) the creme brulee last time they were over.

  4. #4 JYB
    October 21, 2006

    I’m married and have my own kid, but after reading that conversation I think I’m developing a crush on you. It’s the playful/sarcastic but exceedingly nerdy banter.

    BTW, the conversation with your youngin’ and better half is best imagined if the roles are played by Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.

  5. #5 Super Sally
    October 24, 2006

    So how DID the weekend go?

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