As an added bonus, this week’s entry includes a behind the scenes peek at our FSB “process”. Yeah, I’m scared, too.
Walking across a large field at the junior high school where we sometimes play soccer:
Younger offspring: My foot almost went in a hole.
Elder offspring: Be careful! There are lots of holes, and they’re all about the right size for your foot to get stuck.
Dr. Free-Ride: Funny how it works that way.
Younger offspring: Are all of these ground squirrel holes?
Elder offspring: Either that or giant ants.
Younger offspring: (With a dramatic eye-roll) They aren’t anthills.
Younger offspring: Can ground squirrels and groundhogs really breathe under the ground?
Dr. Free-Ride: Well, you know that their holes have air in them, right? They’re not just packed under the ground in dirt like seeds.
Younger offspring: But what if something covers up their holes? Or they cave in?
Elder offspring: I bet they’re good at digging themselves out.
Dr. Free-Ride: Yeah, I’m guessing that, in order not to go extinct, any animal that spends a lot of time underground in holes is pretty good at dealing with cave-ins. Either that or they have lots of extra babies.
Younger offspring: Extra babies? What’s an extra baby?
Elder offspring: (Very quietly) You are.
Dr. Free-Ride: Ahem. So, there’s this brain-teaser about if it takes this long to dig a hole that’s a certain depth, how long does it take to dig half a hole?
Younger offspring: How deep?
Dr. Free-Ride: But I wanted to ask what you thought of that. Can you dig half a hole?
Elder offspring: Well, it depends. If you’re talking about whether it’s a hole at all, then it is a hole or it isn’t a hole, so there couldn’t be “half a hole”. But, if you’re talking about a hole that’s a certain amount deep, then you could dig a hole that’s only half that deep. It could be half the hole you’re trying to dig.
Dr. Free-Ride: You’re saying there’s an ambiguity in the question that needs to be clarified before you know what the right answer is?
Elder offspring: Uh huh.
Dr. Free-Ride: I hope your third grade teacher is ready for you.
This morning, 6:15 AM local time:
Dr. Free-Ride: Wakey wakey! Time to get out of bed and draw me some pictures of subterranean creatures.
Elder offspring: We will. After we’ve slept for another hour …
Dr. Free-Ride: Come on! There are people on the East Coast already awake and checking to see whether the Sprog Blog is up.
Younger offspring: And people in England?
Dr. Free-Ride: Probably a few.
Elder offspring: And Antarctica?
Dr. Free-Ride: That I don’t know. I’m sure the scientists there have internet access, but I don’t know if they’re using it to read the Sprog Blogs.
Younger offspring: What about the penguins?
Dr. Free-Ride: I doubt very much that the penguins in Antarctica are surfing the web at all. For one thing, how would they use a keyboard or a mouse?
Elder offspring: They could mouse with their feet.
Younger offspring: They have webbed feet.
Elder offspring: Still, those webbed feet include toes. Or they could use their wings.
Dr. Free-Ride: (Sighing) Clearly this is not a question we’re going to answer on the basis of first principles. It’s an empirical question.
Elder offspring: Huh?
Dr. Free-Ride: We’ll need to get a penguin and see whether it can be trained to use a computer to access websites.
Younger offspring: Where will we get the penguin? From the wild?
Dr. Free-Ride: Nah, I figure the zoo can loan us one that’s misbehaving. After a week with you two, it will be so happy to be back at the zoo that it’ll play well with the other penguins again.
Younger offspring: Why wouldn’t a penguin want to stay with us?
Elder offspring: You’d probably dress it in clothes.
Younger offspring: Yeah, but only because it would be fun.