Adventures in Ethics and Science

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.


  1. #1 Donalbain
    August 24, 2007

    Well, it wasnt the most interesting of the questions raised, but I can vouch for the fact that at least one person in England is fan of SprogBlogging!

  2. #2 blf
    August 24, 2007

    I am reading this on a Linux system. The Linux mascot is a penguin (apparently named “Tux”). A foam Tux is sitting atop my monitor. Not quite sure if that’s the same as a penguin reading this blog of sprog…

    Oh, and I’m in France. So besides the penguins, perhaps only people in Europe are readers?

  3. #3 Chris
    August 25, 2007

    There’s also at least one fan of Sprog Blogging in New Zealand. And we have quite a few penguins, notably Little Blue and Yellow-Eyed.

  4. #4 ctenotrish, FCD
    August 28, 2007

    I am pretty sure I am not the only US fan, but I am a big one – I love Fridays for the sprogging! Oh, and Indianapolis, Indiana in case anyone wondered. No penguins, sorry (there are some at the zoo, though).

  5. #5 Super Sally
    August 28, 2007

    Certainly there ARE others in the US (specifically EDT zone) who anxiously await Friday entries. Last Friday I was OOTO too early, and over subscribed later so I did not catch this till Mon, and felt that complaining about post time by then was irrelevant.

    Sprogs, ask your Mom to show you the penguins that invaded the office holiday party here last year. Since I cannot post a picture to this webset, I’m sending the ppt to her by email. I’m sure that posting a pic or two from the set could be considered OK under the free use exception.

    Those pesky little penguins had a great time at the office party.

    Note that these penguins are edible!

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