Adventures in Ethics and Science

A conversation from the sidelines at the elder Free-Ride offspring’s soccer game:

Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, what are you drawing?

Younger offspring: Stars.

Dr. Free-Ride: Hmmm.

Younger offspring: I know they don’t look like the way they teach you how to draw stars, but real stars don’t look that way.

Dr. Free-Ride: You have a point.

Younger offspring: Real stars don’t have five points. They’re little balls of hot mass.

Dr. Free-Ride: They are?

Younger offspring: Well, they look little in the sky. They’re big when you get to them.

Dr. Free-Ride: Fair enough.

Younger offspring: The sun is a star, but it looks bigger because it’s closer to earth than the other stars.

Dr. Free-Ride: Uh huh.

Younger offspring: The fire on the sun is exploded mass.

Dr. Free-Ride: Where did you learn that?

Younger offspring: From a book.

Dr. Free-Ride: See, we teach you to read and all of a sudden you no longer rely on us as your sole source of information.

Younger offspring: I think babies who are like two years old think the moon brings the night — that the moon brings the darkness.

Dr. Free-Ride: Because they notice the moon shining in the night sky?

Younger offspring: Yeah. But really what happens is the earth is turning, so the sun shines on different parts of it at different times.

Dr. Free-Ride: It’s amazing how much more you know now than you did when you were two years old.

Younger offspring: I think if you put a big kid’s brain in a baby’s head, then a baby could know a lot of things, too.


  1. #1 dean
    October 24, 2008

    sweet! sounds like you have a winner, in more ways than can be counted. congratulations and keep enjoying and sharing.

  2. #2 kleer001
    October 24, 2008

    quite right Y.o., but there would be a lot of physical therapy involved too.

  3. #3 Larry Ayers
    October 24, 2008

    Thank you for recording these conversations, Janet! Your younger child is learning that while a pentagram is colloquially called a “star”, these geometric figures have little to do with astronomical stars.

    Isn’t it just so cool when your children begin to really think for themselves?

  4. #4 SimonG
    October 24, 2008

    It appears that YO is a dualist: seems to recognise that the brain is associated with thinking but doesn’t see it as the self. I recall thinking the same way when I was young – about 6? – and wanted to be a brain surgeon. 🙂
    Is this the way adult dualists think? My arm is what I use to move things but it isn’t me; my brain is what I use to think with but it isn’t me. Perhaps they just never grew up?

  5. #5 Aaron Lemur Mintz
    October 24, 2008

    The fire on the sun is exploded mass.

    YO came so close to quoting They Might Be Giants. How awesome!

  6. #6 derek
    October 24, 2008

    But you haven’t answered the first question that popped into my head when I started reading: what did younger offspring’s stars look like?

  7. #7 Quiet Desperation
    October 24, 2008

    The fire on the sun is exploded mass.

    Well, fusing mass, but we’ll let that one slide. 😉

  8. #8 Sanguinity
    October 24, 2008

    Seconding derek. What, no artwork?

  9. #9 NoAstronomer
    October 24, 2008

    Pics or it didn’t happen! 😉

  10. #10 Janet D. Stemwedel
    October 24, 2008

    The artwork is coming (once we have the elder offspring’s contribution). It’s actually sprog thank-you art for a donor to my DonorsChoose challenge.

  11. #11 $0.01
    October 24, 2008

    Our not-quite parallel universe: EO is 6 and is constantly drawing fairy stars (pentagrams) with big lips and magic wands. Wish I had the savoir-faire to somehow market these and fill up her 529 acct… YO is 3 but is very adept at seeing “her” moon every day. She completely understands that it’s seen in different regions of the sky each day. Ok, that’s my inept explanation, but basically, she knows to look “behind where it was yesterday” when she goes outside to see the moon each day or night, assuming we are looking at roughly the same time as the previous sighting.
    Interestingly, neither child is interested in the idea of going to the planetarium to see a “star show” but both loved learning about moles (your earlier post). Something about a “mole” of water just tickled YO’s funny bone, which EO immediately pointed out is actually called the humerus. My point (and I do have one, thank you, Ellen) is this: yes, my Better-Half and I are constantly amazed and/or freaked out by the fact that we don’t control their info sources anymore _and_ they are starting to have their own ideas! Better still is that fact that sometimes it means that thinking for herself goes beyond just wearing red socks because mom suggested blue ones.

  12. #12 J-Dog
    October 24, 2008

    Younger offspring: I think if you put a big kid’s brain in a baby’s head, then a baby could know a lot of things, too.

    Egad! It seems to me that she has the beginnings of a great career in science… Is she getting into experimentation yet in a big way? She hasn’t asked for a new set of scalpels has she?

    Perhaps a viewing of Young Frankenstein might be in order…


  13. #13 Pat Cahalan
    October 24, 2008

    > I think if you put a big kid’s brain in a baby’s
    > head, then a baby could know a lot of things, too.

    Unlike J-Dog, the first thing I thought of here was, “Well, it might be hard to make it *fit* in there…”

  14. #14 drdave
    October 28, 2008

    I remember Zacherley and his Horror TV show on late night Saturday in New York (1950s).

    During the intermission, he would do brain surgery, transplants actually, with cabbages. Hoot.

    YO should check it out.

New comments have been disabled.