Adventures in Ethics and Science

Thanks again to the generosity of Free-Ride friend LO, the elder Free-Ride offspring will be partaking in this year’s Kids Day at SLAC today. And, once again, the younger Free-Ride offspring is chagrined to be too young to participate. Since next year both sprogs will meet the age requirement, though, the younger Free-Ride offspring got to participate in this year’s review of the workshop safety information.

Dr. Free-Ride: You are workshop option B. So, the first activity: paleontology. Do you know what that is, younger offspring?

Younger offspring: Yes.

Dr. Free-Ride: What is paleontology?

Younger offspring: It’s when people study very closely fossils and imprints and all that stuff.

Dr. Free-Ride: That sounds pretty close to — yeah, that’s a good way to define it. OK, so, the description of the activity: “There is a dinosaur at SLAC! Well, not a dinosaur but a really old …” How old?

Elder offspring: 15 million years old.

Dr. Free-Ride: “… mammal! Learn about Paleoparadoxia, unearthed here at SLAC. Go on your own expedition – DIG DEEP!” So, the hazards are …

Elder offspring: Critters. Cutting or bumping yourself with a digging tool.

Dr. Free-Ride: OK, and mitigation. Do you know, younger offspring, what mitigation is?

Younger offspring: Never heard of it.

Dr. Free-Ride: (turning to the elder Free-Ride offspring) Do you know what –

Elder offspring: Nope.

Dr. Free-Ride: No? You don’t remember from last year?

Elder offspring: Uh, rules?

Dr. Free-Ride: Mitigation is how to manage the hazard. It doesn’t make the hazard go away, but it makes it less likely you’ll get hurt from it. So the mitigations they list are, look for and keep away from critters (snakes, ticks and spiders); wash your hands when you’re done; use tools carefully; and, the old favorite.

Elder offspring: Wear safety glasses.

Dr. Free-Ride: Wear safety glasses. OK, so that was the first activity in this workshop sequence. Second activity: Earth Day. You know what Earth Day is.

Younger offspring: Yeah.

Elder offspring: Yeah.

Dr. Free-Ride: But that was back in April, so I guess this is one of those Earth Day everyday kind of dealies. “Junior Hydrogeologists Wanted!” Do you know what a hydrogeologist is?

Younger offspring: No.

Dr. Free-Ride: Do you know what a hydrogeologist is?

Elder offspring: Someone who studies Earth’s water.

Dr. Free-Ride: OK. Did you just work that out from the word?

Elder offspring: Mmm hmm.

Dr. Free-Ride: It’s almost like you’ve taken Latin or Greek or something, and yet, you haven’t yet. We’ll have to fix that soon. “Invent a filter to clean dirty water (and learn a little about soil and groundwater aquifers in the process).” Do you know what an aquifer is?

Younger offspring: Oh!

Dr. Free-Ride: Do you know what an aquifer is?

Elder offspring: It’s something that purifies water?

Dr. Free-Ride: Noooo. You’re going to have to find out tomorrow what an aquifer is. OK?

Elder offspring: OK.

Dr. Free-Ride: So, the hazards: Cuts, bumps or scrapes from dropping or slipping tools. The mitigations …

Elder offspring: Listen to your instructor.

Dr. Free-Ride: Yes, listen to your instructor because they can tell you how to use the tools without dropping them or letting them slip. Do not …

Elder offspring: … drink the water used for the activity.

Dr. Free-Ride: So you’re going to be purifying the water, but not necessarily so much that you ought to be chugging the water. And, wash hands when done.

Younger offspring: That’s always an old fashioned rule.

Dr. Free-Ride: It’s a pretty good rule. I like it.

Younger offspring: I know, but it’s on every activity.

Dr. Free-Ride: I don’t know if it’s on every activity. Let’s keep reading and find out. “Monster Muscles: Learn how levers and pulleys work.”

Younger offspring: Oh, I studied those in science!

Dr. Free-Ride: Yes. “Play tug of war and see the little guy over come the big guy!”

Younger offspring: How can the little guy overcome the big guy?
Dr. Free-Ride: Well, probably by clever use of pulleys and levers.

Elder offspring: Or just tie an elephant to the string.

Dr. Free-Ride: That’s not really — that’s putting a big guy on the little guy’s side. So, I think it’s going to be more to do with giving the little guy more leverage so that the little guy can use the little guy’s weight more efficiently than the big guy can. That’s my guess.

Younger offspring: Or you could spit on the floor and you could rub your feet in it and that would give you good luck.

Dr. Free-Ride: Ummm … I would advise against spitting on the floor in someone else’s laboratory space. Just a rule of thumb.

Younger offspring: You could ask them.

Dr. Free-Ride: Can I keep reading the description here?

Younger offspring: Fine.

Dr. Free-Ride: “Weigh yourself and learn how to lift yourself up with half your weight! Brains, not brawn, win – RULE!”

Younger offspring: What does that mean, “brains, not brawn, win”?

Dr. Free-Ride: Brawn is like muscle strength. Brains is like mental strength. OK, the hazards: “Fingers pinched in pulleys. Sudden drop in lever.”

A side discussion ensued about my pronunciation of “lever” and its inappropriateness for the U.S. (despite its appropriateness for the UK).

Dr. Free-Ride: So, the mitigation for those hazards:

Elder offspring: Pay attention to what is going on, and watch you fingers.

Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, but they don’t say afterwards to wash your fingers or hands. And they also don’t say to wear …

Elder offspring: Safety goggles!

Dr. Free-Ride: Huh. How odd. So far, out of three we’ve read, only one called for safety goggles.

Elder offspring: (reading ahead to the end of the description of the last activity) Wear safety glasses!

Dr. Free-Ride: Hold on. “Magnetics: Build your own electromagnet and use it in a “shocking” demonstration of “step up” power. Test your aim with a magnet powered accelerator. Make your own magnets and – PUSH! PULL!” The hazards they list are –

Elder offspring: Electricity!

Dr. Free-Ride: Seems like they could give a little bit more detail about that hazard. What do you think?

Elder offspring: Being shocked by electricity?

Dr. Free-Ride: Yeah, I think that might be. Because, you know, you’re full of electrons right now. Did you know that?

Elder offspring: (shoots Dr. Free-Ride a dirty look)

Dr. Free-Ride: I am, too. I mean, nothing personal.

Elder offspring: (makes static shock sounds while poking Dr. Free-Ride with an outstretched index finger)

Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, you can’t shock me just by pointing at me. You need to work up a good charge asymmetry, so you’ve got more electrons on one side of you and fewer on the other side of you. Then we can talk.

Elder offspring: (rubbing a palm against Dr. Free-Ride’s leg) Feel that friction I feel?

Dr. Free-Ride: Yeah, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Elder offspring: Arrgh.

Dr. Free-Ride: Good luck. OK, so the mitigations for the hazard of electricity are:

Elder offspring: Listen to your instructor, and wear safety glasses! And then we’re done.

Dr. Free-Ride: And then we’re done? OK, you think you’re going to be safe?

Elder offspring: Yes!

Dr. Free-Ride: And you know what you need to do to stay safe?

Elder offspring: Yes!

Younger offspring: Can I turn the TV back on now? YES!

Dr. Free-Ride: You are going to be so happy next year when you get to go to Kids Day at SLAC.

Younger offspring: OK, but I just want to turn the TV back on because I’m not going to Kids Day at SLAC.

Dr. Free-Ride: Not this year.

Comments

  1. #1 Super Sally
    August 14, 2009

    Duke is all set for the 1st activity . . . He’s wearing his :Grab Your Goggles” t-shirt today, thank you. And he washed his hands before eating.
    Elder O-S, please say “HI” to LO for us.

  2. #2 Jonam
    August 17, 2009

    Useful dialogue