This weekend in kids’ science

I had the kids most of the weekend [Edit:  upon reflection, that is worded poorly, as it makes it sound as if they normally are with my ex.  I am in fact still on my first wife, though she inexplicably does not like it when I introduce her that way.  She is the senior class advisor at the school where she teaches, and spent most of the weekend preparing for Homecoming, which like so much of high school life is far more elaborate than back in my day:  hence my single Dad routine], and took the opportunity to work on their indoctrination.  Being a sneaky SOB, I did this by putting on Cosmos (the Tyson one, not the real one with Carl Sagan) and suggesting that they would be welcome to join me if they wished.  Fifteen minutes into the first episode they were both hooked.

The second episode focuses on evolution.  In it Tyson explains that, for all that we know about evolution, we don’t know how life began.  My younger one then piped in dismissively, proclaiming that everyone knows that God made us.  There is no conflict between my understanding of science and theology, but this seems a bit abstract for a six year old.  So I let it pass, for another day.  In other words, the coward’s way out.  Good to know that she is paying attention in Sunday School, though.

Then last night I let them stay up late to see the beginning of the lunar eclipse.  I was surprised that neither had any idea what an eclipse is.  I probably shouldn’t be.  I probably didn’t at their age.  But they pick up all sorts of concepts, including science.  I have largely gone beyond being surprised by stuff they know to being surprised at stuff like not knowing about eclipses.

Does it reflect poorly on me that I wonder how a lunar eclipse affects werewolves?

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22 thoughts on “This weekend in kids’ science

    • I agree the original is far superior (the Giordano Bruno story is not a story of ‘science’ over ‘belief’; it’s the story of one religious belief system violently suppressing an individuals religious belief system).

      But, have you seen the original Cosmos? Sagan’s politics are infused throughout that series too.


      • Yeah, that Bruno thing really bothered me too. There are plenty of other incidents from history that could have made the point they were trying to make, and the Bruno bit almost felt like they were taking advantage of most people’s lack of knowledge on the subject to get their point across more heavy-handedly than was strictly necessary.


      • I’m sorry but I’m going to have to disappoint you. We should have had this discussion contemporaneously with the series being shown, this was about a year ago after all. To tell you the truth I don’t remember all of the the specifics of my objections. I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to avoid answering you, the simple truth is that I just don’t remember.


        • As much as I enjoyed the original Cosmos, I had a lot of problems with parts of its message. Sagan, for example, takes pretty strong aim at “idealists” like Plato and other philosophers. If I recall, he portrays them as superstitious killjoys who stopped SCIENCE in its tracks and condemned us to the Dark Ages.

          Sagan also seems to indulge in something I’d call “science of the gaps”: We don’t know the why’s and wherefore’s of the universe or the meaning of life, but science will discover them, and if those questions don’t admit of scientific testing, then they’re not real questions or good ones to begin with. Besides, the universe has enough wonder in itself, and that should be more than enough for the metaphysicians who deny empirical truth.

          I assume I’d have similar problems with Tyson’s Cosmos, too, especially because I hear (I haven’t seen it) it’s largely a reboot of the original series and because Tyson grates on me.

          But enough of my bloviating. I have access to Netflix and can watch both series. In fact, I’ve been thinking of doing so and commenting on the particulars, perhaps in a series of blog posts. I’m not sure I’ll do that, but those series (or at least Sagan’s version) probably deserve a better hearing than I’ve given them above.

          (By the way, sorry that this is a drive-by comment. I won’t be able to reengage until I get home from work tonight.)


          • Gabriel Conroy: f I recall, he portrays them as superstitious killjoys who stopped SCIENCE in its tracks and condemned us to the Dark Ages.

            I’ve read the book more recently than I saw the series, but he’s pretty high on the complete set of Golden Age Greek Thoughts. For example, his imaginarium has an interplanetary vessel of Greek design launching in the 20th century if it weren’t for the fact that Greek Civilization fell apart as a political entity.

            Specifically, he pushes the premise that the loss of the Library of Alexandria was one of the great cataclysms in the history of Civilization. He downplays though – to the extent of not mentioning it all, iirc – how much the 4th century CE Christian Church had in its destruction (and in my estimation McFarlane probably wouldn’t, if he redid that part),

            I would also guess that Sagan would today get some push back of his historical narrative as being too Eurocentric. Which too be fair, it is, as it buys into the Interregnum view of history civilization (i.e. what the peeps were doing in the Levant/Mesopotamia and in far East Asia didn’t seem to count for much, all that mattered was who was being Frank)


  1. I was surprised that my daughter was able to offer a pretty good explanation of an eclipse – her explanation was just specific to solar eclipses. So we got a flashlight, a tomato, and a marble, and bored her explaining the two kinds of eclipses, then went out to look at the moon.

    I gave up on the first episode of Cosmos (Tyson edition) – there was so much showy zooming around and dramatic music that I got fed up of waiting for any actual science to be discussed. Maybe I’ll give it another try.


  2. Many years back, at a “take your daughters to work day” session, I ran the daughters through a demonstration with lots of colored index cards about how the Internet works (ie, how data gets from one computer to another). The next day, I got lots of feedback from parents, which fell into one of two categories: (1) my daughter is insufferable because she knows how packet switching works and I don’t, and (2) can you do the same demo for the senior vice presidents, please?

    Apparently the memorable line in the demo was from out of order packet delivery, where a card or three went into my shirt pocket. Since we’d already done lost packets (tossed over my shoulder), someone asked if the ones in my pocket were lost. “No, just misplaced for a while.”


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