Shalanna (shalanna) wrote,

How Science REALLY Works

I may have mentioned that one of our neighbors went to be with the Lord (crossed the bar) (crossed to the other side of the Veil) (went to the Summerlands) (not trying to be flippant, just trying to get the idea across in non-offensive religious terms) a couple of weeks ago. My mother has been quite distraught, as the lady has been a neighbor of ours for years and years. I ended up baby-sitting for two of the neighbor's granddaughters several times over the course of the fortnight so as to allow her daughters to take care of business and grown-up stuff. Well, they're not babies any more--they're nine and seven, and QUITE sophisticated for their age.

Maybe that's how sophisticated kids of that age are now. WE certainly didn't know (at that tender age) the stuff THEY know about. I think they taught ME a couple of interesting tidbits about life in the post-postmodern world, unchained as it is.

So! One evening, they informed me that they were ALWAYS allowed to watch the "Big Bang Theory." I am still a bit doubtful about that, but they quoted back much of the show's backstory to me, so maybe it's true. I didn't think the show's occasional naughty language and sexual situations would perturb them, after what they'd been telling me all week (eep). At any rate, we all sat down for dinner (macaroni-hamburger scramble and a very non-diabetes-friendly casserole, which we all participated in making, even my mother) and a rerun of the Bob Newhart episode of the series.

In case you are not a devoted fan of Sheldon Cooper, Leonard, and Penny (I like the others, but not as much as these, as I identify with each of them to some extent), I'll tell you that in this episode, the great Bob Newhart plays a has-been "Mr. Wizard" television star who now does kids' parties. He is invited to Sheldon's place to give his show to the grown-up scientists. The ubiquitous science fair demonstration comes up: the potato clock.

Of course, they play it for laughs. "Is it a trick potato?!" Penny shrieks. "What makes it go?"

They never cover the real explanation in the episode, but when the show ended, I asked the girls, "Do you know about the potato clock? How do you think it works?"

The elder girl said, "The potato has potential energy that is conducted through the wires."

I was taken aback. We certainly didn't know about the concept of potential energy when I was in third grade. This is a dang good guess, in MY opinion.

The younger one said, "The potato has life-force and that's why when you eat it, it gives you energy that comes from that life-force. The life-force flows down the wires before it goes back into the potato. So that's what causes the clock to run."

After I picked my chin up from the floor, I said, "That is a really cool explanation." I didn't dare probe further, for fear we'd get into a discussion of Jedi knighthood, which I'm not too clear about.

After clearing the table, I let them get on my computer to Google up the "real" answer. I had sort of forgotten exactly how science explains it (I was thinking in terms of electron flow myself, but VERY hazily. It's actually a chemical reaction because of the coating on the nails that are used.) The real explanation is not nearly as good as the one about life-force. I think from now on I will adopt the life-force explanation.

Are these kids today little Einsteins, or what?!

(They can still enjoy a rollicking game of "Mouse Trap," though.)
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