And on the ninth day…

the kids are preternaturally good.  And they ask questions.  If everyone on Earth gathered in one place and started running, and then stopped suddenly, would it affect the rotation of the earth?  (Help?!  My physics isn’t what it should be for this kind of question).  What is a black hole?  My dad burned his hand, do you know what to put on it to make it better?  How come we are so slow in making progress in science?  (Really: a sixth grader asked that.  Do you mean “we” like us in this classroom or like Us, I asked, waving my hands to indicate all of humanity.  Well, like the cavemen, that was a long time ago, but we haven’t made that much progress, he said.  Who are you comparing us to?  I asked.  I mean, how do you know we haven’t?  Then a little speech about change being hard, a bit of Galileo, it all led to a discussion about people in power sometimes making change even harder).  Some stuff edging up to My Church Doesn’t Believe in Evolution (and Neither Does God).  A bit from me about science and religion not necessarily being in conflict.  This is so much better than anything extrinsic.  Meanwhile, the temperature strips taped to the globe were not heating up, not changing color, in the light of the lamp meant to demonstrate solar heating and the angle of the earth.  It hasn’t changed color, I said.  Notice that I didn’t say, It didn’t work, I say, modeling scientific attitudes – no such thing as a failed experiment, just different results than what you expected.  But in my head, I’m thinking, Sh*t, it didn’t work!

I’m bluffing my way into Sony Wonder tomorrow with twelve kids.  Don’t ask, just pray for me.

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2 Comments

Filed under science, teaching

2 responses to “And on the ninth day…

  1. I’ve done that, taken a whole bunch of kids to SONY Wonder without any advance notice (we had extra time after seeing a very boring play nearby). I don’t remember having any issues…

  2. Lsquared

    ” If everyone on Earth gathered in one place and started running, and then stopped suddenly, would it affect the rotation of the earth?”

    No. The Earth is just so much bigger than the total of all of the people on it that it would have no more effect than the wind currents that move around all the time. Indeed, the atmosphere is much more massive than the total of all of the people on the Earth. We may be smart, but we’re not large, and it’s the mass that matters.

    I think if you had more equal masses it would have to have an effect: imagine a room-sized rigid plastic sphere out in space, and a space-walking astronaut on it. The equal and opposite force law says that if the astronaut starts climbing around the sphere (and if the sphere is comparitively light–not much more massive than the astronaut), then to an outside observer, the sphere would turn in the direction opposite to the direction the astronaut is going (and it should be that when the astronaut stopped moving so would the sphere). It ought to be that the whole system: man + sphere has to stay stationary relative to an outside observer if it started out that way.

    Ah well, I’m only a mathematician, so you’ll have to decide how much you trust my theories.

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