Tag Archives: science

Charting Cyberspace, November Edition

Today is the kind of day that makes me wish our fireplace was working. It’s gray and cold – a preview of the hallmarks of Ohio winter. I feel too overcast to think of much to say.
So I won’t say much, other than to point you in the direction of some of the great posts I’ve been reading, thanks to NaBloPoMo. I’ve been using Google Reader to share posts as I read and enjoy them (you can find my feed in a blue box on the right side of this page), but here are a few highlights:

I laughed
• Some sins of the mother visiting over at Boobs, Injuries & Dr. Pepper.

Running With Books experiences the joys of Kindergarten parent-teacher conferences.

• The Queen of Shake Shake rebels against November-writing nerds like me with a little NeeNerHaHa.

• Busy Dad’s five year old starts the revolution.

I cried
The myriad forms of solace at Slouching Past 40.

You have to wonder at one plus two.

I thought
Chopping away at the truth at Cheerio Road.

A precious gift at Blogs Are Stupid.

I wondered
• Do Humpback Whales say things to each other like “are your tail flukes tired? Must be, because you’ve been swimming around my head all day”? Apparently, we’ll know soon.

• News about what our mega-telescopes are finding in other solar systems seems to be coming out in throngs lately. Will SETI help us?

• Here’s a possible future addition to the decor at our house: The Alien Abduction Lamp.

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Our long national anti-bathing nightmare is over!

We’ve endured a bathtub strike for close to a month now. Any bathing of Declan has been done with washcloths, terrycloth puppets and a lot of tears. For some reason, the bathtub, once one of his most cherished places, started to terrify him a few weeks back. I took advice from the Internet, where most of my trusted sources of advice said: “This too shall pass. Honor his fears and sponge bathe him – don’t force it.”

And so I launched a public relations campaign for the bathtub. I bought a Little Einsteins’ Rocket that I made a tub-exclusive toy. For days, he would play with it from the side of the tub. I went back to our old colored water tricks: “Don’t you want a blue Earth/Neptune bath? A red Mars bath? A green Uranus bath?” All to no avail.

Meanwhile, for two weeks running, the video 95 Worlds and Counting has been his obsession. He wants to watch “Holes” — the name he gave it because he loves the animation of the descent into the holes on Neptune’s moon of Triton — as many times and as often as we will let him. “It would be very interesting to go down in the holes, if you dare,” he says, in tandem with the scientist being interviewed. Then there’s something or other about supersonic sounds and landing in a pool of liquid nitrogen.

So naturally, I recently decided that the bath water should become liquid nitrogen, which I make with blue bath tablets and bubbles. On Wednesday night, after the great recliner debacle, I pulled out virtually every toy that could be a bath toy. I drew volcanoes and a supermassive black hole (by request) on the wall with bath crayons. I yelled “let’s be scientists!” and called everything from filling cups of water to watching washcloths submerge “experiments.” I asked him if he dared to go down into the holes of Triton into the pool of liquid nitrogen. I managed to get his socks and overshirt off without any shrieks of horror. (We still must wear the rotating Nemo underneath at all times.) In all of my imaginings of motherhood, I definitely never could have pictured this.

His dad came in.

“We are scientists dad!” Declan shouted. Then Dan was able to get him into the tub (under the condition that the diaper and Nemo shirt stayed on). Then there was the experiment where they filled the diaper with bath water and took it off so we could all marvel at its bizarre absorbency. And then Nemo came off – and we had our boy back in the bath.

Last night, Declan requested a bath again. A yellow-red-brown-green Io bath (he settled for yellow, then orange-red). I started the routine again, and Dan managed to get him in the water again.

Of course, the problem we now have is that once he’s in, he doesn’t want to get out.

Life soundtrack: We Are Scientists, “The Method”: Launch

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Child helps journalist

Here is a story that I wrote for Columbus Alive this week.

Declan helped.

Not because he is a particularly good editor or writer at two and a half, but because he makes me think about the nature of the universe as well as its incomprehensible size — things that can come in handy when you’re writing about art. In this case, keeping up with his interest in spatial dimensions and string theory directly applied to the wonderful work and artist that I wrote about.

I consider some of the abstract concepts in galleries, community centers and museums on a fairly regular basis. In print, I try to make them less intimidating to people, to help them see the joy, intrigue and adventure inherent in considering the questions that art can raise. I don’t always succeed, but I try.

Growing up, I always considered science, especially physics, to be too large and logical for the likes of someone like me. But Declan has helped me see the joy, intrigue and adventure inherent in considering the questions that astrophysics can raise and how, much in the way that you don’t have to be a critic to appreciate art, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate the cosmos.

Life soundtrack: The Posies, “I Am the Cosmos”: Launch

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Scientific declarations at 29 months

“That’s a googoo years from now. That’s a long time.” (Attempting to quote Neil deGrasse Tyson.)

That’s Brian Greene. That’s my brudder (brother) beyond the elegant universe.”

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Charting Cyberspace, Labor Day Edition

Pop Culture
Children’s television makes a remarkable number of musical references to classical compositions. My knowledge of symphonies and concertos is nowhere near exceptional, but I’m amazed by how much I recognize when, say, “Little Einsteins” is on. Here’s one possible explanation: Wikipedia’s extensive list of popular songs based on classical music.

If the new Clive Owen movie “Shoot ‘Em up” is as clever as it’s previews or web marketing suggest, it may be the first movie I laugh at this year.

Mysteries of the brain
Here’s one of the hardest things to recoup from my pre-motherhood days: creative flow.

A whistling genius who decided to spend the last 15-16 of his 58 years as a five-year-old died in August. Here is the New York Times’ obituary for Joybubbles (his legal name).

There is some mighty fine writing out there by moms in blog-land.

This week, I was moved to tears by words at Velveteen Mind, most recently Camille was a Lady, Katrina was a Bitch, which led me to the wrenching Victor Vito.

It takes a certain kind of skill to write about happy times without stumbling into clichés, but Oh, The Joys has a knack for it. I particularly loved this post.

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This is your brain on drums

Once or twice a week, Declan and I sit down in front of an old video of Fantasia 2000, raise our arms and wildly conduct Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony together. He has a great memory for instrumental music, and can hum along with several popular classical melodies, thanks to nap-inducing car rides with WOSU FM on and Classical Baby.
A couple of weeks ago, we went out on a family day trip and stopped at one of those nondescript Max & Ruby’s Apple G. I. Friday’s places to eat on our way home. As we noshed on completely uninspired cuisine, Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” played and Declan danced in his high chair, flapping his arms and bouncing his head to one side in time with the music. Something about straightforward rock and roll really winds him up. I put on David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane for him a few nights ago and it took about 20 seconds of “Watch That Man” before he started dancing around the living room.

There are a lot of studies out there about music and the brain that look at the links between music and how we develop intellectually, cognitively and emotionally. Along those lines, there is also an interesting article published on Salon this week: Joseph LeDoux’s Heavy Mental. A neuroscientist, he has a lot of interesting things to say about our bonds to music, and the ways our brains become chemically accustomed to certain emotional reactions, based on experience and genetics.

What’s inspiring is that he is so optimistic about our capacity to change, no matter how ingrained bad habits might have become. This is a relief to me, I often wake up at night, wondering if even the things that seem so positive about the way I parent could be causing unrealistic expectations and future pain for Declan. A reminder that nothing has to be permanent – that I don’t have to be perfect – is comforting.

LeDoux has founded an “Emotional Brain Institute” at NYU to promote the study of emotion, from the scientific perspective, but also through the lens of the arts and humanities, law and business. Thank heavens for these kinds of scientists, who, in the midst of insane political times, still have the capacity to try and look at ways that we can all, as humans, be and do better.

Life soundtrack: Steve Forbert, Alive on Arrival, ” Thinkin‘ ”
Steve Forbert - Alive On Arrival - Thinkin'

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