I gave up studying physics at school when I was 14. It was just too difficult and I was much more interested in humanities to bother with all those formulas and everything. Today, I think it was one of the worst decisions of my life as I love reading about quantum physics, The Hadron collider and the Higgs boson.
And then there is anything with Brian Cox in it, which is just brilliant!
When Mr. T was still a small baby I read an article somewhere about how we are born with an innate understanding of physics. I am not quite sure how that assertion could really be tested, but I have made a few of my own observations.
Baby Quantum Leap
I don’t pretend to understand quantum physics, but I think I get the gist of it, more or less. I would never be able to explain it satisfactorily but I know it’s got something to do with cats in boxes.
When Mr. T was only a few months old I was convinced he had a perfect understanding of quantum physics because he never seemed to be phased by things just appearing or disappearing seemingly at random. One second his favourite toy would be sitting next to him, then the next second it would have disappeared, and then only a few seconds later it would re-appear. Everyone else knew that I was stealing it, but he had no idea.
He was also quite happy with something being in two places at the same time. He was interested in mirrors, but never really disconcerted about there being two daddys or two Winnie the Poohs at the same time.
The Speed of Sound v The Speed of Light
This is one that he is still battling to get to grips with. He has quite a thing about all types of machine, including the planes that he can see flying past our 19th floor window. He will often hear the plane and run to the window to wave at it, but when he looks at where it should be it is never there. We know that the speed of light is faster than the speed of sound, but he hasn’t quite figured that out yet, and so spends a couple of seconds scanning the sky trying to find it.
Light can also travel in circles (@Doug88888)
Light Travels in Straight Lines
Ok, so I know that light doesn’t necessarily travel in a straight line. If we accept that the universe is not flat due to Einstein’s theories then it light can travel in a curved line, depending in the shape of the local universe. I also know that light is a wave (but it also isn’t) so perhaps a straight line isn’t exactly the best description.
But for a two-year-old light travels in straight line. We have been learning this by constantly being shocked at shadows. If we are walking in the park on a sunny day Mr. T will sometimes suddenly stop and shout at me point to the ground. After a second or two of wondering what he has found I realise he is pointing to his shadow and then we have some fun waving and jumping around to make our shadows move.
Unfortunately, he has also done this at bed time. The other night I was trying to get him to sleep when he just sat bolt upright in bed and shouted ‘daddy!’ and pointed at the wall. Again it took me a few seconds to figure out what he had seen, but then I realised that the dim nightlight we have in hs room was casting my shadow on the wall and if I moved just a fraction the shadow moved a mile.
You can imagine how long it took me to get him to sleep that night.
If vovó is standing at 400, what angle do I need to hit her? (Wikipedia)
Ok, so Mr. T isn’t playing with guns yet, or even catapults. Instead he has a far better weapon to play with: a hose pipe attached to a tap.
My dad first introduced him to the wonderful world of water-based artillery when we were back in the UK. To start with the effect was just a very wet grandson, but then he found out that by positioning the hose pipe at the right angle he could wet his granddad as well.
Over the last weekend Mr. T proved he hadn’t forgotten these lessons when he was at his great-granddad’s house back here in Curitiba. This time the target was his vovó. Mr. T experimented with different angles and heights, but couldn’t quite reach his objective. After a few minutes of checking and re-checking his experiments he suddenly hit on a great idea and walked forward a couple of metres.
Now his vovó was well within range. Unfortunately for him she had been watching the experiments with great interest and decided to move out of harm’s way just before the theory could be proven.
Physics for Dads
As I mentioned above, I love reading stuff about the origins of the universe or watching something with Brian Cox in it. But over the last couple of years I have learned to look again at the magnificence of life and the universe through my son’s eyes as he sees everything for the first time.
And that is truly brilliant.
By the way… if I have got any of the physics wrong in this blog (or if indeed I have got anything wrong, not just the physics) feel free to let me know in the comments. Be nice, though.
I know exactly how he feels (epSos.de)
Some people say that the time flies by when you have kids, but I have to disagree. It is two years today since Mr. T was born but sometimes it feels more like 5 than just the two. A lack of sleep, me time and beer will do that to anyone, I reckon.
During the last few days I have been reminiscing about the last couple of years, about the things we have all learned, the good times and the bad times (there have been plenty of both) and how much things have changed. Sometimes these memories have been set off by looking at pictures, or talking about the changes. Occasionally they happen completely out of the blue because of something Mr.T has done.
Yesterday morning he was busy moving two small identical chairs around. His objective was to move them so that Chair A would be in the place that Chair B was in, and Chair B would then be in the place that Chair A originally occupied. I have absolutely no idea why he wanted to so this, but he set about the task with quite some gusto. I had never quite considered the immense logistics involved in such an operation to a two-year old; he had to deal with an uneven floor surface, intermediate positions for both chairs, weight and balance issues when holding the chairs, getting his feet out of the way of the chairs…
Much better this way around
Eventually he managed to get the chairs where he wanted them and he stood back, gave them another look just to check everything was satisfactory and then give himself, or the chairs, a quick round of applause. That was when the memory came bursting in.
He can’t have been much older than 5 or 6 months and we were in our flat changing his nappy. My wife had designed a cool little changing table in the wardrobe that could be hidden with the door when we weren’t using it. it was safe because there was next to no chance of him rolling off, organised (as only my wife can be) with everything near to hand and also had funky little pictures around to keep our bundle of joy occupied.
The pictures didn’t always work, so if I was around I would also try to distract from the job at hand. On this particular occasion I was clapping my hands and saying ‘clap, clap, clap’ to get his attention. He started trying to copy me and then I just stopped clapping but continued to say ‘clap, clap, clap’. He looked at me strangely for a second and then clapped. I loved it, but wasn’t convinced he was reacting to my words so I said ‘clap, clap, clap’ again and he immediately clapped his hands.
I think it was seeing me do the action while saying the words, plus my response to his claps that motivated him to do it again. After that he often clapped when I asked him to, and then that evolved into clapping things he liked until today when he claps himself for a job well done.
So I hope you will join me in giving a big hand to Mr. T on reaching the very so important milestone of 2 years of age.
Gravity is a concept, right?
Last week I posted about how Thomas had learnt the concept of himself as an independent person. He did this by proudly pointing to himself when I asked him who had scribbled all over the window in blue crayon.
When I was doing my MA in Linguistics, one of the lecturers claimed that the first conept we learn as babies is that of in and out. He said we learn that by putting things into our mouths and then taking them out again. It certainly seems a plausible hypothesis. Thomas has learnt and relearnt that concept a million times as one of his favourite pastimes is to put stuff in a box and then take it out and put it in again and take it out again, ad infinitum. It can be strangely relaxing to watch him do this.
Under the sofa
One of the first things I was aware of Thomas learning was the concept of ‘under’. When he had just started to crawl he liked to roll a small little yellow ball under the sofa. I would be waiting behind the sofa to get the ball and roll it back to him. One of the sights that I will never forget is him positioning himslef so that he could see with one eye under the sofa to see where the ball was and actually realising that he had seen me.
I spy a ball… and a baby
Up, up and away
I remember being in the UK last November and his nana was at the upstairs window calling down to me and Thomas. I tried to get him to look up at the window to see her, but he just was having any of it. He looked all around him and below him, but couldn’t or wouldn’t look up. If I threw a ball at him he would track the movement, but if I threw it up in the air above him he would just look dumbfuonded when it disappeared and then utterly surprised when it fell in front of him.
A few months ago he noticed trees and lamp posts and started to look up. He still gets moments when he looks at trees and the wires that run acorss the streets here in Curitiba nd he just stops as if he is gobsmacked by how something could be up there.
It seems that Thomas is currently getting his head around the idea of something being too big or too small. He has a toy petrol station that has a road going into it an around it. One part of the toy is a a car wash with two sponges on either side and a sign across the top. Cars over a certain size won’t fit through this gap which caused a lot of problems in the early days as he tried to force big cars through it. Nowadays he will pick up a big car, look at it and then at the petrol station and then sadly shake hs head and say ‘no’.