Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Dr. Strange Legs

Both of us chewed our bites as we looked at the crispy rice bar package.

“Why is there a 2-8-9 right there?” Ben said.

“That says 28 grams. That’s how much it weighs.”

“How much it weighs?”

“Well, actually, that’s the mass.”

“What is mass?”

I was fortunate that after just a few seconds of silence, the boy changed the topic. I enjoyed high school physics as much as any other class, but I wasn’t prepared to explain mass to a kindergartner.

I’m pretty sure I know just the man who would have been up to the task, if anybody. He happens to be the boy’s maternal grandfather, and we have visual proof that he has addressed small children at least once.

Child Thanks PopsThis note was made by a second grader (click to enlarge), and the proper salutation would have addressed Shannon’s dad as “Dr.,” but we’re not here to quibble over such details. I blurred out anything that would implicate the innocent.

It makes me glad that even today kids still use crayons and pencils, because who knows where a jpg will be in 33 years?

9 Responses to Dr. Strange Legs

  1. Levitation is, in deed, a very cool experiment to display for a classroom full of kids. In fact, I’d love for Pops to explain how he did that.

    The fact that this drawing has survived for so long (ever since I was a -6 month old parasite) is truly amazing and a testiment to the sentimental nature for which science guys aren’t given enough credit.

    And yes, the continued survival of crayons in the 21st century is of great comfort to me as well. I mean…without crayons I’d have to look at a bare, white refridgerator rather than the color explosion we currently see in our kitchen.

    I remember being baffled by the whole mass vs weight thing as a kid. I like to believe I’ll be able to explain it all to Lutine better than my teachers did to me…but that’s probably not true.

  2. Moksha – Ha! I think when Alvis saw it over here he said it looked like he was levitating. As far as sentimentality goes, Shannon’s mother apparently was the one who stored these drawings for all these years. Of course, we’ll turn them over to Shannon’s dad the next time we see him (or mail them, if he trusts that service enough with them).

    Glad to hear the lutine keeps your ‘fridge decorated. Kids are the best at that.

    I also liked this because I remember my dad coming to our school when I was little and talking about caring for our teeth (my dad was a dentist, not some freak obsessed with kids’ mouths). I wondered if any kids drew him a thank you picture. Pretty sure I didn’t.

  3. Mark, I’m proud of you for remembering that a gram is unit of mass. The distinction between mass and weight is simple: mass measures stuff, weight measures the force the crispy rice bar exerts on the earth. 28 grams of stuff, 27,440 dynes of force pulling on the earth, which will cause the earth to fall on the rice bar unless you interpose an opposite force. Got it?

    I don’t remember Wendy at all, or the “experments,” but she either wasn’t Shannon’s classmate or she couldn’t read a calendar. However, she drew a picture of the experment which explains the levitation. One takes the comb from the table, electrifies it by, well, combing one’s hair, then one uses the electrified comb to separate the grains of salt and pepper which are sprinkled on the table. It works – sort of (on January 21, if Wendy got that right, but not on July 21). But then Wendy touched the electrified comb to me while I held the doorknob, which explains the levitation.

    Thanks for sharing. I enjoy doing this sort of thing for kids, but don’t get many chances, and sure don’t get much fan mail.

  4. For bonus, does anybody (besides Pops) know why he said January 21, but not July 21, would be the time for that particular “experment” to work?

    Thanks, Pops. I always enjoy hearing you ‘splain some physics.

  5. Depending on one’s geographic location, the relative humidity greatly affects the ability to electrify combs. Here, now, for instance, I think I could charge most of our household lights just by combing my boys’ hair. Vacationing in Mexico a few weeks ago (using my wife’s hair, for example), there would have been no effect at all.

    Summer vs. winter humidity plays into it greatly. As we say up here at this time of year, “It’s as dry as a hockey puck!”

  6. Simon wins the bonus!

    That earns him a bag of his favorite flavor at Mom and Pop Corn. The only catch is he has to be here in May to get it. After shipping popcorn to Canada once, I’ve decided it probably isn’t worth the money.

  7. Wow… all kinds of smart people in your family Mark!!!

  8. I would say that an equally good clue is that Pops wouldn’t have been wearing a heavy brown suit during an Arkansas July. Also, before the advent of cycle-break school schedules, the kids wouldn’t have been in class in July. Sure, you can resort to your fancy “science” and talk about humidity if you want, but there are many clues here that Wendy may have been correct with her use of a calendar. ;)

  9. I think when Pops said, “she either wasn’t Shannon’s classmate or she couldn’t read a calendar,” he must have been referring to the year. My wife certainly would not have been in second grade in 1976.


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