Thursday, May 29, 2008

Crisitunities in Humanist Parenting: The Science Project

Upon being told that the Chinese word for "crisis" is the same as their word for "opportunity," Homer Simpson gave the word "crisitunity" to the English-speaking world. And just in time: my son has reached that tender age when he has to produce his first school science project, and with the due date looming, I was distressed to see him describing it as a chore. A crisitunity afoot!

Like parents from time immemorial, I have injected myself and my non-believing, pro-science baggage into the effort. I have taken it as a challenge and an opportunity to show him that science is worth doing, whether school-assigned or not.

Last night, I bet him $1000 dollars that he would like my idea for a science project better than the idea he had (something about hooking light bulbs up to a battery) and as expected, he now owes me $1000: his science project will investigate which form of home entertainment is the most energy-efficient?

Voila! A lesson learned about the endless applicability of science and the hazards of gambling!

The candidates shall be Playstation 2, Nintendo 64, Wii, desktop PC, Xbox, and television.* We discussed an additional entry -- microwaving small creatures collected in the yard -- but that was just a contrived entry point to a discussion of scientific ethics.

We've only started discussing the methodology, but he already grasps the idea of making like-with-like comparisons -- each form of entertainment will be measured in the same way and with the same units of measure (a Kill-A-Watt device, kWh), and over the same interval of time (one hour).

The ambition is to demonstrate that there are interesting questions to ask about even the most prosaic of things, including the things we already love and think we know. I hope he'll see that are distinctively scientific ways to ask and answer these questions, and that doing science can be fun.

My working hypothesis is twofold: that the dinosaur of a PC will use the most energy, and more importantly, that he'll have a lot of classmates wondering why they didn't think of the same science project.

*It seems worthwhile to note that we'll be borrowing some of these.


Domestically Challenged said...

You f-ing ROCK! That is one cool Sci project!

Laura said...

First of all, Dale, I'm glad you reassured us that you don't actually have Playstation 2, Nintendo 64, Wii, a desktop PC, AND Xbox in your home. Not that there aren't plenty of families who do; it's just that I tend to hold you to a higher standard given your blogging acumen.

Second, I'm in awe of your parenting skills, ala combining two lessons in one, gambling being a good one to introduce early on.

Third, he has $1,000?

Dale said...

Thanks, DC! Good question, Laura. No, he doesn't have $1000, but that's just more reason to avoid being badgered into accepting a $1000 bet. At this point he has more like -$970 if we're counting, but it's not even clear who the creditor is since I securitized it, bundled it with some other assets I had sitting around, and sold it to a New York brokerage house.

He'll probably just walk away and let it "hit" his credit rating.

C. L. Hanson said...

That's so cool!!!

I can't wait until my kids are old enough for science projects! :D