Category Archives: the Universe and Everything

On the scientific method.


I have queries, but no theories.

On the harsh realities.

The world just really isn’t set up for people like our family.

On plans for space exploration.

Mum, I think you’re going to have to get me that LEGO robotics set. If I’m going to be the one that designs the probe to go to Ganymede, Jupiter’s third moon, I really have to start somewhere.

After all, it is the largest moon in the solar system.

On strange fruit.

Since the fruit is the ripened ovary of a plant, I am eating ACTUAL LIVING OVARIES RIGHT NOW.


I’m going to go grab some more ovaries out of the fridge, OK?

On Pythagoras and Einstein.

[We are reading Why Does E=MC2? (And Why Should We Care) by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw aloud. I have just got to a tricky bit about how time is not absolute – that time slows down the faster you go, illustrated by an example of light bouncing between mirrors in a light clock on a train. The example includes a fun little bit with right angle triangles and some work with D=Speed x Time, which is all new to Allie.]

Ok, so before I read this next bit through, I want to grab a pencil and mark up some diagrams so you can see what’s happening. Here we have a light clock, as we would see it if we were passengers sitting next to it on a train. The light beam goes up, hits the first mirror, and comes straight back down and hits the other one – boing, boing. We’ll count that as one tick. 

Yes, yes. I’ve got it.

And then over here we’re going to look at the same light clock, but from outside the train, standing on the platform as the train moves along. We see the beam go up like it did before, but the train is moving to the left, so it doesn’t go straight across, it makes – 

That long angle. Yes, yes. The train is moving so the beam hits over there and then down there. [Points to diagram]

Right. So then we can use some fun geometry to figure out how much time that beam takes to go on that big angle. For that, we’ll use the Pythagorean Theorem which is an awesome way to find out the length of the long side of a Right Triangle. [Pause for a bunch of math/ scribble, scribble.] Does that make sense?

Yes. Yes. YES. Of COURSE that makes sense. So we get two different answers for the length of the tick in the two different situations. There is no such thing as absolute time! CAN WE READ THE ACTUAL BOOK NOW?!



On why particle physics trumps all.

[I am trying to establish how much science curriculum is actually left for the year by doing an oral quiz with Allie.]

So, kiddo, can you name some building materials for human-made structures?

Well, to tell you the truth, that’s a bit of a silly question. I mean, everything is made of atoms which are made of subatomic particles, and those are the building blocks of ALL structures.

On contacting famous physicists.

Mum. How can I get in touch with Dr. Cox?

I’m not sure. He might have an email address we could find. Or maybe through Twitter? 

Let’s try to look for his email. I have some things I would like to tell him.

Ha – he might not write back – he’s got to be pretty busy.

That’s OK. I really just want to tell him he is important to me. And space. Space is also important to me. Can we get his new book when it comes out?

On the Wonders of the Solar System.

[Allie is watching Brian Cox’s The Wonders of the Solar System on her laptop and listening on her headphones.]

Oh, Saturn! You are my favourite planet.

[Time passes]

Dr. Cox, I really hope you put your sunscreen on. You are very pale to be walking about in the California desert without it.

[Time passes]

OH! MY! GOD! Sorry for the language, Mum! But it’s the BIRTH OF A STAR – I AM WATCHING THE BIRTH. OF. A. STAR.

On relativity.

[We are at the park. P is on the swings by herself – I am standing around, basically useless now that I only have to push once every minute or so.]



You know how big a giant would seem to us?


Well, that is how we must seem to a bird. And a bird would seem that big to an ant. And an ant would seem that big to a parasite. And a parasite would seem that big to a molecule. And a molecule would seem that big to a… NEUTRINO!

Hey, wait…


Can you imagine how many neutrinos could pass through a giant at once without hitting even ONE of his atoms???

On starting school #2

[We are lying around reading at the end of the day.]

Mummy. Tomorrow I think we go to the Learning Commons.

Oh neat. That’s where they keep all the books!


Well, not all the books in the world.

But STILL – it’s a LOT OF BOOKS!

Yes, it certainly is. Are you planning to read all the books in the Learning Commons?

YES. In fact, I am planning to read all the books in the world.