Friday, September 07, 2007

Define Science

Ah, the conversations nerds have; "hi honey, how was your day?" "Fine. How would you define science?" I would define science as a way of thinking that seeks to systematize the universe. To determine underlying rules and introduce predictability. As it happened, that morning while nursing the boy, I had watched a cool show on ancient knowledge all about the Greek scientist Thales who is sometimes credited with "inventing" science. Rather than the universe being controlled by the whims of the gods, Thales sought an underlying order and made predictions based on his findings.

That science is really a way of thinking is reinforced for me when I watch Thomas play. I got a great book from the library about neurological development in infants, babies, and young children. It turns out that Thomas has far more neurons than you or I; however, there are very few connections between them. Learning, for him, is all about building a neural network, making connections between things. When he plays, he is seeking rules for how things work.

Yesterday, I offered him his skish rattle. It's got three mutually orthogonal pairs of rods with beads on them. The rods are held together by elastic strings to form a flexible ball. He took it and starting waving it around. It would rattle nicely when it hit the floor or my knee. Things got much more interesting when the rattle collided with the frame of his jumper, which is hollow plastic. Thomas got really interested in the new sound. He started to experiment, tapping the plastic gently, then hard, then hitting the floor again. It was interesting to watch him try to test out how the rattle made two different sounds. It's clearly a sign that he's going to be a scientific thinker. It's also an indication that, at five months, he's become smarter than the cat.

No comments: