Atomic Theory And Philosophy For Kids

Ken AshfordRandom MusingsLeave a Comment

Some questions just can’t be answered:

So, last night, we’re up in her bed, I’m reading A Bunny for All Seasons to her. She says to me, "Daddy, how do you know that when you shut the book the pictures don’t move all around and run around when you shut the book?"

…"Do you want the long answer or the short answer?"

"The long answer," is her reply.

"Okay, I know the pictures don’t run around on the page when we close the book because I know how paper is made. I know what paper is made of. And I know how ink is made and I know what ink is made of. Both things are made up of little tiny, tiny pieces called atoms. These are so so sooooo tiny you can’t even see them, not even with a telescope. But, atoms behave in certain ways that we can predict because they follow what are called scientific laws. These laws say that if you roll a ball, it’ll always roll forever unless something stops it and things like that. And the way these laws work, once you put ink on a page and it dries, it almost never ever moves again. So when you see a cartoon, which is a drawing, it’s actually a bunch of drawings and they flip them very very fast, like those flip books of Mickey Mouse you have, only they flip them a lot, lot faster. So fast you can’t even see that it’s a bunch of nonmoving pictures that just look like they’re moving. So that’s how I know the pictures in a book don’t move when we close it."

"Okay, now the short answer," she says. She likes to get both answers all the time.

"Well, the short answer is, I don’t know that the pictures don’t move when I close the book. I can only guess that they don’t because of everything I said in the long answer. You know your dresser in your room where your clothes are kept?" She nodded. "Well, without getting up and taking me over there, prove to me that it exists right now. Prove that it is real….See, you can’t. You can only say that things you can’t see probably are real and probably behave in certain ways."

She reached up to her face and I thought she was going to philosophically stroke her chin. Instead, she grabbed her bottom lip and brought her other hand up to grip her top lip. Then she pulled both lips out into a beak shape.

"Quack quack quack, quack quack quack," she told me.