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Work and Reason

I opened the most recent issue of "National Geographic" today and absolutely devoured the article on solar astrophysics. With the usual array of gorgeous photography and clear writing, it quickly lays out the interaction of plasma and magnetic fields, coronal ejection masses, the influence of solar maximums on satellites, and the latest theory of sunspots. I loved the way it made me think about the sun's complexity, and it's largely because of my father.

Many years ago, my father signed me up for the Experiment of the Month club, a little like Science Kit of the Month. Each month, a small package would arrive with instructions and components for a science experiment that a typical 10-year-old could perform at home.I learned a lot from the kits: how much my father cared about science, and how science was the adult way to understand the world. I learned some basic chemistry and physics: polarization, conservation of momentum, I don't remember exactly what all, but my father got his money's worth. I tried them all for about a year and then lost interest, but they were just another element in an Enlightenment upbringing, tied together with meeting Buckminster Fuller, playing on punch-card computers, learning crystal symmetries and the value of solid mathematics. There were always fossils around the house, and no summer vacation was complete without a game of "Stump Dad with Mineral Samples".

I went on to enjoy chemistry in high school and college, and graduated witih a B.S. Biochemistry, which I still treasure. Curiosity seems to have taken hold of me fairly early, and hasn't died out yet. I'm told I've got his sense of humor, and I find that quite a compliment. Most of all, my father taught me that humor, hard work, and science can all go together, and that real scientists are anything but mad: they are the peak of reason, the leaders of a technocratic world, and optimistists in a time of increasing superstition and fundamentalism. I'm thankful that I grew up steeped in science and reason and the good old Germanic work ethic.

Thanks, Dad, and happy Father's Day.

Comments

( 1 sutra — Your wisdom )
clevermanka
Jun. 21st, 2004 06:37 am (UTC)
What a fantastic gift! WOW! Makes me wish I knew a kiddie to gift that on!
( 1 sutra — Your wisdom )

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