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Close Encounters with Science: Picks

My First Experiment by Odie Geiger

As the child of a father who had studied bacteriology and had a keen interest in nature, I had been probably been exposed to science from my earliest days, but the first time I remember experiencing the thrill of scientific discovery happened when I was about 6.  As with most kids, my first visit from the tooth fairy was a thrilling experience that I was eager to repeat. I learned that when a tooth falls out, you can place it under your pillow and magically the tooth fairy learns about it, visits you during the night, lifts your pillow to remove it while you’re asleep, leaves you a dime, and takes the tooth away. Although the reality of this was clear enough, the mechanics was troubling to me. However did the fairy know when I had lost a tooth? Where did she get the money from? How could she lift the pillow without me feeling it?

Although I certainly still believed that all this was possible, a clear motivation for me to maintain the status quo was that, even as a six year old, I understood that you have to consider very carefully the consequences of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.  Nonetheless, my desire to understand the system and satisfy my curiosity was even stronger, apparently, then the opportunity to get enough money for a candy bar or two. So after thinking about the problem, I devised a plan. The only alternative explanation of the tooth fairy story I could come up with was that my parents were somehow involved, as they seemed to have access to money and knew each time I lost a tooth. So the next time a tooth fell out, I hid the information from my parents, put the tooth under my pillow, and waited until morning when, first thing, I raised up my pillow to take a look. When I did, there was no sense of sadness at the realization that I wasn’t going to get my monetary reward, now or in the future. Instead, I remember to this day the surge of pride in the success of my experiment. I couldn’t wait to dash into the kitchen and share my discovery. 

As I recall, my exposé met with a mixed reaction. My mother was dismayed that I’d ruined what she believed was one of childhood’s moments of innocence, but my father was delighted, and I think the joy of unveiling myths and discovering truths about the world through controlled experimentation has sustained me from that time forward.


Odie Geiger is from Vancouver, BC

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