Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

Splat! Let's take a moment to pay tribute to babies, the real scientists of the world

To celebrate Science Literacy Week, take a good look at a baby near you, writes Prajwala Dixit.

Peek-a-boo! That's a young scientist at work, putting parents through their paces. (Denis Omelchenko/Shutterstock)

It is September and Science Literacy Week is upon us. Though omnipresent, we finally see physics and chemistry everywhere. 

Even the Avalon Mall isn't immune to Literacy Week's presence. The young and the old gather at the centre court to marvel at nature's intricacies, engaging in seemingly intelligent sounding banter.

While this week is meant to encourage kids to discover science, it can make us – the adults — feel our severe deficiency in scientific intellect. 

Eager to demonstrate our scientific prowess to our children, we scramble to read up on general relativity or understand why a naked Archimedes ran out yelling "eureka." Our admiration for brainiacs like Ada Lovelace and Shakuntala Devi quadruples.

In all this din, we forget to pay homage to the best scientists of this world – babies!

Baby method is the scientific method

Babies are wired to explore and hence, can be given full credit for inventing the scientific method. Their natural curiosity enables them to carefully make observations about their surroundings. 

Babies are used to being observed, but they also have remarkable observational powers of their own. (Shutterstock / szefei)

Their neurons fire away, sparking questions like, "What happens to my mother when I blow my food in her face?" 

Babies' brains develop rapidly as they go. Why not treat the world outside like a lab? (University of Montreal)

Itching to find more, a scientific mind like theirs then proceeds to form a hypothesis like, "If I blow food in my mother's face, then perhaps she will like it." 

They proceed to conduct the experiment blowing a big food raspberry.

We all know the result of this experiment. The poor mother now has baby food stuck in her hair and no, she does not like it one bit! 

But babies don't just stop there, do they? 

Inquisitively, they want to see if this experiment garners the same reaction from other people. Lo and behold, in the name of research they have now blown food in five test subjects' faces (ranging from their father to the dog). 

Taking stock of their results, they finally understand that while their recipients do not like food being blown in their face, it is still something to be enjoyed thoroughly. Hence, they conclude that food raspberries will now be a part of their daily routine (recommending a minimum of at least one per meal).

Physics and babies: 2 peas in a pod

Have you seen a baby repeatedly throw food off their high chair? Arduous and patience-testing, it makes your heart bleed out for the parent. 

But for the baby (and other heartless spectators), it is pure delight. Gleefully laughing at the funny sound the food makes while hitting your beautiful hardwood floor, they (albeit unaware) have succeeded in applying the Law of Conservation of Energy transforming potential energy to kinetic and then, sound — including the oft-heard "splat." 

By throwing spoons, books, food and sometimes themselves off high chairs, unknowingly, they determine how the mass of a body is directly proportional to the force felt. The Isaac Newton inside every baby is urging them to explore the Laws of Motion!

Encouraging the little scientist

The natural proclivity to explore is innately built within all life. And while babies are more scientifically literate than we give them credit for, here are a few fun things that you could 'experiment' with your little one.

Chris Ferrie is a father, physicist, author and of course, a genius: Pay a visit to your nearest library and borrow Chris Ferrie's Quantum Physics for Babies. Colourful illustrations and simple sentences fill his board books, making you wonder why you couldn't come up with this ingenious idea! Possible side effects: In all likelihood, your baby's first word may be "electron" (and not "mama" or "papa")

Paint the town red (and the other colours): Use different coloured markers to show toddlers how primary colours can be used to make secondary colours (like red and yellow make orange!). If you're really up for some fun, then use non-toxic paint. 

Attention: The toddler might perform the experiment on himself/herself instead of using the provided drawing apparatus. Also, they might use objects such as the fridge, dishwasher and your lovely walls to conduct their experiments. Be sure to have a camera ready! With all the cleaning you will have to do, it is only fair that you get to show it to their crush one day and squeal in mirth as they turn beet red!

Take a hike: Literally, take a hike. In St. John's, the city is filled with beautiful trails. Explore. Collect little twigs, leaves and rocks from each hike and build something from (almost) nothing. For instance, your very eco-friendly boat could be built using sticks, twigs, flowers and leaves. Danger: beware that creepy crawlies might soon share your home. But don't worry! Your curious toddler will probably "take care" of it for you!

Remember, you were a baby once!

It is funny that as we grow up we curb our natural curiosity, experimenting seldomly. Falling into the trappings of life, we forget that we were babies once, that we were scientists once. Niels Bohr, Grace Hopper, Chris Hadfield and Kalpana Chawla were all babies first and pioneers later. 

So, the next time you think you could never be a Marie Curie, remember — you already are!

About the Author

Prajwala Dixit

Contributor

Prajwala Dixit is an Indian-Canadian writer. An engineer, wife and mother, she resides in St. John's.