Re: HUMOR: schoolchildren on science

Dan Fabulich (
Sun, 26 Jan 1997 20:37:12 -0800

Joy Williams wrote:

> I can see why it's disturbing, but I can also understand the point of view.
> Sometimes explaining things to the extreme, can initially take the wonder
> away. Sometimes it's better to just appreciate the beauty. I don't need
> to, for instance, initially understand the chemical composition of the
> paints used in a piece of art. I want to appreciate the *art*. Later on I
> might be interested in the chemistry....

That initial sense of disillusionment, in my case, can't compare with
what follows. To take your example, when you learn how a brush works,
you can learn to paint. On some level, you now know how it's done, and
while it might take the wonder away from painters, suddenly YOU can be
the painter, and create beautiful images yourself...

> And a rainbow, which is beautiful and frequently evoke a sense of wonder,
> can be explained later...but explaining it in the moment can trivialize the
> experience, unless you can explain it in such a way that evokes more wonder
> at the complexity of the process that created such a beautiful thing. That
> would require some skill, but it could be done for a 5th or 6th grader.

I'll give an example. It's a story. Goes like this:

When I was about six or seven, I saw a rainbow. My family kept
the lawn green with a hand-held sprinkler attached to a hose; as I
looked out into it, I could see that a rainbow had formed in the mist.
"Ah ha!" I thought to myself. "All I have to do is go look where the
rainbow strikes the ground, and I'll find a pot of gold!" (Remember, I
was small. :) ) Excited, I ran out into the sprinkler to make my
fortune. As I looked more closely, the rainbow didn't seem to hit the
ground at all, but instead it stopped where the mist dispersed.
Undaunted, I picked up the sprinkler to see if I could use the mist
like a flashlight to find gold. It worked! As I aimed the mist, I
followed the curve of the rainbow... it was going down, then up, then
down again, and... "Hey! This rainbow is a circle!" I suddenly
realized that all those who had told me about gold at the end of the
rainbow were horribly deceived; "rainbows are circles," I concluded
with an empirical air, "and circles don't have ends!"

Are rainbows less because you can make one with a hose and a hand-held
sprinkler; because there's no gold at either "end?" No. Rather, we
can learn from this story (and others like it) the beauty of
creativity, and the power of the resourceful human mind. That's the
true discovery. THAT'S what I learned that day.

On a sunny day, I can go out and make a rainbow. I can make rainbows
because I can understand them. Can this agnostic student say the same?

-He who laughs last thinks slowest-