Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm a great fan of science, you know.

I remember a couple of things about ninth grade earth science class. We learned how geologists triangulate earthquakes. We did an exercise in which we were given the locations of some seisometer readings and had to plot them on a blank ditto sheet of a U.S. map. For some reason, I was one of the few kids who could identify the unlabeled states and so put that compass point down in the right place to start. How we really did the "triangulation," and what it's really called, I don't remember. I remember wondering how on earth my classmates didn't know which state was which, since we'd certainly all been taught that just a few years before in grade school.

I also remember that Ms. Wood encouraged us to watch a TV show called Cosmos. (That's right! A teacher encouraged us to watch TV!) Carl Sagan exuded an enthusiasm for science and a wonder about the world that seemed like a more sophisticated version of my own. I enjoyed science class -- doing Experiments! -- and was an outdoorsy kid.

As well as enjoying watching, I learned a thing or two. While his moped-speed-of-light demonstration stumps me still, I know that I "got" the exercise where you consider the history of creation as a calendar year, and that humankind arises in the last minutes before midnight, leaving our time to be the last seconds. I learned about how We are sending coded messages on spacecraft for extraterrestrials to interpret. Watching Cosmos instilled in me an enthusiasm for science and for (PBS) television programs about science that I have today.

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