Love and Physics

This morning I asked Charlotte what she was planning to do today. “I might have a look at a periodic table video,” she replied. More chemistry. My third daughter is certainly a keen unschooling chemist.

“Why don’t you broaden your horizons,” I suggested. “You could try some physics. I used to love physics when I was at school. I had this great big heavy physics book I had to carry to school every day.” I stopped and corrected myself. “I had this great big heavy physics book Dad used to carry to school for me every day.”

At the mention of ‘Dad’ all the girls gathered around. They wanted to hear a story from those far off days when Andy and I were teenagers going to school together.

Andy lived a long way from the school, more than twice the distance I did. He lived so far from school, he should have caught a bus each way. But he didn’t. He preferred to use his legs because this meant he could walk right past my house on his way to school. 

One day when I set off for school, I found Andy waiting on the footpath right outside my home. “Hi! Can I carry that book for you?” he asked me. I looked at the great big heavy physics book under my arm, and then gladly handed it over. And that was the last time I ever carried that book to or from school.

After I’d told my story, Charlotte said, “Maybe I’ll go and find out more about physics,” and she disappeared off to her bedroom.

I racked my brain trying to think of a physics resource that would capture Charlotte’s imagination. Then suddenly I remembered a conversation we’d had around the lunch table yesterday. We were talking about Callum’s new car, The Green Giant, a thirty-something-year-old Holden Kingswood. Apparently (to those who know about such things) the car is a classic.

“Does your car have airbags?” Gemma-Rose asked.

“It doesn’t even have inertia reel seat belts,” I said, jumping in before Callum could reply. “Air bags weren’t invented when that car was made.”

“I think safety features encourage people to drive more recklessly,” said Callum, defending his old car. Having no airbags isn’t going to be a problem. He will be driving with care… he assures me.

“Do you remember when Mythbusters proved airbags can kill,” said Sophie. “Buster died.”
The conversation went from air bags to coke cans being thrown from one car into another, while passing at speed. Then we moved onto missiles and vectors, velocity as opposed to speed… We were discussing physics without anyone realising. Actually, I was quite astonished my children know so much about the subject. And I can thank Mythbusters for that. There’s a lot of physics in Mythbusters.

We hardly ever watch any TV, but if someone just happens to discover an episode of Mythbusters is showing, the word gets around the family quickly and soon all the kids are lined up on the sofa, ready to see what myth will be busted… or not… this week. They also want to see a few explosions.

We have a DVD collection of one of the series of Mythbusters. Also, there are books available which I might investigate. I’ve just discovered there’s a book called The Mythbusters Science Fair Book, written especially for children. You could look at Amazon to see all the available Mythbuster products. If you don’t mind watching episodes in bits and pieces, there’s lots of videos on Youtube.

I should say that occasionally there are segments in Mythbusters that might be inappropriate viewing for children. Please check first just in case…

So Charlotte is off to find the Mythbusters DVDs and I am off to order a book. Mythbusters won’t give us an in depth look at physics but it just might capture Charlotte’s interest enough to lead her onto a more serious study of this subject. Sometimes it’s amazing where things lead.

I am thinking about my school physics book again. I’m so glad it was a huge very heavy book. I am glad Andy saw me carrying it. And I am so glad he offered to carry it for me. By the time Andy had carried that book to and from school, for a year or two, I was ready to marry him. 

Physics… who would have thought it would lead to love.

Photo: experiencing some hands-on physics at Questacon, Australia’s National Science and Technology Centre

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  1. Reply

    This makes me wonder how the early scientists would have learnt physics. There wouldn't have been any boring textbooks or exams, would there? I imagine there would have been lots of experimenting and brainstorming, perhaps. Do you think our homeschool methods, which may not look so official or impressive, might actually be closer to how real scientists learn?

    Great post, Sue:-)

    1. Reply


      I guess physics is like maths. It's everywhere. We use and observe it in action all the time. That's why it fascinates me. The early scientists were probably more curious than the average person and asked lots of 'why?' questions, and then set out to experiment and discover more. Maybe our children learn in the same way when they also have a passion for a subject and learn it out of interest and not because they are going to sit an exam. Perhaps text books have a place after an interest has been established. I know Charlotte looks things up in her chemistry text book when she comes across a chemistry concept she doesn't really understand and wants to know more about. Personally I use the Internet to answer my questions. I love the Internet! What did we do before it was invented?

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