Impractical Science

Something that irks me is the notion that the only science worthy of being conducted is that which has a direct practical application. I think if humans were omniscient enough to know what is useful, then we really would be past doing science.

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The case which prompted this post: the reconstruction of a mummy larynx. True, it doesn’t directly help a living person. Plenty of people damage theirs in car accidents, falls, etc. By acquiring an 3D image of the person’s and building a replica, we could replace lost ones. And the person could have their same voice. Voice is part of identity given we recognize others by the sound of theirs. Mechanical replacements that sound inhuman are like wheelchairs: approximation, but the user still loses a lot.

Science and technology are collaborative endeavors. Others replicate a finding. They take an idea and do something similar but different to see if there were hidden variables that change the finding. Or, produce a product from the idea.

Too much focus on practical science is what led us to the Replication Crisis in psychology. People needing a useful result, meant not enough people replicating experiments to see if the results held. Mythical results went years without anyone publishing they were bunk.

WFH with a Tyrannical Toddler

Our world…

Developmentally speaking, “2 years old might be one of the roughest ages” for social distancing, says Arthur Lavin, a pediatrician in Cleveland and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. A 6-month-old offered peas for dinner either wants them or not, but a 2-year-old knows something tastier exists. It’s the age of challenging the world, making vague demands and feeling intense emotions at every turn.

Expert advice for sheltering in place with a tyrannical toddler. Washington Post, On Parenting. By Veronica Graham. April 1, 2020.
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The article goes on to advise parallel play…

  • Stay close and present
  • Keep up physical contact
  • Pick toys that encourage exploration and imagination
  • Scale back on toys

I think we have done pretty well. Fleur spends time with me on conference calls. I will turn on the video so she can talk to early bird coworkers before a call starts. She gets bored pretty quick on moves on to something else adjacent to me.

Nerd

My father told me a story that sounds exactly like me.

My parents were called to have a parent teacher conference over my refusal to accept I was wrong. Apparently, the teacher had asked a question and the answer I gave was not the one in the textbook. However, I insisted that I had the right answer because I had read in a science magazine not long before about a new discovery.

Fleur’s science books

My father said he counseled me to not challenge the teacher in front of the other kids. Thinking back, I really never took that lesson to heart.

One of my favorite high school stories is in science bowl answering that Saturn had more moons than Jupiter. The teacher (the superintendent a couple years later) was excited I got it wrong. I argued Jupiter had sixteen. But a few more were discovered for Saturn bringing it up to 18. To this day we are still still finding moons for these planets and who has more flip flops. The question depends on current knowledge.

Thankfully, the student teacher was aware and came to my defense. I got the question right.

Fleur has lots of science books already. I already explain science concepts. We will do many experiments together. And, she will be kept current on the state of knowledge because I get excited when I learn about a new discovery.

Chimes

Last summer we spent a week at the house of my aunt and uncle. They have three chiming clocks. A grandfather clock and two small ones.

We have something similar. Auditory reminders at 9, 10, 3, 4, 5, 6 that announce: Check diaper. This is essentially our chimes. I find I don’t really need a clock during this period.

We don’t need the automated system when we get up from sleeping and prepare for it at naptime and bedtime. It is the in between that we need brought to our attention. In the focused zone, it can be easy to assume the other parent is going to take care of it. The chime brings back to our attention that maybe we should. We have saved on diaper cream since setting these up as we are better at making sure to address the diaper before the acidic defecation causes a rash.

On the plus side, Fleur loves the announcements. She runs around repeating it. If I am in the middle of work, then her running around letting us know keeps it on the brain.

Reminders are my main way of remembering to do things. The strange thing to me is this working from home means I am on my phone less. So, I miss more of the ones through it.

Paternal oxytocin

The one good thing about the shelter-in-place is the opportunity to be more engaged with my daughter. Before, I got her fed, dressed, and transported to daycare. Now, I still generally get her fed then periodically engage her in conversations, reading, and play. I can say that I do feel more connected to her.

Thus, the below makes sense to me:

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Oxytocin increases in mothers, who provide a lot of affectionate contact and in fathers, who have a lot of stimulatory contact. Studies show that fathers highly involved in playing with their children have a higher level of oxytocin, compared with fathers, who show less stimulating activities. Moreover, brains of fathers involved in caregiving activities show an increase in grey matter volume.

Parenting is a choice” on SciComm for everyone

WFH and bosses

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I work in IT, so my work is a mixture of meetings to talk about processes and working tickets. The computer systems I manage are all virtual servers in our private cloud. So, the tools I use to do my job at my desk is the same laptop I use to do my job at home.

Maybe in part because so much of my work is asynchronous, there are expectations of a lag in responses. If I send a message to a person or group, then I expect them to respond when they can. That may be instantly or in a couple days. There are tools at my disposal to get the attention of people faster if so needed. But, if I also need to step away to entertain the bored toddler and it is not a live meeting, then it is not that big of a deal. It is no different than the interruptions I get in the office from people stopping by to ask a question or make an observation.

What I didn’t expect is to have people so supportive of having a toddler present. A number of times, I have forgotten to mute myself in a meeting or the toddler unexpectedly loudly ran into the room. In every case, my coworkers or our clients have been amused about it. It elicits an amused response. When Fleur joins me, I turn on the camera and let her see my coworkers. She loves getting to see them when someone reciprocates.

The coup de grâce was my boss was waving to her with his camera on during a meeting. When the meeting ended, she was upset. So, I “called” him via the system and they got a few more minutes of interaction. I wanted to talk to him about the meeting, so once she got bored and moved on, I talked to my boss. It made me feel appreciative.

Potential vs kinetic energy

As the swing reaches its highest point it has all potential energy. When it reaches the lowest, it is all kinetic energy. As it moves up, the pull of gravity changes the kinetic into potential.

Fleur is full of potential energy. She breaks into converting it into kinetic energy at a whim. Usually it is predictable:

  • To get the cat
  • To go play on the playset
  • To pet a dog
  • To be chased
  • To get into the street

Tonight she caught me by surprise. After bath, she wanted to read the Pout-Pout Fish. And right before the kissy part she leaves the room and tells me to get up. I try to finish, but she is insistent. So, I do and she takes off. It was her favorite route in a circle.

Coefficient of friction

One of the considerations for letting Fleur go slide is the pants she wears. Something I didn’t know before being a parent was different pants have different coefficients of friction.

The force required to move two sliding surfaces over each other, divided by the force holding them together. It is reduced once the motion has started.

theFREEdictionary
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And drag.

Every time I let her go with the slicker pants, I chide myself for not having made the better physics choice. She flies down the slide.

It is one of those designs with a bump in the middle. She can go so fast she gets enough air to land just before careening off the end.

With pants providing enough friction, she doesn’t get too much speed. And I don’t feel the need to be too vigilant.

The Parents Are Not All Right

We both felt guilty for the work we were not doing — and aching for the way our son was struggling and needed us to be present and calm. But that’s exactly what our current schedule prohibits, as we run back and forth between work calls, requests, and parenting… We feel like we’re failing at both. Our kids don’t just need us — they need more of us. Our kids are acting out, abandoning the routines they already had, dropping naps, sleeping less, doing less — except for jumping on top of their parents, which is happening much more. We’re letting them watch far greater amounts of screen time than we ever thought we’d tolerate. Forget homeschooling success — most of us are struggling to get our kids to do the basics that would have accounted for a Saturday-morning routine before this pandemic.

The Parents Are Not All Right
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Yeah, this description feels familiar. It does feel like we are making choices about at what we can do well. Parenting vs working. And failing at both.

The other thing is a tracking too much stuff. Work provides tools for managing this: project plans, ticket tracking, and any other tool that allows for putting in writing a task exists then mark it complete. I have an app for doing the same at home.

The one problem is due dates. Things are going to miss. Without enough time in a day to meet all the commitments, something will have to give.

This creates a stretched feeling. Being pulled in multiple directions and realizing that I am not going to be capable of meeting it all. But, as a valued technologist who gets assigned a lot of work, I know this environment fairly well. I manage expectations by communicating what are my priorities so that if something will be dropped, supervisors know where I am going to allow it. At the same time I provide my contingencies. The funny thing is a toddler doesn’t really care. She just comes to me and says, “Daddy, up!” or “Daddy, read!”

I am fortunate to have super supportive management who recognize this is outside normal. Doing what I can to keep the lights turned on and projects moving is all I can do. And the feedback I have gotten is that the effort is appreciated.

I also take every opportunity to turn on the video chat feature of work’s systems to allow the toddler to interact with them. It is actually easier than taking her to the office and track down the same people.

Savage little students

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“Starting With Women Animation / Explainer / Promo” by Dirk Jan Haarsma, 15d Animation Studio is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

People have told me they love the idea of my being a teacher or parent. This is in part due to how I confidently proclaim facts. I wonder if it is because they actually want to see me taken down:

If you confidently tell a young child a fact, they’re likely to believe you. But you’d better be right — because if they find out that you were wrong, and should have known better, they’ll doubt not only your credibility but your intelligence too.

I am very introspective about my own accuracy and should I have a doubt after the fact, I will check and verify. Should I be worried about my daughter taking me down?