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This & That: Brain Trust

Mar 17, 2015 11:29AM ● Published by Erik Dittmann

 By: Dave Bowman

I have always had a fascination and interest in science. It probably started at a young age when I would watch a kids’ Saturday morning television show called Fireball XL5, which depicted the galactic adventures of Steve Zodiac and his cohorts in Space City.  They would gallivant around the cosmos in a fantastic spaceship getting into all sorts of adventures. The show was revolutionary at the time because it used marionettes, showing strings and all (this was the early 1960s after all).  As I got older, Star Trek filled the bill, further enticing my imagination with what the future of “Tomorrowland” would bring. Although to this day I do not know why, if it was the 23rd century, the doors on the starship Enterprise still made a “whooshing” noise when opening and closing.  Maybe they were too busy battling Klingons to actually apply a little WD-40. 

My interest in science has never waned, and it has passed on in one way or another to some of my kids. My son Cameron has developed an extreme interest and affinity for knowing things scientific, like astronomy, the weather, and particularly bugs.  On many a summer day he has found and identified the most interesting, and at times unusual, assortment known to bugdom and can precisely articulate their different characteristics and traits.  Many a time he has bound into the house with an unusual 16-legged specimen, which he wants to keep and study and maybe make it a pet, and his mother, awestruck with the magic of the moment, can utter only one phrase, “THAT is not staying in this house.”  If he plays his cards right, he could be well on his way to having his own reality show on Discovery Channel entitled The Bug Whisperer.

Recently the family attended a fascinating Physics Fair held by the UW physics department on the UW campus in Madison. It is an annual event held to share the students’ knowledge and offer an opportunity to see exhibits and learn a bit more about the wonderful world of science, including everything from hands-on displays to the amazing physics of making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. It is good to know that the kids are learning something useful.  Why, they even had their own set of trading cards on one of the exhibit tables – Exotic Plasmas Of The Universe.  I tell ya…you can keep your vintage Babe Ruth rookie card … nobody is going to get my Ion Propulsion gem. That one is DEFINITELY not ending up in the spokes of a kid’s bicycle! At the end of the day there is a presentation demonstrating many different theories of physics in an entertaining and fun manner. During the show I could hear Cameron occasionally exclaiming, “I learned that in my chemistry class,” and “I know what that is.” 

As I wound my way among the students and exhibits, I was quite impressed with the brain trust in those hallowed halls of higher education, and the knowledge that there is possibly the next Albert Einstein in that group or the creator of the next generation of tasty dessert treats.  Either way, it is a win-win situation in my book.

In Print, Today March April 2015 science
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