Blue sky thinking

blue skyRaising a child is hard. Never mind all the feeding and caring and the cleaning up of unmentionable various bodily fluids – the hardest part is something that takes you completely by surprise.

The neverending list of questions!

I remember feeling ready. I had just written a quiz book so I thought that that would serve as a kind of advanced training. I felt like I was a Jedi master of trivia. Then there was an obvious mix-up in the maternity ward and we took home a Sith lord of inquisition.

I soon found out that this is the norm. As soon as the dribbling, wobbling mites are old enough to string one word together it is invariably a question: Why?

There was nothing in my book of trivia that could assauge my child’s insatiable brain, his constant quest for knowledge. That I knew the name of Alexander the Great’s horse was, well, great, but he never asked me those kind of table quiz puzzlers. And it wasn’t that he wanted to know impossible things, like “Why can’t I have a supernova in my room?” or “Who would win in a fight, Barney the dinosaur or a stick?” No, he wanted to know things that I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN. Things like “Why is the sky blue?” and “What’s the highest number?”. math-kid-21

His brilliant questions stopped me in my tracks. They forced me to consult the sage of our time – Wikipedia. I told him the answers were “nitrogen” and “there is none”. Unfortunately, this led to more questions, “What’s nitrogen?” and “Why?” again. Now there’s two of the evil geniuses sleeping in the house and eating my cereals.

1. Why is the sky blue?
The sun’s visible light is made up of the colours of a rainbow. All of these colours travel in waves of different sizes. Red has long waves and blue has short waves. Because blue has short waves, it bounces off the particles in the atmosphere more than red waves do, so it looks like the blue light is coming from almost every direction.

I wrote the answers to the most common science questions asked by children as a handy guide for unwary parents, who could print it out and keep it in the car for those query-filled long journeys. You can read questions 1-25 here and questions 26-50 here.

You will soon feel a sense of pride in the silence that will follow your erudite and insightful answer to “Where do bogeys come from?”. Then sigh as your little genius asks “Are we there yet?”

I told you. Raising a child is hard.




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See: Genes aren’t something you wear


  1. […] Public engagement and knowledge of science is something I feel passionate about. Check out my other blog posts on […]

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