Thursday, 6 October 2016

Art and science

My LittleBear is a very literal, very fact-based little boy. Stories are not his thing. "Fact books", ideally about dinosaurs, are where it's at. He flirts with other branches of science, but palaeontology is still his first love. And now he's started at school, and is having to adapt to the idea that, just perhaps, there may be other things to learn at school than just palaeontology. The good news is that he's absolutely loving it, and bounces home every day full of enthusiasm. And tucked into his bag every day are various pieces of "art" or writing that he has undertaken. And I'm continually tickled by his choice of subject matter.

Naturally, the overwhelming majority of pictures are dinosaurs. And of those, the overwhelming majority are pictures of Spinosaurus. For those who haven't been undertaking a rigorous indoctrination in late-Cretaceous carnivores, Spinosaurus is the largest carnivorous dinosaur ever to have existed*, and therefore holds top spot in LittleBear's heart. A typical depiction of a Spinosaurus has splendidly exaggerated teeth:

Spinosaurus with butterfly

LittleBear doesn't always draw dinosaurs, in fact one of the early pictures to come home seemed  somewhat underwhelming on first inspection...

Practicing circles?
... until, that is, LittleBear explained it to me. At which point I thought it was considerably more awesome than the Spinosaurus picture (which, being a doting mother, I already thought was pretty awesome). Starting from the left...

"That's the sun Mummy, and then Mercury is the little one, then Earth and Venus are the same size, then Mars and then Jupiter, which is the biggest, and Saturn has rings. Is it Uranus or Neptune next? It's Uranus and then Neptune. And then I've put Pluto there, because I think Pluto is still a planet, and they're wrong that it's not. And that's just the nose of the tenth planet there, that we don't know about properly yet."

And then, after a short pause, LittleBear exclaimed in some distress "Oh no! I missed out the asteroid belt!"

The solar system!

For those of you who are temporarily (or permanently) thinking that

(a) my son is some kind of freak or
(b) I am some kind of freak and
(c) I beat random science into him from an early age or
(d) I'm making all this up

He isn't; I might be; I didn't; and I'm not.

On the other hand, if you want to know how or why LittleBear knows this stuff, I do commend to you a CD of music by They Might Be Giants called "Here Comes Science". Not only are there lots of brilliant, child-friendly, relatively accurate songs about science, but they also come with a DVD with fantastic, funny animations. And by listening to and watching these so many times the whole family knows considerably more about such subjects as the composition of the sun, the order of the planets, evolution, states of matter and the circulation system of the human body than might be considered strictly normal or necessary.

And it is courtesy of this particular DVD that LittleBear took it upon himself to execute this next piece of art:

Yes, that's right, he made a sterling attempt at recreating an image of the double helix of DNA.

I think I'm looking forward to his first parents' evening in two weeks time. Though a little part of me is already cringing inside wondering what exactly the lovely Miss H thinks of him, and by extension his parents.

* According to some scientists, and only when considering total length. There's no arguing with LittleBear on the subject however.

Footnote: If you really want to explore the intersection of art and science, you should check out some of the stuff my friend Siân is doing.

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