Thoughts for scientist parents

In Science magazine, Adam Ruben explores what it means to be a scientifically minded parent, from conception onward:

Scientists speak to their children differently than most people, and I'll probably find myself saying one or more of the following:

- "I'll pick you up from school at 3:30 ± 10 minutes."

- "Oh, I see. And if all of your friends rejected the Copernican principle, does that mean you would, too?"

- "I know you like peanut butter, but I don't know if you like peanut butter and jelly, so I packed you one sandwich of each. The peanut-butter-only sandwich is the control group."

- "Don't waste food! There are starving grad students in the world!"

- "If you kids don't quiet down back there, I swear I'll turn this car π radians."

- "Sorry, I'd love to buy you that video game system, but the funding didn't come through."

Experimental Error: Fetus Don't Fail Me Now (via /.)


  1. While I find myself saying some science based things to my kids, usually over explaining things, the results so far have my oldest being the science nerd among her friends (how many kids have an Standford Linear Accelerator t-shirt). I fear for my tools and anything that can be taken apart once my youngest figures our how to use them. It is fun to watch but hard to keep up with at times.

    I will have to use the funding line when asked about the video game systems.

    My other half and I both have piled it high and deep in the scientific fields so our kids are doomed.

    1. I love the ending! I wish i could do a chain of responses like that without getting frustrated!

  2. IANAS, but I loves me some of this. Indeterminate mass of Damn Right!

    Also, I dig talking to my 6-year-old son in very precise terms. Freaks out the squares when he busts out something that sounds more like a grad student than a first grader.

  3. If I had reviewed this paper, I would have asked the authors to change the title. The authors and are not reporting an embryo with a cute face but a child with a cute face. Also, AJ Ruben is THE second author, not “second author” without an article.

    When my son was born 5.5 months ago, I sent emails entitled, “Applied genetics experiment #1”.

  4. I love playing the Why game! The paths it can take are always exciting and never the same.

    As an unintended consequence, the kids have pretty much decided to stop asking why. :(

  5. “Brush your teeth before you go off Tessering with Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Whatsit.”

  6. I refer to my over-detailed explanations in response to kid questions as the “Continuing Mommy Lecture Series” (complete with eye rolls and sighs when my kids realize I’m getting good and cranked up. “Oh no! Not another lecture in the series!”) My kids are grateful that I’m teaching again and have other subjects to torture with my ramblings.

  7. Shouldn’t it be half-pi? “If you kids don’t quiet down, I’ll do a complete 360 and continue driving to chucky cheese’s”.

    1. One radian is one metre per metre, or one foot per foot if you’re American. Since a circle’s circumference is 2pi times its radius, that means pi radians will only get you half way around.

  8. Ah, the why game. One of my favorite parts of Cliff Stoll’s “The Cuckoo’s Egg” is the job interview with the why game.

    Different worlds. When my son was born I sent out a mini-comic entitled “The Foetus That Ate My Wife’s Brain” (Vol. 1, Issue 9).

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