Cosmology with an 8 Year Old September 23, 2010Posted by Matt in family, science.
Tags: age of the universe, cosmology, insignificance of Earth, Jupiter, kids
Tonight I took Rachel, our 8 year old daughter, out for a one mile jog around the neighborhood and, as usual, we had an interesting conversation.
Me (pointing to a bright dot in the sky): Rachel, do you know what that is?
Rachel shrugged her shoulders.
Me: That’s Jupiter. Last night was the brightest it will be in years and tonight it’s still pretty bright. Do you know anything about Jupiter?
Rachel: It has a big red storm on it.
Me: That’s right. And do you know how big it is?
Rachel: It’s the biggest planet of all!
Me: Very good! I has a lot of moons too. One of them is called Io and it has a great big volcano on it.
Rachel: And nothing can live on Jupiter either.
Me: That’s right, but there is probably life out there somewhere.
Rachel: Really? Aliens?
Me: I’m sure of it. You know, the earth is very small compared to the rest of the universe. You know what the solar system is, right?
Me: Our solar system is a very, very tiny part of our galaxy, The Milky Way. Our sun is only one star in our galaxy and there are millions of other stars in it.
Rachel (with a look of wonder on her face): Really?
Me: Really! And outside of our galaxy are billions of other galaxies filled with billions of stars and billions of planets.
Me: With our biggest and best telescopes we can see things that are billions of light years away. That means that it took billions of years for the light from the star to get to you.
Rachel: Billions of years?
Me: That’s right. The universe is very, very old. It was around for billions of years before us and it will probably be around for billions of years after us.
There’s nothing like teaching them at a young age about the relative insignificance of their home planet and even their home galaxy. Maybe she’ll be our little astronomer/cosmologist one of these days.