Today I am kicking off my series on NERD HEROES. Us nerds have many heroes, hundreds of them, we just don’t really talk about them enough. You don’t have to be cool to be awesome and many of our nerd heroes will never ever be described as cool.
My first Hero isn’t some eminent scientist, he’s not a world leader in anything, he isn’t rich or famous. He is ordinary. But one day Ryan MacDonald could possibly be a household name like Neil Armstrong or Yuri Gagarin!
Ryan is An Astrophysics PhD student at Cambridge in the UK who is researching exoplanets. He is nerdy, has the classic jam-jar glasses, seems a little awkward from his videos, and has a youtube channel with complex videos about orbital dynamics on it and one day ….… he might just live on Mars.
Ryan is one of the “Mars 100”, the 100 final candidates picked by Mars One, a Dutch company that is planning a one-way Mars mission to establish a colony on the Red Planet. Yes, one-way. initially everyone thought they were bonkers but as time rolls on and they chip away slowly at this enormous goal some (me included) are beginning to believe that they might just do it, it’s just a matter of a few billion dollars and a final selection process between Ryan and Mars. Regardless of whether Mars One gets to Mars or even launches a probe the whole thing is fascinating, made even more exciting by Elon Musk’s recent announcement of how SpaceX intend to get to Mars in the next few decades.
Ryan’s Martian Colonist YouTube channel is great fun and his are the most comprehensive updates on the Mars One project I can find, I have been following him for a while. I honestly look forwards to hearing about the mission’s progress and also to hear his often strange asides about space exploration and the science of astrophysics.
Regardless of whether Mars One will actually happen Ryan is a nerd hero. Just watch some of his videos and you’ll see his infectious enthusiasm for the Mars One project and space exploration in general and will come to appreciate his true SUPER-NERD status. Teachers – he gives a lot of talks and video links in to classrooms all over the world about his planned trip to Mars.
For those of you who want to hear from the man himself here are links to Ryan’s Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter.
Ryan MacDonald I salute you!
A true Nerd Hero!
I have seen so many of these and they all say nothing so they must be easy to write. Hopefully these tips will inspire and assist you in being a better parent.
1. It is best not to eat your children. It is neither ecologically sound (the carbon footprint of a child is considerably larger than that of a cow) or very sanitary (depending on how clean your house is). Few butchers will assist you in jointing the meat so there will inevitably be excess waste without the help of a professional.
2. Moving on from point 1. Children and kitchen knives should be mutually exclusive. The contamination risk posed to your expensive kitchen implements by an unwashed toddler is high. Bone (albeit supple bendy bone) blunts knives horribly.
3. Keep strong alcohol away from young children. They are badly behaved enough when sober.
4. Keep your illegally owned handguns hidden from view. The kids shooting someone is bound to give away the fact that you own one and the penalties for this can be quite high.
5. Let children out of the house into the sunshine every so often. Vitamin D supplements can be expensive and calculating paediatric doses is a right pain.
6. Don’t let your children play video games all day, if they are on the X-Box incessantly when will you get a chance to complete all 16 hours of Modern Warfare Black Ops 6?
7. Leads are for dogs and choke chains are a definite no-no, too swift a tug is likely to result in a fall, thereby drastically and unacceptably lengthening your walking time. Reins or wrist straps are more socially acceptable and less destabilising alternatives.
8. Name your children. Without doing so differentiating between them can be challenging, you also have nothing to shout across the room when they are carjacking another kid’s Cozy Coupe in playgroup.
9. Speak to your children. If they don’t learn a language how are you going to ask them to fetch the remote or answer the phone for you?
10. Finally, the most obvious one, probably not in keeping with some of the previous subtler, debatable points above. This one is so obvious I’m not sure why I’m adding it – VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN, it stops them and others getting horrible preventable diseases. The anti-vaxers can deny they work and claim harm all they like, they can also deny the existence of cheese for all I care and that will be total bollocks too.
Every so often in the media there are reports and opinion pieces from educationalists concerned about instilling an understanding and appreciation of the scientific process in our children. As a Dad of 2 (yes we now have 2) growing nerds I am a little puzzled by these statements and what happens to our offspring.
The first time I gave my Mini Nerd a crayon he looked at it, thought about it, waved it a bit then took a big bite. This ladies and gentleman was the scientific process in action. “I have a crayon, I’m not sure what it does, I’ll perform some experiments. Does it rattle …. no….. Does it taste good ….. Yum! These must be for eating”. Science developing before creativity, or rather the scientific process is inherent to humans, it isn’t learnt, it’s an instinct!
Hypotheses develop and new techniques in the ever growing field of toddler mediated destruction are discovered and employed on a daily basis in the Nerd household
How and why do we squash the inquisitive minds of children? Sometimes it’s entirely appropriate, like when they are about to investigate a plug socket with their tongue or a carving knife with their hands but do we say “Stop, put it down, don’t do that” too much? It’s probably no coincidence that one of the first words they learn is NO …. It’s probably one of the commonest words they hear. On the other hand we can’t let them run riot in the name of learning ….. can we?
I was very pleased the other day when we went to the park with a ball and he spent longer examining daisies than kicking the ball …… which is exactly what I would do given the choice too. I once got sent off during a football match in school for making and wearing a daisy chain. Needless to say I am not training for Rio 2016.
The results of the gravity driven Lego acceleration experiments were inconclusive so they were repeated… endlessly.
Stupid baby cutesy talk used to make me hurl. Hearing Mums ask their mewling offspring “Has babywaby gottta soggy bumbum?” in the street use to have me reaching fot the nearest fire axe. “I will never talk to my children like that!” the young Nerd thought (just “Nerd” at the time and not Nerd Dad as children were merely hypothetical, in fact The Wife was not only hypothetical but improbable given hygiene and Games Worksop obsession issues).
Hmmmm. What a difference a sprog makes. The other day we realised that our baby babble had taken hold. Bigtime. There is something about chatting away and not expecting any response that seems to absolve you of having to make any sense. These nonsense phrases and babblings, much like the silly songs I previously mentioned, appear without warning. He has now started to respond, mainly in squeals and squeaks.
I started calling our little guy “Monkey Boy” partly because of his excess of hair but mainly because it mildy annoyed The Wife. The Wife took to calling him Little Dude; I suppose because …well… he’s little … and a dude? Little Dude became Dudlelet, then Doodle, Monkey Boy became Monkey ….. and “Monkey Doodle” was coined.
Unsurprisingly all cultures babble at their babies and your babble is dictated by your language and baby noises are dependant on the type and frequency of your babbling. Apparently we all start off the same an then babble becomes language specific so eventually Chinese learning babies babble is totally different to English learning babies. Babbling apparently also teaches babies how conversation works, the structure of speech and how to take turns.
So, as well as making all those around us puke with our cutesy baby talk we are unconsciously teaching them the sounds, structure and timbre of our language. In summary Baba baba boo boo who’ my wuvvwy wuvvwy wickle Monkey Doodle den?