Day 15: The Science Lesson

Come sit down, kids. You know what we’re going to learn about today? That’s right! Sci­ence! Now, can any­body tell me what sci­ence is?

Ah-huh?

OK.

Yup, makes sense.

Well, maybe.

Sorry, but you’re all plain wrong. Sci­ence is none of those things. You know what sci­ence really is? It’s the study of things! That’s right, kids! Sci­ence means look­ing at things and puzz­ling out just what they’re there for. You might think that there’s more to it than that, but you’d be wrong. Just plain wrong.

Let me tell you a bit about the his­tory of sci­ence. It all star­ted when the king of Ancient Egypt sat down on his throne on top of one of those big pyr­am­ids you see in films and said to one of his advisers, “I wish for you to find out why things hap­pen,” and his adviser did so. At least, he tried. He figured the best way to do it was to go through all the things he knew alpha­bet­ic­ally and work out why they happened or why they exis­ted. He star­ted with Oranges and went from there, because, as we all know, O is the first let­ter of the Egyp­tian alpha­bet. You know how we know that? Science!

Any­way, I’m get­ting off topic. That was the begin­ning of sci­ence and it was from there that sci­ence got its name. Why do you think that is, kids?

Ah-huh?

Nope.

No.

Wrong.

That’s simply plain ignor­ant, son.

No, none of your answers were right. Sci­ence got its name because that first adviser to the king was called Sciencio.

Unfor­tu­nately, when Egypt was des­troyed, the records of all this sci­ence were lost, but it wasn’t long until the Ancient Greeks came along and wondered why all these skel­et­ons were lying about the place. They star­ted dig­ging and unearthed the pyr­am­ids, inside of which they found lots of those funny little pic­tures telling them what sci­ence was.

Now, the Ancient Greeks real­ised that they could use sci­ence to learn about why things happened and then make things hap­pen that they wanted to hap­pen, which is how they developed the first bomb and des­troyed Alex­an­der the Great and his invad­ing army of Prussians.

Unfor­tu­nately, whilst they were build­ing the bomb, the Romans snuck up on them and man­aged to kill most of them, enslav­ing those that were left alive and for­cing them to act as exper­i­ments so that the Roman doc­tors (who had also heard about sci­ence) could cut them up and learn the best way to kill people with bombs and guns and other such things.

Now, from all that you might think that sci­ence was a ter­rible thing that only allowed us to kill people over and over again, but you’d be wrong! Whilst the Romans and Ancient Greeks were using their sci­ence to make hor­rific weapons of war, the Ancient Chinese dyn­asties over in Asia had come up with a much nicer use for sci­ence: fireworks!

The Chinese rulers had found that if you shot fire­works into the air and made them explode with pretty col­ours and a nice crack, people would stand around look­ing at them and be real impressed and tell you after­wards what pretty fire­works you had made. This meant that they all got along much bet­ter and stopped the hor­rific fight­ing that had happened between the rul­ing fam­il­ies before then (Quick Sci­ence Fact: the reason they were called dyn­asties is because they would often die nasty deaths).

Unfor­tu­nately for every­body, that was when the Big Bang happened and des­troyed the Ancient Greek, Roman and Chinese civil­isa­tions. Their time rul­ing the face of the Earth was over, and over mil­lions of years mam­mals evolved in their place, slowly turn­ing into mon­keys and then into humans as they grew up and reached puberty. Luck­ily for every­body at the time, those humans didn’t know any­thing about sci­ence and they lived a blessed life, free of bombs and guns, but also without fire­works. Many humans felt there was some­thing miss­ing which they couldn’t identify, but they knew that they really liked the light­ning which occa­sion­ally danced across the sky in this post-fall, Big Banged world. Occa­sion­ally, it would hit a tree and great flames would leap towards the sky, but that scared them and when that happened they felt that things had got a bit out of hand and would run home.

People went along in this man­ner for dec­ades, until finally, late one night, a young nurse called Florence Night­in­gale was serving in the Crimean War (Quick Sci­ence Fact: it was called the Crimean War because before sci­ence was redis­covered, wars were a pleas­ant affair with only light bruis­ing occur­ring. The name ‘Crimean’ comes from ‘Cry Me a River’ because every­body now knows the par­ti­cipants of that war were com­plain­ing about noth­ing) when she dis­covered an ancient sci­ence book prop­ping up the head of a patient. She imme­di­ately took it and star­ted read­ing, and the works jumped into her skull, allow­ing her to dis­cover the secrets of elec­tri­city, mono­rail and split­ting the atom. At first the know­ledge scared her and she spent a good num­ber of years tour­ing around and build­ing statues of her­self, but finally she settled down and got star­ted on mak­ing some­thing use­ful of her life.

Three years later, the world was a very dif­fer­ent place. Two World Wars had broken up the Pangaea and we had cured most dis­eases, but also inven­ted new ones like mal­aria and the clap. Luck­ily, many of the prob­lems caused by sci­ence could also be solved by sci­ence, cre­at­ing a never-ending patch­work of solu­tions that became big­ger and big­ger the more we learnt about the world around us.

Of course, some people don’t think we’re any bet­ter off than we were dur­ing the Crimean War, but they get strapped to fire­works, and who doesn’t like a good fire­works display?

That’s all for today, kids. Come back tomor­row and I’ll teach you how to make your own fire­works with noth­ing but a tin can, a lighter and some of the black powder you empty out of daddy’s gun shells.

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